A child funeral is a memorial service held for a deceased baby or child. It is a way for family members to honor and celebrate the life of their child while also beginning the process of grief. This can be a very difficult thing for some families. Some parents choose not to hold a funeral for their children, but others find comfort in the idea of having a final ceremony that is unique to them and their family.
When planning a child funeral, there are many things that can be done to make the day as special and meaningful as possible. For example, you can ask friends to sing or play music for the event. You can also decorate the casket, urn, or other location where the memorial will be held. You can offer a variety of activities for children to do, including coloring, writing messages, and playing with toys. You can ask important people to share reflections and memories, or read a letter or poem on your child’s behalf.
The most important thing to remember is that your child’s wishes are paramount. Attending a funeral is often overwhelming for children, and if they want to leave, it is okay. During the ceremony, you can designate a trusted friend or adult to take them outside for a break if needed. If your child is expressing anxiety or discomfort, it may be helpful to talk with them about the ceremony ahead of time and discuss appropriate ways to react.
Explaining what to expect at a funeral can help your child prepare and feel comfortable. If the funeral will include an open casket, describe to your child how their sibling will be laying in it. Be sure to include the fact that their sibling will be fully dressed (including shoes) and with their eyes closed and arms folded. If the funeral will be an urn, a similarly detailed explanation will help your child understand that their sibling is not going to wake up or move around.
Children will likely have a lot of questions about the funeral and what to expect, so be prepared to answer them as best you can. You might find it helpful to have a sheet of paper on hand where you can write down the answers so that you can refer back to them throughout the day.
While touching the body of their sibling is typically not an issue, some children may feel the need to do so. It is important to remind your child that their sibling’s body will be cold and stiff to the touch, and they should only gently stroke their tummy or hair. If they want to touch the body, it is fine to do so, but you should always supervise them.
It is not unusual for a child to begin to understand the permanence of death between the ages of 5 and 7 years, at which point they may start asking questions about their sibling’s status as deceased. For this reason, some parents find it helpful to have a private discussion with their older children before the funeral about what to expect.