How to Plan a Child Funeral

The death of a child is a tragedy that can affect all those who knew and loved them. There are many decisions that must be made, including funeral plans and whether to have a viewing or service. Ultimately, it is the parents’ decision on whether or not to have a child funeral, but it is important that they discuss it with their children and be honest with them. Children are resilient, and with clear, honest information and time to process it they may be able to participate in a service that is meaningful for them.

A child funeral can be as simple or as complex as you wish. It can involve family and friends only, or a larger group. It can include a service similar to that of a traditional adult funeral, or it can be as small and private as spending time at the graveside. Some families even choose to hold a memorial service in their home rather than at the cemetery.

Some parents decide to view their child’s body before the funeral. If so, they should prepare their child for what they will see. This can include explaining what the casket will look like, or if they are going to be cremated, then what their ashes will look like and where they will be kept. If your child is uncomfortable with seeing their sibling’s body, it is important that they are reassured that the body can no longer feel cold or pain.

It is also helpful to explain that everyone grieves differently, and that they will probably see people expressing a variety of emotions, from tears to laughter. Children are often very perceptive, and they will absorb what they are seeing around them. Keeping their comfort in mind, it is good to appoint a trusted friend or relative to be their “funeral buddy” at the services. This person can keep them engaged in the proceedings, take them outside for breaks, and help them understand what they are experiencing.

When it is time for the ceremony, your child should be encouraged to attend if they wish. However, if they are not comfortable and want to leave, it is important that they are allowed to do so without feeling guilty. It is also a good idea to talk with them ahead of time about what to expect and what it means that they will have to be quiet and sit still for long periods of time.

After the funeral, your child will likely continue to have questions about their sibling as they grow up. It may be comforting for them to listen to a recording of the services, or it might be helpful to have their photo taken with a special sibling marker. In this way, they will be able to feel connected to their lost sibling whenever they want. This can be a very moving and comforting experience for them as they move through the stages of grief.