When someone close to you passes away, it is important for your children to attend the funeral if they want to. This is a natural, healthy way to say goodbye and gives a sense of finality that can help them process their grief. Unfortunately, many parents assume that their children will not want to go and so don’t plan for it. This can be devastating for the family and leave children feeling confused and isolated.
Children are naturally curious and will likely ask questions about the funeral ceremony. It is best to answer these questions calmly and honestly as early as possible so the child has time to absorb and understand what is happening. Keeping the lines of communication open is also helpful as this will allow you to address any misunderstandings that may arise.
If your child decides to attend the funeral, have them draw a picture of their loved one or write a letter and put it in the casket or urn with the deceased. They can also write a message to be read at the service or placed in a card that is given to the grieving family. This will give the child something to focus on and can help them connect with their sibling in a way that feels right to them.
During the funeral service, it is important for children to see people expressing a range of emotions so they know that it’s ok to feel sad. It is also a good idea to bring some activities for the kids like coloring books and crayons so they can relax and have something to do. If the funeral is going to be held at a cemetery, consider bringing some small balloons for the kids to release in memory of their loved one.
Once the funeral is over, make sure you check in with your child to see if they have any questions or need to talk about their experience. Be honest and open with them and if you feel they are struggling to cope, encourage them to seek professional support.
Ultimately, it is up to each parent to determine whether their children should attend the funeral. Choosing not to go is certainly an option, but it’s important for parents to be aware that children who do not go will often regret this later in life and may struggle with guilt or shame as they grow up. If your child does decide to attend the funeral, be prepared to support them throughout the day and night, as well as after the service. Offer to record the service for them and be there to answer any questions they may have. Be sure to stay nourished and hydrated during the event and take breaks as needed. This will help you to keep up with your energy levels so you can be there for your child. Be sure to also check in with your spouse/partner, co-parent, friends and other siblings.