My father-in-law died recently. The family is planning a graveside memorial service for him and my eight-year-old son wants to be there.
He's a mature kid for his age, but I'm not sure that he'll be able to handle this. On the other hand, he was not at the funeral and he says he really wants to go. He's never been in a cemetery. What do you think?
Sad in Syracuse
If your son did not express any desire on his own to be at the memorial service, you should certainly not suggest it to him, but he is the one who has made the request and is apparently very interested in going.
It sounds like, young though he is, your son realizes that he needs "closure." He needs to say good-bye to his grandfather. He also needs to mourn.
Death is not easy to deal with at any age. Young children do not understand what happens to the person who they loved and where he disappears to. (Do we understand, for that matter?) Your son feels the need to see where his grandfather's body will be from now on. Whether it is in a cemetery somewhere surrounded by a forest, by a lake or on a rolling hillside, he needs to experience the reality and the sense of peacefulness.
After he has stood there, surrounded by loving family members who will be there to hug him and love him, he will probably feel less fear, not more fear or anxiety. He will see that life continues and he still has many people to love him and take care of him. There is also nothing wrong with your son seeing you, the adults, cry. Death is a part of life and, sad though his grandfather's death is for him, it is better that his first experience with death be in this peaceful and loving setting. As he grows older he will see that death can occur following painful illnesses, or as the result of terrible violence. At least this first meeting with death for your son will be a gentle one.