Funerals are always a difficult time for children and adults, but there are some ways to help your child feel more involved. They may not know what to say or feel, but involving them in planning and attending the funeral can ease their anxiety and help them to process their grief.
Explaining the Funeral
The first step is to explain what will happen at the funeral service. Talk to your child about who will be there, where the funeral will take place and what the service will be like. It’s important to make sure your child understands what is going to happen and how it will affect them before they are allowed to attend.
Using concrete terms is the best way to help your child understand what is happening, so you can avoid words such as “dead” or “gone.” You can tell them that the body has stopped working and that it will be cold, dry and not move or feel anything. This is an essential message for your child to grasp, as it will help them to be calm and able to cope with the loss of a loved one.
You can tell your child that a person’s body is being buried or cremated. They may ask questions about how it’s done, so you can tell them that the body is put really hot in a special machine, and that it will become ashes, which are then put into a jar or box called an urn. You can explain that a person’s ashes will be taken to a special place, such as their home or school, and sprinkled there.
Include Your Child
Involving your child in the planning and preparation of a child’s funeral can help them to feel more connected to their sibling who has died and to understand that death is a part of life. It can also help them to process their grief and feel like their feelings “matter.”
Let Your Child Choose Their Own Outfit
Before your child goes to the funeral, talk with them about what they want to wear. This might involve something that they have drawn or made, a favourite toy, a piece of clothing, or anything else that will mean something to them. It could even be their favourite food.
Be aware that toddlers are not likely to understand complex emotions and thoughts, so you might need to explain things more slowly. Toddlers are not yet able to verbalize feelings of sadness, so you might need to rely on a picture or other visual clues.
Including Your Child in the Burial or Cremation of Their Sibling
Assist your child with selecting their sibling’s casket or burial container. Getting them to choose the colors, designs, and embellishments for their casket or urn can be a comforting and emotional experience for them.
Remember to let your child touch the body of their sibling, but never force them to. They may feel uncomfortable with this, but they will be able to handle it in time.