Taking children to a funeral visitation

By Joe Tremblay | The Compass | March 19, 2020

Question

I don’t want my children to be afraid at a funeral visitation. How do I prepare them to see a body in a casket?

Answer

As a father of six, I know the value of protecting my children from gratuitous violence on television. Any form of entertainment that glorifies homicide or death is liable to be censored in our household. Yet, death is not a forbidden topic of discussion in our family. As a Catholic parent who works for the church, I want death to be seen in the context of faith and hope by my children, not despair and dread.

In answering the question above, I would reply that the best preparation for a funeral visitation is to talk to your children about death. Not only about it being a natural part of life — but within the context of hope and faith. Here are two points to consider:

First, it is important for parents to share their faith-inspired views on death with their children. Ideally, such views should be formed with the teachings of Christ and the church in mind.

For instance, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast days of the saints, not on the day they were born as we do with our birthday celebrations, but on the day they died. By doing this, the church proclaims the good news that death is not the end of life; rather, it is only the beginning. As Pope Leo XIII said, “When we have given up this present life, then shall we really begin to live.”

To reinforce this belief, at every Mass, Catholics profess the following in the Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen!” Therefore, death, when viewed as a passage into eternal life, is not something to dread or to be scared of. As Catholic Christians, we are called to be a a sign of hope who eagerly anticipate eternal life.

Second, it is important to know that the above mentioned views are counter-cultural. Hence, a Catholic parent who seeks to prepare their children for a funeral visitation will have to use more than just biblical or church teaching. They will need to talk about people’s experiences to really get the point across. This is where Near Death Experiences (NDE) comes in.

There are countless stories, inspiring testimonies, of people who clinically died and visited heaven. Having experienced the love of God, seeing deceased loved ones and the beauty of heaven, the fear of death for many of these NDE survivors diminishes. One of our Norbertine priests, Fr. John Tourangeau, has written about his own NDE in “To Heaven and Back, The Journey of a Roman Catholic Priest.” In fact, some of these stories are captured in movies like “Miracles from Heaven,” “Heaven is for Real” and “90 Minutes in Heaven.”

Sitting down with our children to watch these inspiring movies is a wonderful way to talk about God, heaven and the real hope of seeing our deceased loved one in heaven. Within this context of faith and hope, children can better process the death of a loved one.

And remember this reading from the Book of Wisdom: “Their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace … their hope full of immortality. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble” (3:2-4, 7).

 

Tremblay is Parish Evangelization Director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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