How to Prepare Your Child for a Funeral

child funeral

The funeral is a sacred time for all of us. But for children, it can be especially difficult and confusing. While the decision to attend or not is ultimately your child’s, they will benefit from clear and honest information about what to expect.

Whether you are having a viewing, open casket, or cremation service, it is important to discuss with your children what will happen at the visitation, ceremony, and post-ceremony activities. This will give your child a chance to express their feelings, questions and concerns before the day of the event.

It is also helpful to explain the logistics of the event, such as who will be attending and what they may be asked to do, including being quiet and sitting still for long stretches of time. If your children are old enough, consider asking them to participate in the service in some way (read a poem, sing a song, or deliver a speech) so they can feel like their feelings matter. Shyer children can still participate by lighting a candle or leaving a memento in the casket.

If your child wants to view their sibling’s body, offer to show them at a private viewing before the funeral. This allows them to see what others are seeing and makes the experience less daunting. Be prepared to answer their questions and reassure them that their sibling’s body will be cool to the touch, does not feel cold or pain, and can only be seen from the front. If they decide not to view their sibling, it is their choice, but they will miss out on the opportunity to see their family members grieve together and share special memories.

If your children are young and will be attending the service with you, consider asking a trusted friend or relative to take them out for a short time if they begin to get restless. This will allow you to concentrate on the proceedings without putting added emotional strain on yourself or your other children. It is also helpful for younger children to have a favorite toy or cuddle partner to comfort them, and having a small snack on hand can help ease their hunger. For infants or very young children, a live stream or recording of the funeral can be a good option to allow them to see and hear their sibling’s name being said as well as to interact with those present in their own way. This can be a meaningful way for them to say goodbye and will give them a chance to process their feelings at home.