When planning a child funeral, there are many details to consider. It is a very personal service and it should be tailored to your child’s needs. This is an opportunity to share your child’s story, honor their life and allow them to connect with the person who died in a way that feels meaningful. Typically, the ceremony is short and held at a home, funeral home or place of worship and can include friends and family.
Some families choose to have a private service with the deceased’s parents, siblings and grandparents. It is important to discuss this option with these individuals and decide who will attend the service. They may be supportive or they might not. If they are not, this is a great time to ask why and try to determine the root cause of their discomfort with the idea of attending the child funeral.
The child funeral should be carefully planned ahead of time and held in a location that is familiar to the children. This will help ease them into the event and make them feel comfortable. It is important to have a caring adult available to answer questions during the service. This person can be the person officiating the service, a grief counselor, family member or friend. They should be someone your child trusts and who is accustomed to talking to children about death and loss.
A child funeral can include a slideshow of photos, a special song or poem, and a urn, casket or memorial plaque. You can also have children sign a poster or matted picture frame, write a message, or draw a memory. Some people ask the gathered children to wear their favorite outfit or dress in clothing that represents the deceased, such as a football jersey, superhero costume or tutu. You can also ask guests to place a flower, note or other token on the casket or urn.
For older children, you can give them a chance to lead the ceremony. This gives them a sense of responsibility and control over the event. You can also provide them with a microphone so they can share a reflection or memory with the crowd. If you are not comfortable allowing your child to lead the service, this is a good time to ask for help from other relatives who are comfortable with speaking in front of people.
If your child is uncomfortable or frightened of attending the funeral, let them choose not to go. If you force them, they could experience trauma and later resent it. This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for your family.
If your child is reluctant to attend the funeral, you can always encourage them by explaining what will happen in language they understand and that it’s okay to ask questions. You can also remind them that there are lots of other ways to remember and say goodbye besides attending the funeral, so it’s not the only way they can participate in honoring the deceased.