How to Help a Child Attend a Funeral

When a child experiences the death of a loved one it can be difficult to know how to proceed. There is no right or wrong answer but it’s important that the decision to attend a funeral is an informed one. Here are some tips to help children make the choice that is right for them.

Explain what is going to happen at the ceremony, especially if it’s their first time attending. It’s helpful to normalize the experience and let them know that it is okay for people to cry. They may be frightened by the sight of their deceased loved one lying in a casket but it’s important to remember that they won’t wake up. It’s also important to explain that burial and cremation are a natural part of life and it is not something they should be afraid of.

Give them a copy of the order of service booklet ahead of time so they can read it and be prepared for what is happening. It’s often a good idea to include a photo of the person and a short biography to give a sense of who they were and how their family and friends will celebrate them.

If they are old enough, get them to write a letter or draw a picture to be placed in the casket or urn. It can be a way for them to say goodbye and express their love one last time. Younger children can pick flowers that can be put in or near the casket or urn.

Providing them with an activity to keep them occupied can be helpful, such as colouring or a quiet game. It’s also useful to bring a book, their favourite toy or anything else that will comfort them if they become restless. It’s also a good idea to have a trusted friend available in case they need a break or extra attention from an adult during the ceremony.

Some children will feel very strongly that they don’t want to attend the funeral and it is fine to respect this decision. However, it is important to discuss the decision with them and listen to their concerns and questions. They will likely need a lot of support and guidance after the funeral and it’s important that they are not made to feel isolated or forgotten.

Children who have lost a parent are eligible to claim a PS300 contribution towards funeral costs in England. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all parents and guardians who have registered the death of their child on or after 1 April 2021. To find out more, see our help with funeral costs page.