A child funeral is a way to say goodbye to a baby who died in utero, in childhood or as an infant. Unlike the funeral of an adult, which can be very public and may include guests who are mourning, a ceremony for a child is typically private and intimate. It is usually held in a church or chapel. It is often accompanied by a graveside service or memorial at home.
The decision to have a child funeral is yours to make. The type of ceremony you have and who you invite are personal choices based on what feels right for your family. Whether you choose to have a traditional funeral or something more simple, it is important for children to be able to participate in the service. This may help them to process their grief. Many families choose to include a special teddy or blanket in the casket and also have family members carry the coffin into the ceremony.
When children are able to see and interact with their deceased sibling’s body, they have an opportunity to connect with the person who was their whole world. This is often very healing. However, it is very difficult for some children and can be frightening or overwhelming. Parents need to decide in advance whether or not they will allow their children to view the body, and then prepare them for what that will look like.
If your children are able to view their sibling’s body, it is important to discuss what the body will look like in advance and reiterate the message that it is ok to touch their sibling and that they will not feel cold or pain. It is also helpful to have a trusted friend or relative present to comfort them and take them away for breaks if needed.
Even if your children do not view their sibling’s body, it may be comforting for them to know that they did not die alone and that their sibling is being well cared for by loving family and friends. It is important to remember that children have big imaginations and what they imagine their sibling’s body will look like at a funeral can be far different from the reality. Having an experienced caregiver or support person available to talk with them, encourage questions and reassure them throughout the experience can be helpful.
If you have other living children, it is a good idea to invite them to the funeral or memorial service. It will provide them with an opportunity to connect with their dead sibling in a safe environment and to celebrate the life that they shared together. It will also give them a chance to talk about their feelings and learn how to express them in healthy ways.
Some parents may decide not to have a funeral or ceremony for their child and instead hold a memorial service at home. This can be a beautiful and meaningful way to say goodbye.