A child funeral is a ceremony that honours a child who has died. It can take many forms and is often led by a celebrant, a religious leader or someone who knows your family well. Including children in a ceremony gives them the space to talk about their feelings and connect with the person who has died. Depending on the child’s age, they can be involved in creating a memorial or ordering flowers. They may want to write messages or choose music for the service. Older children can be entrusted with the task of reading a short poem or statement at the ceremony.
It is important to explain to a child what to expect before and during a ceremony. This can be done in a way that suits their natural curiosity. For example, if they will see the casket at a visitation or the funeral service themselves, it is helpful to explain what the body will look like and that it won’t be moving. It is also a good idea to explain what will happen after the funeral. For instance, if the body will be buried, you might say that people will put flowers on the grave or urn and say their goodbyes. If the body will be cremated, it is also helpful to prepare a child for this by explaining that people may go to the graveyard and say their goodbyes and that they will still remember the person.
You might also want to explain that sometimes people will cry when they talk about the person who has died. This can help a child to understand that not everyone will be happy and it is okay to feel sad. It is also important to explain that it is inappropriate to joke about the death or laugh at the person who has died.
A lot of parents find it helpful to involve a children’s charity or community to help with the cost of a funeral. The Children’s Funeral Fund for England can help, and there are also similar funds in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Some children do not wish to attend a funeral and that is completely fine. If they do not have a strong relationship with the deceased, it can be uncomfortable for them to pretend to be upset at a ceremony that is not about them. They can still take part in a memorial service later with their family and friends, though.
Some children may also regret not attending a funeral at some point in their lives, especially if they feel that they were not invited. It is important to respect this decision and ask if there are any ways that you can help them with their grief in the future. If you are concerned that your child is struggling, please seek professional help. A bereavement support worker can help a child process the loss of their sibling and support them in their grief journey. They can also help a family with practical issues such as finding accommodation and childcare for other children during the mourning process.