Bitter legacy of missed funerals

16th April 2004 at 01:00
Children kept away from a parent's funeral grow up feeling angry and guilty, an educational psychologist has revealed.

John Holland, from the city psychological service in Hull, says a third of the adults interviewed regretted that as children they had not been allowed to attend the funeral of their parent.

He found many had felt they had been starved of information at the time of the death.

He reports in his article for the Journal For Pastoral Care and PersonalSocial Education: "Things tended to 'happen' to the bereaved children; some were suddenly dispatched to their neighbour's house or even a far away relation at the time of crisis after death with only a vague explanation of what was happening."

In one case a woman recalled as an eight-year-old watching a cortege passing by the playground, only realising later that it was her father's on the way to his funeral.

Dr Holland says: "There may be an inclination to protect children from experiencing a funeral, perhaps to avoid them, as adults perceive, from becoming distressed."

But he says attending the funeral helps children accept the reality of death.

His research, based on interviews with 70 adults, found that 35 per cent who had been forbidden or distracted from attending the funeral grew up feeling angry and bitter and 19 per cent felt excluded.

Only 8 per cent said they were not concerned. He said: "It seems there is nothing to lose, but much to gain, by children attending the funeral."

Features 22

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