Should your child attend a funeral?
When it comes to the idea of your child attending a funeral, often the first question can be if the child is old enough to attend. Age doesn’t have to be a factor in whether our child should attend a funeral. It can depend on their interest and how you prepare them for participating.
Deciding whether your child should attend a funeral is ultimately up to you. We feel that children should be allowed to help make the decision that is best for them. We also understand that you know your child best, and that you should make the decision based on what your child can handle.
We have found that attending funerals, even for very young children, can be a formulative and positive experience when appropriately handled. Including young family members in funeral planning also gives them an opportunity to be part of the grieving process, feel supported in their grief and a chance to say goodbye to a loved one on their own terms.
If your child wishes to attend a funeral and you’re considering allowing them to attend, here are some things to consider:
- Tell your child what they can expect. It is important you explain to them what a funeral is all about. This can include information on why we hold funerals, how long they are, who attends and what events take place at them. If the funeral home has a special room for children, let them know that this is an option for them to go to if they decide not to attend once they get there. Our own Safe Room is a place for children where they can feel sad and think about loved ones or talk, read, draw or just play. What they will remember is that a funeral home isn’t a scary place.
- Assign a trusted loved one. Ask a trusted family friend or family member to be the child’s buddy for the funeral. This can help the child feel secure and enable them to ask questions. An assigned friend can also remove the child if they choose to leave and take them to another place.
- Involve your child in the service. They could help choose flowers or remembrance photos. They could write a poem to be read or draw a picture to be placed in the casket. If the child is old enough, they may want to say a few words at the service.
- Prepare them for what they could see. You could show them photos online of the funeral home and describe what an urn or casket looks like. If it’s an open-casket you may want to prepare them for what the deceased could look like.
- Help them understand it’s an emotional event. They may see both children and grownups crying and may feel like crying themselves, and this is perfectly okay. Let them know it’s a good thing to express emotions, even sad ones, and sometimes being sad and talking about it can help you feel better.
- It’s okay if they choose not to attend. Some children can feel strongly about not attending a funeral. Don’t force them but do ask them if there is anything they would like to do on their own to say goodbye to the deceased. In addition to the funeral, you could hold an intimate, informal family memorial at home and share memories or look over photos to remember the loved one who has passed.
Enabling a child to say goodbye to a loved one who has died, is a wonderful way to help them grieve and move on. If you have any more questions about children attending funerals, please contact us to help answer your questions and provide resources.