A child funeral can be a very emotional and difficult experience for everyone. Parents must decide for themselves if it is appropriate to bring children to the ceremony and what arrangements they would like to make. Children are often a source of comfort and support during the grieving process and can provide much-needed lightheartedness to adults. However, if your child doesn’t want to attend the funeral it is important not to force them and to listen to their needs and concerns.
If you decide to bring your child, prepare them in advance. Explain to them what is going to happen and, depending on their age, help them understand what the visitation and service will be like. Be sure to explain what they will see (casket or urn, religious rituals etc) and, if your child is being cremated, be sure to tell them what will happen to the ashes. It is important to also talk about the time that will pass between each event so they don’t get too upset if they have to leave the visitation or service early.
It is also helpful to let children know that it is OK to cry, that people will be sad and that there are different ways of dealing with sadness, including laughing. During the day leading up to and following the funeral you should encourage conversations about happy memories and things your child enjoyed. Try to avoid excessive focus on sadness as this can be very hard for children to bear.
At the service itself, consider allowing your child to select their own flowers or other decorations and letting them place them on their casket or urn. This can be a very powerful way for them to feel involved and connected to their sibling. It may also be a good idea to have your child, or a designated friend, write a message that will be placed in the casket or urn. This will be a special keepsake for the family to cherish forever.
You could also ask someone to read a story book, children’s grief booklet, lullaby or poem at the funeral or memorial service. This can be especially comforting for very young children.
Some families choose to have a balloon release either outside the service or at the graveside. It can be a great way to honor your child and is very soothing for small children.
You could also create a kids room or other area where kids can go to play, colour and make cards for their sibling. Providing them with some of their favourite activities and snacks can help them to cope and be more comfortable. You could also arrange for someone to take care of them if they start to become disruptive or uncomfortable. Having a safe escape route is also an important consideration, so that you or a trusted friend can quietly remove them from the proceedings if necessary. We can produce a funeral program for your child which will detail the order of events.