Planning a Child Funeral

When planning for a child funeral, parents should carefully consider what their children will need to cope with the event. A good place to start is by explaining the logistics of the services, including what they can expect to happen before, during and after. This will help them decide whether they wish to attend or not.

If the decision is to attend, be prepared for your children to feel frightened by what they see and hear at the funeral. Remember that what children imagine is often far scarier than the actual experience. Make sure they are offered clear and honest information, encourage questions, and repeatedly reassure them that their sibling can no longer feel cold or pain and is not scared. Also, make sure they are told that touching their sibling is ok, though the choice will always be theirs to make (and not forced).

Where Will the Funeral Events Take Place?

Some families choose to hold a memorial service at the funeral home, but other locations can be meaningful for a child. For example, a backyard barbecue or your child’s favorite park, playground, restaurant or other special location can be a wonderful way to celebrate their life. You could also have a celebration at your home with food and music, and invite friends and family to sign a message board or matted picture frame.

If your child chooses to view their sibling’s body at a visitation or ceremony, it is important to explain what they will be seeing. If they will be viewing a closed casket, you can help them understand that their sibling is laying inside fully dressed and with their arms folded and eyes closed. If they will be cremated, you can explain that their sibling’s ashes are kept in an urn on a memorial table or displayed somewhere else in the room, and that people might also display pictures, flowers, letters, or other items that were special to them.

During the service, you should let your child know that it’s okay to cry, but that it’s equally important to laugh and smile. This can help them express their feelings and will help them better understand that others will be doing the same. If your child becomes overly emotional during the service, consider having them leave for a while (with close adult supervision).

When your child is ready to return to the ceremony, it’s important to remind them of proper funeral etiquette. Explain that other guests will be mourning and may not appreciate loud talking, whining or laughter. This will help them feel more confident about returning and allow them to focus on the memories they will be making.

It’s not uncommon for children to regret not attending a funeral later in life. If your child does, talk to them about the reasons why they may regret it and how you can help them cope with this feeling. This is a very difficult conversation to have, but one that is worth having.