Having to make funeral arrangements for your child can be one of the most difficult things you will have to do. When deciding whether or not to involve your children in the ceremony, you must take into account their age and level of understanding. If they will be attending, you should discuss what to expect and how they can participate if they choose. If they are not, it is important that they understand that there are ways to say goodbye without having to be present at the funeral.
If the funeral will be in a church, be sure to tell your children what they can expect. Explain that their friend or family member will be lying in a casket, or an urn if cremation is chosen. If the body will be open, describe what they may see and that it is okay to look. During the visitation period, you can ask your children what they would like to do with their loved one. For example, they might want to write a letter or draw a picture and put it in the casket. You can also encourage them to give out order of service sheets or sign a memory board.
A funeral is a very emotional time, so it is best to have a back-up plan if your child becomes overwhelmed or uncomfortable. If they need to leave, have them walk to a lobby or other quiet area with a trusted adult who can sit with them and help them calm down. It’s also a good idea to bring along a bag of toys that they can play with while taking a break.
Many children have fear and misconceptions about death. This can include a belief that they too will die or that they caused their loved one’s death. It is crucial that you reassure your child that they will not die and that the person who died did not do anything wrong.
Children of all ages can find comfort in knowing that their loved ones will be remembered by people who will share stories and pictures. During the service, you can pass around an empty picture frame for guests to write messages in and allow children to share their thoughts as well. It is also a good idea to include special items from your child’s life such as their favorite toy, teddy bear or stuffed animal. You could even have a coffin that your child has made or a special piece of clothing they wore that you want to bury with them. You can also decorate with things that represent the child’s life such as a banner with their name or their favorite color flowers. Some families choose to transport their baby into the ceremony in a coffin with a favorite teddy or toy they had. This can be a very memorable and meaningful moment for all involved. It’s a good idea to speak with the funeral director about these choices.