My husband and I went through something recently that we weren’t quite prepared for. (When it comes to parenting, when are you ever truly prepared? That’s a big, fat “never”). Sadly, my husband’s maternal grandpa passed away and we weren’t quite sure how to handle it with Ev. We had a lot to consider when trying to make the best decision for Ev because we wanted to allow him to say his “good-bye”. My mother-in-law’s family is huge and time spent together is highly valued. They planned to have two visitations and funeral service, then the funeral. As soon as plans were made my husband and I started wondering what we should do.
Question number one—would we take Ev to the visitations? All of the family would be there together and it seemed that Ev should be there as part of the family. I also knew that my mother-in-law likes us all to be together, and as part of supporting her during this time of loss, I wondered if I should bring him. Also, if we chose not to bring Ev, who would care for him? Most of the people we trust enough to care for Ev were going to be attending the funeral services and we would never ask them to choose otherwise. All of this weighed against the reasons not to bring Ev. He is at the age where he doesn’t quite know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. He is also a thinker and a worrier. The visitations were “open-casket” and I knew there was no getting around Ev seeing his great-grandpa like that if we were to enter the building. If he were a little younger, he may have run around, up and down that place without ever realizing what was happening. And if he were a little older I may feel more confident about his ability to think through what happened to his great-grandpa and what was happening at the visitation (and my ability to explain it). Not to mention that these services are typically a somber, quiet experience and Ev is anything but. As with all tough decisions I enlisted the advice of other parents. And as with all parenting advice everyone had something different to say that worked for their families.
When it came down to it, I really just had to go with my gut. In the end, Ev did not come with us to the visitations. Thankfully, two of our friends who have kids of their own jumped at the opportunity to help us out. My husband and I were able to give all of our attention and energy to the family and each other—and Ev had a blast with friends he doesn’t get to see that often, since they live out town. We did decide to take him to the funeral service and funeral. When we told Ev what happened, that his great-grandpa had passed away, he did have lots of questions. He was worried it hurt when his great-grandpa died and we told Ev he kind-of fell asleep (And then Ev was worried if he fell asleep he would die). He was also worried about his grandma when we told him that was her dad. He asked if she was sad. I told him that she was but that’s why we’re all together—to help each other. Ev wasn’t very close to his great-grandpa since he didn’t see him that often. We were able to visit recently before he passed away, so Ev was able to recall his great-grandpa when we talked about him. I feel fine about our choice to bring Ev to the funeral. It gave us the opportunity to talk about a new kind of experience that would be hard to talk about if he weren’t experiencing it first hand. There are always tough decisions about what is best for our children and when you follow what you think to be true for your own family, you really can’t go wrong.