Parents are very protective of their children particularly at a young age. As such when they believe circumstances warrant it, they will remove them or keep them from getting involved in certain occurrences or events.
When death occurs, funeral directors are often asked by those who have young children and are mourning the loss of a loved one, whether they should bring them to a funeral home or allow them to attend the funeral or burial services. In responding to this question it helps to consider the emotions children feel when facing a loss.
Development studies and observations made in natural and clinical settings indicate that children are aware of death at an early age. A child does not begin with the realization that death is inevitable and final but does quickly grasp the implication of separation and loss.
Birth to 18 months
Babies cannot ask questions. However, they do experience loss, for example, of a parent. They sense a change in their environment or schedule and often become fussy and develop sleep problems. During this time it is important to offer extra comfort and soothing.
Toddlers (19 months to 3 years)
A toddler's concept of death is hard to grasp. In their favorite cartoon the character dies in one episode and returns in the next. They often confuse death with sleeping. Toddlers know something has occurred in their lives, but they have no concept of death and expect the loved one to come back.
Young Children (3-10 years)
Young children begin to have some concept of death and realize its finality. They ask a lot of questions which are often repeated. They may also feel insecure and unsafe in their usual environment. For example, a child who loses her mother may wonder who will braid her hair each morning, take her to school or prepare her lunch. This is how the child may express her loss. The questions children ask are not selfish. Children need to be reassured that they will be taken care of.
Children will react to a loss as well as adults. Some reactions may appear at the time of death while others may come at the time of crisis. Others may be delayed, since so often the child represses his or her emotions and attempts to appear calm in the face of tragedy. There is not a single procedure or formula that will fit all children, either at the time of death or during the period that follows.
There are so many variables. How close was the child to the deceased? What were the circumstances surrounding the death? What is the child's concept of death? How do significant adults react? What is the offspring's physical and emotional health? What has been the child's prior experience with loss? There are differences in grief reactions because of unique conditions, feelings and attitudes. Like adults, children, too, must be understood and valued. The following are some of the ways children may react to the loss of a loved one.
"I don't believe it. It didn't happen." "It's just a dream. Daddy will come back. I know he will."
"I have a tightness in my throat." "I can't breath." "I have no appetite." "I have no strength." "I am exhausted." "I can't do my homework." "I can't sleep." "I had a nightmare." The anxiety has expressed itself in physical and emotional symptoms.
Hostile Reactions to the Deceased
"How could daddy do this to me?" "Didn't he care enough about me to stay alive?" "Why did he leave me?" The child feels deserted, abandoned, and angry.
Hostile Reactions to Others
"It's the doctor's fault. He gave him the wrong medicine." Or "Mother didn't take proper care of him, that's why he died." The resentment is projected outward in order to relieve guilt by making someone else responsible for his death.
"Grandma, do you love me, really love me?" The child seeks the affections of others as a substitute for the parent who has died, which is quite normal.
Assumption of Mannerisms of the Deceased
"Do I look like daddy?" The son attempts to take one of the characteristic traits of the father by walking and talking like him.
"I feel like daddy when he died. I have a pain in my chest." The child becomes preoccupied with the physical symptoms that terminated the life of the father. He transfers the symptoms to himself in a process of identification.
"Who will take care of me now?" "Suppose something happens to Mommy?" "Who will bring money home for food and toys?" This state of confusion needs supportive love. "My health is fine. I will take care of you."
Children are likely to feel guilty, since in their experience, bad things happen when they are naughty. They also harbour all kinds of fantasies that they are responsible for the death. It is necessary to help the child express his or her own fantasies and fears.
There are many ways parents and other adults may help children understand their loss and assist them through their grief.
Use age appropriate materials to help children understand what has happened. Many funeral homes have activity or colouring books that help explain in a childlike manner what to expect when visiting funeral homes and attending the funeral and burial services.
Young children find expressions through play and drawing. Encourage them to remember someone they have lost through activity. Some funeral homes have included play areas for children within their facilities. The rooms are brightly painted with wall murals of rainbows, animals or other playtime settings and contain toy boxes full of toys for young boys and girls. There are also activity tables and chairs for colouring and reading and a TV/VCR for watching cartoons or videos.
Do's and Don't's
There are many ways parents and other adults can help children understand their loss and assist them through their grief. Download our list of Do's and Don't's to help you communicate with children going through this difficult time.
Children grieve in small doses often asking many questions over and over. Answer them honestly and openly and do not confuse them with soft terminology. For example, telling the child that the dead person is " just sleeping or God came and took him" can create enormous fear and anxiety. The child may be afraid to sleep or fear he may be taken by God. It's okay to use the word dead and to look for ways to illustrate the point.
Attendance at Funeral
Allow the child to attend the funeral. By being included the child will feel acknowledged and supported by the family. It will also give the child the opportunity to grieve. Allowing the child to feel the full power of a sudden loss will help increase their coping ability for the rest of that child's life. On the other hand, a child who has decided against attending a funeral should not be forced to do so against his or her wishes.
The child's environment and daily routine should not change. It is not the time to change schools or find a new babysitter.
Encourage children to discuss their innermost fantasies, fears and feelings. They need to talk, not to be talked to. Children should be given every opportunity to reminisce about the person who died, and if desired, express anger as well as affection.
Do not close the door to doubt, questioning and difference of opinion. Respect the child's own personality, for in the long run it is the child who must find his or her own answers.
Like adults, children too should be encouraged to do something special for their loved one. Placing a favourite toy in grandpa's casket or a handwritten letter to Aunt Sarah is a loving gesture, which will be fondly remembered, and a source of comfort for the child.
What one thing could we have done better to improve your experience?
Nothing, we were very happy with services and support provided to our family. Well done. We really appreciated everything that was done for us and how well it was done.
Everything was done so professionally that I don’t think anything else could have been done.
You go above and beyond with your services and expertise and compassion.
You have succeeded in taking the sadness out of a funeral and made it into a celebration of life and remembrance, which we truly appreciated... Continue doing what you did for us. It was exceptional in every regard.
Our law office often has had many estates involving families who have obtained funeral services from Nathan. He is regarded by my staff and myself as outstanding for his professional, pleasant, and efficient manner. We would highly recommend Rhody Family Funeral Home to anyone.
Ross McLean, McLean Lawyers
Dear Nathan, I cannot say thank you enough for everything you and the rest of the Rhody Family Funeral Home team done for our family with Mom's passing. From the moment you got to Mom's house your professionalism was second to none. You listened and read between the lines yet missed nothing, every little touch was simply perfect, you left nothing undone, your care and compassion to ensure our family made Mom proud one more time, and for that I am forever grateful. You took a very difficult time for us and made it as simple and stress free for us as humanly possible. Nathan you should be very proud of yourself and the rest of your team. You have definitely set the bar very high for any other funeral home in the province to follow. Again thank you
Sincerely, Deb and Doug
Nathan: Thank you so very much for all that you have done for my Mom and my family. Your friendship during this difficult time was truly heartfelt. You made us feel welcome and like a part of your family. The whole time we spoke both at the nursing home and then at your place was a very peaceful experience. Not once were we made to feel like we did not belong there. Your attention to detail in everything that all of us said shows in the story of my Dad’s life and the video. Where there were concerns, you set them all at ease. I so appreciate all that you did for my Mom in helping her take care of cancellations and notifications for my Dad. It set her mind at ease knowing that you were taking care of all of this for her. It set me at ease knowing that she would not have to deal with the frustrations that sometimes come in taking care of these things. You and your family have gone above and beyond in all that you have done for us and I am truly thankful. The warmth and caring went home with us that day. We knew that the right choice had been made in allowing you to take care of my Dad. Again, thank you.
Your services are respectful, accomodating and very professional. An excellent job done. Thank you.
Our aunt & uncle were buried from a different funeral home and we noticed a huge difference in the funeral home services provided. Our mom and dad looked so natural (thank you!) while our aunt and uncle did not. Thank you Nathan, we can't begin to tell you how much we appreciate you and your staff this year!
Ann Legge, Patricia Tibbo & Jane Lembke
All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players." Rhody Family Funeral Home takes this and runs with it in an intricate and tasteful manner. The beautiful funeral home sets the stage to reflect the deceased's individual personality. Nathan's artistic ability is only surpassed by his compassion, sincerity and understanding. He goes above and beyond the required duties. His staff is second to none. Darlene Rhody soft spoken and sympathetic and Morris Emke gentlemanly and obliging. Pastor Terri-Ann is like no other with her comforting words of wisdom and encouragement and so compassionate. Her service was nothing short of beautiful. A very heartfelt thank you to Nathan and his staff for making an unpleasant experience bearable. And hats off to Rhody Family funeral home for sending dad -Ross Hammond off in the fashion he deserved. From my mom and my siblings our sincerest gratitude.
Personnel, facilities, advise & support all exceeded our expectations - it helped to communicate details by email. In particular, both Nathan and Terri-Ann did an excellent job! I was surpised at the after service documentation - all details well organized.
Nathan and staff were kind and helpful throughout the process. They really went above and beyond to make the experience as positive as possible.
Everything was great - many great comments made about the story alone on Pearl's life and we sent copies to people who could not attend - a very nice addition.
Family of Pearl Stephen
Our experience was amazing under the circumstances. Your services were perfect. You went above and beyond our expectations. You are very caring, compassionate and professional in your approach. You create a very therapeutic environment.
"Dear Nathan, your many caring and creative touches from the notice to the burial in the days following Catharine's (McKeeman) passing meant so much to all of us. You honoured her life in so many meaningful ways. Your compassion and celebration of her life will always be remembered by all those Catharine held dear."
Ian Campbell, Catharine's Brother
“Nathan, you did an absolutely amazing job. People give us compliments about everything from the life story to the beautiful, elaborate displays at the visitation. I tell everyone it was you. All the surprises - the cookies, the recipe cards, the signing picture - all amazing!”
Kim and Alan Grant
“Staff were professional and friendly.”
Lawrence and Heather Lamarche
“Nathan, you present yourself very well. Facilities were all that could be expected.”
“I would recommend your funeral home to everyone. Nathan’s ability to put you at ease, with a caring attitude is super and very respectful!”
“We were all very impressed.”
“Dear Nathan - You did a good job. Thank-you for all your help and all the information you obtained for me."
“Your sense of humour was a plus! You and your staff clearly have a calling for the work that you do. We all felt that we were in good hands throughout the entire process…. Nathan, thank you for everything. You made things easy for us, as we felt like we were working on Dad’s arrangements with family. We gave Dad a great send off and thank you and your staff for being a part of it.”
“Letters cancelling Gov’t services was a great help and was very much appreciated.”
William & Loraine Patterson
“You did everything really well. All needs were met and then some.… We received positive comments on the stationary. Great keep sakes. The book and slideshow were beautiful.”
“We had no concerns- worries, nothing, but confidence in the staff – we knew exactly how everything would happen and when - it was so nice not to have to concern ourselves with anything.”
"I don't think there is anything more you or your staff could do."
"No improvement needed. We were pleased with everything."
“I would not have changed anything. Thanks very much – Nathan and staff.”
“New renovations are very inviting and warm. All your new cards and books are very heart warming and keepsakes.”
"Staff were outstanding. Overall, it was great. Everything was perfect."
“Staff is exceptional!... All needs were met.”
“Service was beyond expectations… Already recommended to various people.”
“Could not have been more useful – very satisfied! I would highly recommend Rhody Family. Thank you ever so much for your professionalism and expertise.”
“Honestly, you and your staff made this time in my life the best it could be and were extremely helpful, respectful, professional and accommodating to my needs and my family’s needs, especially providing me with a space to feed [my child] if needed. Thank you for everything”
“Everything was perfect; it’s always nice to have lots of options.”
“Thank you for all your empathy, compassion and professionalism. Our family… is very grateful that we chose Rhody Family Funeral Home to look after our loved one.”
“Your services were excellent. Thank you again.”