Planning a Child Funeral

Children who are old enough to think for themselves and understand what is happening may feel that they don’t want to go to a funeral service. This is a normal feeling and it’s important to respect their decision. Children who do decide to go can be helped through the ceremony by having a role to play. They might be asked to help escort people to the graveside or place flowers on the casket. They can also write a poem or letter to be placed in the order of service.

For babies, a special cradle or bassinet can be used. This can be covered with a special blanket or their own baby clothes that you keep from home. Some hospitals also stock tiny outfits that you can use for preemies or babies born too early. You can choose to have a religious or non-religious service and ask the funeral director, an independent celebrant or someone you know to lead it. You might want to include prayers and hymns or have a slide show of pictures. You might want to have a short reading or a toast and you could ask family members, friends or other guests to share memories of the deceased. Some families light memorial lanterns to send into the sky after the service.

A child’s funeral can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, and it should be tailored to the needs of your family. You might wish to invite children, teenagers and adults to the funeral or memorial services to help with a sense of community. Children can be invited to decorate the graveside or memorial site and can write messages to their sibling on a message board or matted picture frame.

If you are going to invite children to the funeral service, it’s best to talk with them beforehand to reassure them and to explain what they can expect. Younger children can often cope with a funeral well, especially if they are given a simple explanation and have an exit strategy in case they get overwhelmed. It is important that you tell them what they will see (such as a casket or urn) and that people may be crying.

You might ask older children to read or write a poem or letter to be placed with the order of service, help place flowers on the casket or urn, or help choose photos for a slideshow. You might also give them other tasks such as handing out flowers to guests or asking them to sign a guest book.

If you are planning a ceremony for your child and their siblings, it’s a good idea to designate one adult as their “funeral buddy.” This is someone who will be there to help them if needed. This person can take them to different places in the day, give them food or snacks, and make sure that they have a safe place to escape to if they become upset or distressed. They can also explain to their sibling what is happening and help them to understand that it is okay to cry and laugh.