Telling the kids bad news/funerals etc

I’ve posted on here a few times about my fantatic friend, she was diagnosed last June, and we knew it was very agressive. She has had secondaries diagnosed in bone, brain and now it seems liver and blood. The prognosis is bad, her consultant believes it may only be 2 weeks, but does stress that every patient is different. My concern is for her kids, 5 and 7. The last time we discussed it, she was really unsure whether the girls should attend the funeral. Half of me thinks yes, its their mum, they need to be there, but the other half feels they should not be exposed to the grief they will see. Does anyone have any advice, experience etc. I think it is one of those decisions where the right one can never be made, whatever decision is made you will always worry it was the wrong one.

I went to a friend’s funeral and her children were there. It seemed right that they were. Your friend’s children will see grief from those around them whether at the funeral or at home. Is your friend in a hospice? Most hospice staff will be able to offer help and advice. My friend’s oldest child left some pictures for Mummy after she’d died and both children had said Goodbye. I guess I would speak to your friend again if you’re able to and find out her wishes.
Thinking of you all, I have bone secondaries but my child is grown up.
Take Care, Belinda…x

Hi Karen,

I am so sorry to hear your news.
Can you find out what the church/ crematorium actually do regarding the service?When my young children attended their grandma’s funeral they were very distressed that the gates closed in front of her coffin. My daughter said she felt that the church had taken her gran.
However when my died died the service was completely different it was a celebration and people spoke of all the magical things my dad had done with his life. My children were actually smiling at the end of the service and have a real understanding of his death.
I think the children should attend because children are often very philosophical and end up supporting the grown ups.

Kindest regards

So sorry to hear about your friend. Yes I think her children should attend her funeral and I also hope that someone is talking to them now about the fact that their mum is dying so that they are able to say goodbye in an appropriate way. Hiding grief from children can be far more damaging than expressing it in appropriate ways. I know several people of my age (50s now) who were not allowed to attend a parent’s funeral when they were young children in the 1950s…each of them has suffered a lot because of that well meant denial of their right to be there.

Does your friend have a MacMillan nurse who can advise on organsiations which help bereaved children? There is some good practice out there to help children.

very best wishes to you at this sad time.


As you say there is no right or wrong but having worked with children for many years it is always best to be open and honest with them and talk with them in language they can understand - many hospitals, hospices etc should have books with stories about death and dying. I would have said they should attend as again they may grow up to feel that funerals are something to be frightened of and indeed may be angry that they were not allowed to attend them mummys funeral. Also it is always best to use ‘real’ words like dead etc and not things like ‘mummy has gone to sleep’ as many children will then be waiting for their loved one to waken up.
I am so sorry your friend and her family and indeed yourself are going through this.
My thoughts are with you all
Good luck

What brilliant advice you have been given already from others here. I too work with children and agree it is very important to be honest with them, they will be upset and grieve wether they go to the funeral or not. It would help them if the service could be a celebration of their Mums life with possitive anicdotes recalled by people they know and love.

I know this is always hard for the love ones left to do when grief takes over, but it would be good for their remaining family and family friends, to gear their eulogies with these very young children in mind.

Finally, maybe you could print off these comments and show them to your friend. And definately involve the professionals, MacMillan are excellent with problems like this and will offer practical help.

My thoughts are with you all.

Love Irene


Sorry you have had to join us in such awful circumstances.
I too have a friend in a very similar situation to yours, she has two girls similar age and has been given a few months.
Anyway, she is having her children at her funeral, which she has arranged to the nth degree, because she has organised activites & facilities for children who will be there.

Personally I think it is an important part of growing up to learn about death, all be it very distressing. Although a funeral may seem an unsuitable place for children it can be a very important part of their grieving process - a process that has a number of phases, each of which we all need to go through to eventually reach closure & acceptance. In fact children can be far better at dealing with grief because they do not have such a deep understanding of mortality & the preciousness of life.

There is a chance that in years to come the children could feel bitter & angry had they not been able to go to their mum’s funeral like Jane said. My friend has been given a Name a Star gift for her girls so that they can still look at Mummy & have a sense that she is present. Maybe that is something your friend would also like to consider?

My thoughts are with your friend & her family - I hope all our comments have helped in some way.


Thank you all for your comments. On Monday at 3.20 my Dawn left us. It was very quick in the end and I am so glad she didn’t suffer.for too long. I was with her in the morning and told her I loved her and she managed to tell me she loved me too. My heart feels like it has been ripped out and is being stamped on! She was one of the most beautiful people you could ever meet. I know people always say things like that when someone has died, but honestly, I do not know anyone who never liked her. She was so brave and even at the end she was still more worried about everyone else, especially her girls. The hospice, like everyone has siad, were fantastic and the girls were prepared, they are not too bad at the moment, putting the rest of us to shame really. They will be attending the funeral, which I am really pleased about. I also think it is part of the grieving process and I think it is also good for them to see how much their mum was loved.
Thank you all for your advice, it has helped.


My condolences to you Karen and of course Dawn’s family.

I was very touched at the description of Dawns death. I think it is the pain that worries us all. I feel her children will be quite strong. If there is such a thing, I hope the funeral goes well.

Thank you for sharing you news at what must be a difficult time.

kindest regards


I can only echo my condolences to you and Dawns whole family. I am glad the girls were involved - it will help them and all of you in the long term.

My best wishes and loving thoughts to you all


What a blessing that Dawn had a peaceful passing & I’m sure she appreciated seeing you at the end. My thoughts are with you and her family at this time, she has obviously left a void that can not be filled. She will be always with you.

Best wishes

thank you so much for sharing this with us, my heart goes out to you and all those that love Dawn. That love will never die, can never die and memories of her will remain with you all always.

Oh Karen,

I feel so terribly sad reading your post. I have kept up with this thread, although have not posted prior to this as we currently have no children of our own and I didn’t feel right to comment.

Please accept my sincerest condolances to both you and Dawns family. I am so glad you got to see her and tell her how much you loved her. Hospices are awesome and I have no doubt the staff were wonderful with her daughters, I’m so glad they were involved and will be going to the funeral. I’m so sorry you feel like your heart has been ripped out, I have never lost a friend and can only imagine what you must be going through right now.

Sending you a most humungous ‘cyber hug’


Take care of yourself,

Thinking of you all at this very sad time,


Sending loads and loads of cyber hugs to you, a wonderful and caring friend. I’m glad the girls will attend the funeral.

Love to all


yes her children should attend, as people have already said they will see greif anyway, when my social worker died of stomach cancer when i was 16 her children were the same ages, and they were there. they gave a little reading as well, maybe your friends children could as well. perhaps encourage them to write something really special abouttheir mum, and letthem read it out in the service, this could also help them in their own greif, as it encourages them to talk about their mum. maybe the 5 year old maybe to young i dont know. also if they are not allowed to attend they may hold it against the father in years to come, so i feel it is very important that they attend

Dear Karen

Our sincere condolences go out to you and your friends family at this sad time.

Kind regards from all at Breast Cancer Care.

Breast Cancer Care

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. For the past year this site has been my sanctuary! It definitely restores my faith in humanity. People who have never even met bringing comfort to those in need, it is fantastic. Reading other peoples stories is moving, humbling and is such a great help. I have visited this site at least a few times a week for the past year, reading threads and picking up fantastic advice. it’s so reassuring knowing others are feeling the same and you’re not going through it alone. I have been able to give Dawn lots of advice that I have found in these forums. You are all truly inspirational and I thank you again for your kind words and I’m sure I felt those hugs!


Hi Karen,

Please keep a link with this site for as long as you need, bereavement takes many forms and has no real time-line.

Bye for now


hi karen,
sincere condolences to you and Dawns family.


Hi Karen
I would like to pass my condolences to you and dawns family. I lost my mum in July and still get up some days and the grief is a raw as it was the day we lost her, the days when i feel most down I write in a diary how i have felt that day and i have encourage my eldest (age 7) to write things down or draw pictures and keep them in a folder this has helped her deal with her own grief in a way she knows how, she only shows me the things she wants me to see. i have also found this website a great help, most of the time i just read other peoples posts and it helps to know I am not alone in my grief and sometimes i have added to another post and I feel like my experience can at least help someone else get through another day. Friends tell me it get better I am still waiting but at least i am hopeful x