A child funeral is a ceremony held to honour the life of your child who has died. It can take many forms. It may be a full service with your child present, or it could be a memorial ceremony where your child does not attend. It can also be a graveside or other location ceremony where you simply plant flowers and light candles in memory of your child.
Many parents worry that their children will be upset by attending a funeral but this is not always the case. If a child is well prepared and understands what to expect from a funeral, most find it a comforting experience.
If your child will be attending a funeral, it is a good idea to give them a job at the ceremony so they feel included and important. They can help collect photos for a slideshow, assist with passing out funeral programs or they can offer to read a short tribute at the ceremony. This will make them feel special and will help them deal with the emotions they will be feeling.
It is a good idea to have someone who your children trust, such as a favorite aunt or uncle, sit with them during the ceremony to support and care for them. This way if the service becomes too emotional for your child to handle they will have someone they can leave with until they are ready to rejoin the rest of the ceremony.
Explain to your child that their sibling’s body may look different than when they were alive and note any marks or scars that might be visible. If your child chooses to touch their sibling’s arm or hair, this is a personal choice and should be left up to them.
Consider asking other family members, friends or neighbours to come along and hold up signs with messages for your child. This can be a very moving experience for everyone involved and it can help to ease the burden on you as a parent.
If you are unable to afford the costs of your child’s funeral, there are charities that can help. One such charity is Final Farewell, a nonprofit organisation that provides emergency funeral funds for families with children who have passed away.
If your child decides not to attend a funeral, it is not unusual for them to later regret this. They may still ask questions about their sibling and a funeral can help to answer those questions. It is a difficult decision to make but it is up to each family and how they want to honour their life. If you need further advice on arranging a child funeral, Child Bereavement UK and Winston’s Wish have useful information.