Children and young people attending the funeral
If you are prepared to let your child make the choice of whether to attend the funeral, some things may help them decide:
- Talk to them about what is involved.
- Let them know that they can change their minds about being there – at any time.
- Check that they are happy with the choice they’ve made – but not too often, because children want to please and may say what they think you want them to say.
- Have someone with whom the child feels secure to act as their supporter for the funeral. This may be an aunt or uncle or one of your best friends. This allows you to be fully present at the funeral for your own sake.
- Give them clear and detailed information about what will happen; this will involve explanations about the difference between, for example, burials and cremations. If it fits with your own beliefs, it will help if the child has had some preparation about the difference between the body of the person and the part that made them who they were. Some people call this a soul, or a spirit, or love, or ‘what was special about daddy’ or ‘what we will remember about daddy’.
- Reassure them that it is all of the body of the person who has died that is being buried or cremated. Some younger children are confused and wonder what happens to the head, arms and legs.
- Give reassurance that the person who has died can no longer feel anything, so they will not feel the flames nor will they be scared at being buried.
- Offer clear and detailed explanations of what to expect from people at the funeral. Some children can be shocked that people seem to have a party after someone has died; others are upset when people say: ‘How lovely to see you’. Explain that this doesn’t mean that these people are happy that the person has died – they’re just the sort of things that adults say. Equally, seeing adults in deep distress may alarm children but preparation beforehand will help them understand that this is a reasonable response to the huge thing that has happened.
- Prepare them for some of the things that adults may say to them. For example, boys may be told that they are the ‘man of the house now’ and they will need to know that they are not.
- Create opportunities to be involved. This may be in the planning of the funeral service. It may be through saying or reading or writing something about the person who has died. It may be through choosing a particular piece of music. They may wish for something special to be put in the coffin, for example, a picture or something linked to a memory.
- Give plenty of reassurance that they can still be involved and participate in saying ‘goodbye’ even if they choose not to attend and that they won’t be criticised if they don't go to the funeral.
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