How to Prepare for a Child Funeral

Children who have lost a sibling often want to say goodbye in a way that is meaningful and appropriate. This may include a ceremony that is consistent with their culture, religion or tradition. This can also help bring a sense of finality to their death that is useful in the grieving process.

If your child wants to attend the funeral, it’s important to listen and respect their choice. Forcing a child to go to a service can be extremely difficult for them, and you don’t want to assume that they wouldn’t like to say goodbye in their own way. If they decide to attend, it’s a good idea to break down what will happen at the funeral ahead of time. This can include singing, the sight of a casket or urn and religious rituals. Explain that the service can be very emotional for people, especially grown-ups, and that it is OK for them to cry.

It’s also important to be prepared for the possibility that your child will want to view their dead sibling. Some children do this and can be very moved by it. It’s important to reassure them that their sibling is no longer in pain or cold and will be soft to the touch. It may help to have a photo of the deceased on hand so you can show them what their sibling looks like, particularly if they will be wearing an outfit they loved.

Consider enlisting the help of a friend or family member to look after your child at the service. This can allow you to focus on what is happening and may also give your child someone to talk to if they need to. During the service, it can be helpful to allow your child to move around and take breaks if they need them. If they become restless or fidgety, it can be helpful to have a book or their favourite toy nearby to keep them occupied.

If you are going to speak at the service, it’s a good idea to write down what you want to say and practice it ahead of time. This will allow you to focus on what is happening and not worry about your children watching or hearing. If you do start to become overwhelmed, a family member or close friend can take your child outside or into a hallway.

Some children who don’t attend a funeral regret it later. If your child wants to say goodbye in their own way, consider having a memorial service at home or in a place of worship that feels meaningful to them. You can even light candles, with close adult supervision. Many funeral directors offer reduced costs or do not charge for services for children. You can also find out more about financial assistance on our help with funeral costs page. You can also use an online funeral planning service to create a funeral that feels right for your family.