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Old 08-28-2009, 07:27 PM   #1
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Nana dying, wake/funeral ? for 8 year old

My Nana (my mother's mother) is dying. She is 90, has had a long, fullfilling life and as prepared as we think we are for this, it will be very sad. She has had her last rites, and is in and out of consciousness with varying clarity and awareness. The whole family is gathering, with the last one landing tonight. She hasn't eaten in days, hasn't taken any meds in days, and occasionally takes sips of water. Hospice has been started.

I brought my son to see her today, and she knew him and told him she loved him and he got to talk to her a bit. His Nonny (father's mother) passed when he was 2, but he doesn't remember it. This will be the first person who he knows, and loves, to die. We have read a few books in preparation and talked about it, and how we believe she will be in Heaven with her Mom and Dad and brother and we will all be together again someday.

SO, he seems to be dealing with it and processing it very well. He gets sad, but he seems to get more upset seeing me, my mom, or other family members getting upset. He is stating that he wants to go to the wake and funeral. I am at a loss. I have no idea what age is appropriate for this. He is almost 9, and he is very mature for his age, and very sensitive. I have talked to my ex (his Dad) and he says he thinks he is old enough to handle this. I just don't know. I didn't go to a wake till I was a teenager and I remember being horrified at seeing a body in a casket. I don't want his last memory of Nana to be that, but he is adamant that he wants to attend.

I guess I am looking for people's thoughts/experiences/input about this topic.

Thanks in advance...
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:30 PM   #2
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He is 9 and close to the person so I would have him there. My kids have been to all the great grandparents funerals.

It is a sad time and he can be with family and get closure.

Sorry for your loss.

Last edited by The Mystery Machine; 08-28-2009 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:32 PM   #3
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You have answered your own question. He wants to go, and you obviously care and will make sure he is alright.

From the ones I've been to, the kids do pretty well, they don't usually stay in the main room. Just make sure to explain what he will be seeing and let him do what he is comfortable with.

I almost forgot. I am sorry your family is going through this.
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:33 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jfoofj View Post

I didn't go to a wake till I was a teenager and I remember being horrified at seeing a body in a casket. I don't want his last memory of Nana to be that, but he is adamant that he wants to attend.

I guess I am looking for people's thoughts/experiences/input about this topic.

Thanks in advance...
Exactly why I have been taking my daughter to wakes since she could walk. She is used to seeing people in caskets and knows the whole process. She knows to walk up to the family and tell them how sorry she is for their loss and how to behave in the funeral home. My mom is 80 years old so eventually it will be her wake my daughter has to attend and at least she started out with friends parents, aunts etc so it won't be a shock.
I would not exclude an 8 year old child from his grandparents wake- he absolutly should attend!
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:38 PM   #5
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I would let him go and watch him. It is important he get a say. I didn't let my son go to his grandfather funeral because I thought he was to young. He still talks about not getting to say goodbye.

I am sorry you have to go throught this.
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:38 PM   #6
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I was around his age when my great grandma passed away. I was very close to her. All of us kids had to stay with a baby sitter while the adults went to the funeral. I wish I would've been able to attend. Even as a kid, I didn't understand why I couldn't go. I understood what happened. All the other kids were playing and having fun, I just sat there. If he wants to go, I think you should take him.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:01 PM   #7
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My DD had just turned 10 when her beloved Grandpa died. He was the only grandfather she had ever known and she was his favorite grandchild(can I say that? It's true.) I brought her to see him in the hospital 2 days before he died. When we got the call, we drove back home for the funeral. It never occured to me to not include her in the service. We just brought all the kids. It wasn't gruesome or scary at all. In fact, it was rather soothing. My dad was Russian Orthodox so there was a lot of beautiful ritual which helped us all. We gathered later at the graveside, where my 17yo neice read aloud a poem she wrote and my 16yo nephew played "Taps" on his trumpet before the Air Force 21-gun salute.

In fact, the only time one of the kids got upset was when we got back to the house: Our youngest son, Christian(*then 8) ran back to the bedroom to look for Grandpa. Christian is very mentally handicapped and non-verbal. He stood by the empty bed, let out a shriek, and fell face down onto the bed sobbing. Poor baby, he couldn't even tell us how he felt! All we could do was hold him until he cried himself to sleep. Even so, I have never regretted taking him to the funeral. I don't know what he understood of it, but clearly he understood that Grandpa was not coming back. It's been a few years and Christian has never again cried over Grandpa's bed. But he likes to curl up on Grandpa's side of the bed and cuddle with Grandma.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:31 PM   #8
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My nana died when I was six and I went to the wake. I understood what death was and that nana was not coming back. There were five of us grandchildren, of which I was the youngest, and we all attended, and we were all VERY close to nana. Yes, I was incredibly sad, but I understood. I did not attend the funeral; my mom gave me the choice to attend or not, and I didn't, because the day of her funeral was school picture day and I didn't want to miss it and have to make it up. I'm 23 now and I still regret that decision.

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Old 08-28-2009, 08:33 PM   #9
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Thank you all so much for your replies and kind words and thoughts.

I am going to bring my son to the wake and funeral when my Nana passes. There are several rooms in the funeral home, so he doesn't have to be in the main room the entire time during the wake. My ex-husband will be coming to the wake and he said that he can take him then if he seems to need to leave.

I appreciate the input. We have been very lucky in our family, with no deaths in a very, very long time. I currently have 4 grandparents alive, all in their 90's, so I think we will be going this process a few times in the not so distant future.

My step-son, who is 7, has no interest at all in attending any wake or funeral, he says he is "freaked out" by it and we are taking the cues from him and not bringing him. I guess kids know sometimes more than we do what they are ready to handle.

Thanks again.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:35 PM   #10
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I'd let him go.

I went to my sister's funeral when I was 9. I wasn't nearly as well prepared for it as you say your DS is. For course you can never really be prepared for something like this. I'm glad to this day that I had a chance to say goodbye.

I'm sorry you and your family has to go though this.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:02 PM   #11
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It depends on the child. I was terribly traumatized by seeing my grandfather in his casket when I was 5. My DH was about 9-10 when his grandmother died and he had the same awful experience. I still will barely go to funerals because of that day. Given that, we had no desire to "encourage" DD9 to attend her grandmother's recent funeral. We left it up to her. She'd never been to a funeral.

We refused to have an open casket because MIL looked terrible, no matter how much they tried. She would never have wanted to be seen that way. Plus, no one in the family wanted one as open caskets give us heebie jeebies. We explained what a visitation was and what a funeral was. She chose to attend the visitation, but not the funeral. We were fine with that.

In our case, MIL died a slow, sad death. Truly, I think we had all said goodbye to her long before that funeral, and that includes DD.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:34 PM   #12
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So sorry for what's happening, unfortunately it's something we all must deal with. At least you will know she is at peace.

My DAunt's DM just passed a couple of weeks ago - she was 94 and in the same basic situation as your DGM. She had 9 Great Grandchildren. Of those 2 attended the wake. They were about the same age as your DS and they did fine. 2 other GGC also about the same age did not attend as they were uncomfortable. Their parents left it up to the children and I think that is key.

When I was a child of 11 my DGF died suddenly in the middle of the night (I awoke from sleep at the moment he died-it was spooky) and I was given the choice to attend the wake so I could say goodbye and I'm glad I did. But it is definitely important to prepare a child for the fact that if the casket is open the person will not look the same as they did when they were alive, I remember being shocked by that.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:51 PM   #13
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I think you've prepared your child quite well. I agree with the other posters that if he wants to go, and you think he can handle it (and kudos for chatting with your ex about this) then let him go. Sounds like you'll be able to handle all his questions and concerns.

Funny story - My niece was 5 when my GM passed. She asked my dad (her pop-pop) to take her up to see GGM. So while my dad was holding her in his arms and crying, she looked straight at him and said "Is Grammie wearing panties?" It helped my dad tremendously to burst out laughing. It was one of those "Life goes on" moments.
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Old 08-29-2009, 07:30 AM   #14
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I had all these questions in more a few weeks ago. My sister in law was dying of cancer at the age of 40. She had dealt with it for most of her life. My kids were close to their aunt, even though she lived in another state. We knew she was dying, but didn't think it would happen during our planned visit to her a few weeks back. We actually pushed up the trip by 2 days as brother in law didnt think she would make it to the planned arrival date(She actually died 24 hrs after we were there).

My kids are 5,10,15. I was worried about the whole thing, should the youngest be there, what would be the impact,

I talked to them as best as I could, I kept getting updates on how she looked, to prepare the kids. Honestly, I think I was freaked more then them. I had never seen a person so close to death like that. She died at home. We were all around her bedside. She looked like a 100 yr old lady. It was sad.

Now, the younger kids, really dont talk too much about what had happened. I try to talk to them, to see if they have questions etc..they seem ok..but I am still not quite sure what impact it had on them..Now, would I do it over again, YES...My sister in law and her husband never had kids, and were very close to my kids. My kids loved their aunt Sheryl.

Death is apart of life, but so hard on Adults and kids a like.
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Old 08-29-2009, 07:46 AM   #15
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He's obviously able to articulate his wishes as is his 7yo stepbrother. Continue to take his cues. One thing I would not do would be to ask him to stand at the side of an open casket. I'd let him see that others were doing it but explain that it's simply a tradition and that it's his choice, not required. Don't allow anyone to force him to the open casket. As a grown up, I find open caskets to be very difficult and I do not approach the casket. Our family never has had an open casket and most of the remaining members will merely have memorials rather than even having a casket in the room. Nothing a funeral home can do makes a dead body look pleasant. I agree that this should not be his last remembrance.
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