June 25, 2014


Our family recently suffered a terrible personal loss, when our dad/husband, Sam Sale, died in April.  We have a terrifically close family, and while we all gathered around him, and said goodbye, it gave us pause as to how the great/grandchildren would react. Sam was an integral part of his grand and great-grandchildren’s lives. He was loving, supportive, generous and an example of what a grand and great-grandparent could be.  

Our great/grandchildren saw that Sam was failing, and they had many questions, which we and their parents answered truthfully, and according to our individual beliefs about death. We all feel that death is part of life. They saw him struggle with his deteriorating health, but observed us all being loving and attentive to his needs.  Some of the children gave him pictures that they had drawn, etc.  He was embraced by the whole family until the very end. When he died, the great/grandchildren also saw how our family came together to openly mourn and support each other. They experienced our family ritual.

Each member of our family took some responsibility to prepare for a funeral and reception two days after Sam's death.  After a discussion with the parents, we decided that the great/grandchildren, ages 6 through 8, should attend the funeral and reception.  Because of their closeness to Sam, and because the eulogies were going to be given by their fathers, grandmother and great uncle, we knew they would see firsthand, how love is expressed.  The chapel was full to overflowing, so they were also able to experience the friendship and respect for their great-grandfather that existed outside of the family. Although the service was largely secular, we did follow some Jewish traditions. It was very touching that one of the great/grandchildren picked a dandelion from the nearby grass, and placed it on top of the closed casket.  It remained there throughout the burial. The tears flowed. 

It is now 2 months since we said goodbye to Sam, and the great/grandchildren still reference him in caring and loving ways…recalling details of his favorite things, as referenced in the eulogies, as well as honoring his past presence at the dining-room table, etc.
We all have our way of honoring the dead.  Every culture, every family, every individual will deal with death in their own way.  When your family must face this inevitable occurrence, here are some questions, regarding the great/grandchildren, that you many want to ask yourselves and your family.
·   How will you answer questions about death and dying?
·   How well did the children know the deceased?
·   What will the impact be, if you decide on an open-casket?
·   What are your expectations of the children’s attention span at a funeral?
·   Do you want the children to actually speak or participate in the funeral?
·   Are you prepared for the children’s reactions?  Some may get silly, some very sad, but both are ok. 

However you and your family choose to go through this experience, remember that children are unique and may have questions that continue for many years. Be open to their ongoing questions, reactions and behavior.