Planning a Child Funeral

A child funeral—also called a visitation, wake, memorial service, homegoing service or celebration of life—is a ceremony that honors your child and helps everyone in the family process their grief. A service can be held in a chapel or home, place of worship, or at the graveside, depending on your preferences and your child’s needs.

Some children choose not to attend a funeral or other services, which is completely normal and okay. If you decide not to bring your child, it is a good idea to designate a friend or family member to take care of them during the services and activities. This allows you to fully participate in the service and gives your child someone they can turn to if they become uncomfortable.

If you choose to bring your child to a visitation or funeral, prepare them beforehand by explaining what will happen. If they are old enough to understand, you can also ask them what they want or need from the service. Some children like to help plan the service, so let them be a part of it in any way they are comfortable. This may include writing or decorating a tribute poster, choosing music or readings for the service and/or choosing flowers or gifts.

Describe the casket to your child so that they know what to expect. It is helpful to use pictures or videos of the deceased to help them better understand what they will see. Many parents find that it is comforting for their child to see their sibling lying in the casket, especially if they were able to select the outfit their sibling was wearing.

It is important to remind your child that their emotions are normal during this difficult time. If they start to show signs of being overwhelmed, encourage them to play or go to the bathroom. It is also helpful to explain that other people may be crying or having a hard time, too. It is a good idea to bring some quiet toys or books to help them during this time.

Consider having a children’s room during the services, where kids can color, play or make a card for their sibling. This is a great way to keep them busy and give you a break from the crowd of people who may be grieving.

If your child is buried or cremated, you can have a special headstone that is engraved with their name, birth and death dates and a graphic or photo of them. It’s a great way to remember them forever and share their story with the generations that come after them.

If your child is a baby or toddler, you may wish to have them buried or urned at the same time so that you can hold a memorial service for both of them at the same time. This will be particularly helpful for young siblings who can’t quite grasp the concept of death. You can also record the memorial service for them so they have it to watch when they are older.