How to help young children attend and process a funeral

Funeral directors are sometimes asked if it is appropriate for children to attend or participate in a funeral. Living Hope Funerals believe the parents know their children best and how to appropriately help them process the loss of a loved one.

Attending, and even participating in, the funeral could be a really helpful way for even young children to understand that the family member, be it a grandparent or other loved one, has died and to be able to say goodbye.  Here are some ways that can help children attend a funeral.

Prior to the service, talk to your child about funerals and why we have them.

Try not to use blurry language like ‘passed away’ but explain in simple terms what it means that someone has died. If you have belief in an after-life, you can also explain that ‘grandma has gone to heaven’. Try to give them an idea of what will happen at the funeral, especially about the coffin. Let them ask any questions.

You may feel it would help your child if they are able to participate in the service.

This is a beautiful way to include them in a significant event in the grieving process and a lovely way to honour and say goodbye to a loved one. There are a number of meaningful, simple ways for them to do that:

  • Writing or drawing something to be placed on the coffin
  • Placing a flower on the coffin, or a flower/soil in the grave
  • Reading out a tribute or a poem
  • Lighting a candle
  • Children who are musical could play during the service
  • If an ‘Acknowledgment of Country’ is being read at the start of the funeral service, a child may be comfortable reading the acknowledgment as they are familiar with this from school events.  
  • Children could pre-record a message. The recording can then be included as part of the ceremony, and even in the livestreaming of the event.

Some cultures and families may have a viewing as part of the funeral process.

Children may find comfort in saying goodbye to the deceased with a viewing. If the last time the child saw their loved one was in a hospital or if they did not have the opportunity to say goodbye, it could be comforting to see the deceased at a viewing. You know your children the best and would be able to gauge what they are comfortable with. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experience.

As with all elements of the funeral service, there are no rules about what needs to be done. Speak to your funeral director about what your family is comfortable with. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Living Hope Funerals and we will assist you.

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