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would you bring a 4 year old to a Wake?

im contemplating whether or not to take my 4 year old to the Wake of my husband's grandfather. she's very inquisitive and aware and i don't know how seeing a dead body, especially of someone she knew and loved very much, would affect her. the Wake will be open casket. our other children are almost 2 and almost 1 so they won't have any questions. hubby and i agreed we will take them all to the funeral, if she has any questions there i'll try my best to explain on her level about life and death. the only reason i'm concerned about her at the Wake is the fact it will be open casket. i'm afraid it could traumatize her? and i don't even know how to go about explaining all of this to her, the only death we've ever dealt with in the family since she's been alive was my own grandfather who passed 3 years ago when she hadn't even turned one yet. i'll just have to take the questions as they come...


Asked by tnm786 at 8:21 AM on Nov. 28, 2010 in General Parenting

Level 43 (159,608 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (20)
  • No, I absolutely would not. Little kids should not have to bear the sometimes scary burdens adults have to bear if we can protect them. No matter how smart she is, she WON'T GET IT. And she doesn't need to get it right now. She will have the rest of her life to deal with heavy duty life issues.

    Answer by CarriePM at 8:30 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • She can know about death without seeing a dead body. 4 is very young. There are a lot of things she doesn't need to know yet. Kids grieve in their own way. She doesn't need to see a dead body to say goodbye.

    Answer by CarriePM at 8:49 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • Of course. This is not too young to understand death, children's understanding of death changes and grows and different developmental states. This is a perfect time begin to lay the foundation for healthy coping with death. By separating children from the family coming together to grieve a loss, we teach children that there is something to fear.
    My husband died in April. All of my children, including my 4 year old, were in attendance at the funeral and the wake. It helped them to understand what was happening.

    Answer by Gaccck at 10:04 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • I wouldn't. 4 years old is the age where they understand more than you think but not enough to cope with something like this.....but that's just my opinion....it's something she'll likely never forget, no matter whether she deals with the situation well or not....I don't agree with sheltering a child, but i just think this is something i wouldn't do.....

    Answer by FXmomTo3 at 8:26 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • I would - especially if she knew the person. She will be grieving too and will feel left out of the rest of the family if she isn't a part of the mourning process. Answer her questions honestly - tell her that her great grandmother is dead, that she is not coming back and that this is a natural part of life. People are sad and that's okay, but some people will be telling funny stories and there is likely to be laughter as well as tears. Yes, 4 year olds do understand, and no, she's not old enough to cope on her own. Having her left out of important family rituals during important times such as these is absolutely leaving her alone.

    Death isn't something we need to protect our children from - it's something we need to teach them to process. That won't be done if she's not included with the rest of the family.

    Answer by Dr.Donna at 8:32 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • i would not only not take the child to the wake, I would definitely not take the children to the funeral. The funeral is no place for the possible disruption and distraction of the children. And it serves no purpose for a 1 or 2 year old child.

    Answer by tootoobusy at 8:52 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • Yes, absolutely. Children learn about death as we teach them. To isolate children from death feeds and grows fear, does not prevent it. Death is a normal part of life and too many people fear it.
    My daughter attended her own father's wake and funeral, it provided a healthy opportunity for her to learn about saying goodbye, it took the mysterious scariness of death away, it allowed her to see people coming together to handle sadness and loss.

    Answer by aliceinalgonac at 9:17 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • I think it is OK if someone explains what will be happening, why there is a wake, etc. And someone is with the child at all times. If she gets uncomfortable she gets to be taken home or/and she should only stay for a little while. It will help her understand the traditions and that it is part of life. Be very careful to not say that the deceased person is sleeping. It can cause fears of going to sleep and having loved ones go to sleep. Be ready to answer many questions before, during, and after.

    Answer by elizabr at 10:33 AM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • No, it would be to much at once for the little one. Give yourself a break and piece of mind to leave the tike with someone who you trust.


    Answer by trashymom at 9:41 PM on Nov. 28, 2010

  • This is a very personal choice. I personally would have at that age. By four my son had a very limited understanding of death but he did have an understanding. We are a family that believes in God so God and Heaven played very much into that explanation. I would not have made him look at the body if he did not want to. I would have encouraged it but not forced the issue. Most Homes I have been to have a lobby and the actual wake is in a separate room. On another note it is always nice to have children there to lighten the mood and remind us how wonderful life truly is.

    Answer by But_Mommie at 8:29 AM on Nov. 28, 2010