How to Talk With a Child About What Happens at a Funeral

Monday, September 7, 2020

Are you considering whether your child should attend the funeral of a loved one?

Deciding whether your child is old enough isn't nearly as difficult as trying to explain what happens at a funeral. In general, if your child is old enough to love, then he or she is old enough to grieve.

Trying to shield them from the reality that is death can leave them feeling shut out and alone. This is the opportune time to convey that they are loved and cared for and that death is an inevitable part of living.

So what do you say when they ask about the funeral?

Explaining What Happens At a Funeral

Obviously, you don't want to force your child into going to a funeral if he or she is resistant. Even if it's a child funeral. Take the time, however, to address the source of the reticence. If your child is afraid, it may be because they don't know what to expect. 

Walk them through the typical funeral ritual

Significance of a Funeral

First, explain in a kind and gentle way to your child that a funeral isn't something to fear. Let them know it's a time when people come together to talk lovingly about the person who has died. That there will be people there remembering the person's life and telling stories.

There will be laughter, and crying too, because that is how you honor someone's life. Explain how the funeral home will look and that there will be a lot of flowers.

Give your child time to process this and ask questions. If he or she is uncomfortable with the idea of seeing adults cry, you can create a special "safe action" whereby he or she can hold your hand or sit in your lap and find comfort. 

Open Casket

Some parents choose not to have their children attend a visitation with an open casket. Others feel it's important that their child see the body. If you're opting for the latter, prepare your child for how the body will appear.

It can be distressing to see the body look so different from how the child remembers the person. It may look younger, and it will be still and the eyes will be closed.

You can also let your child know that if there's something he or she wants to put in the casket with the deceased, that that is permitted. 

Church Service/Burial or Cremation

If there will be a service, it can help to go over the readings ahead of time and explain their significance. Then discuss what will happen at the burial and how the casket will be lowered into the earth.

In the case of cremation, gently explain the cremation process and ensure your child that it doesn't hurt the body because it no longer feels pain.

Is Your Child Ready to Attend a Funeral?

The best rule of thumb when explaining what happens at a funeral with your child is to be compassionate and caring, yet honest and straightforward. Your child will have a better experience and a deeper understanding of the circle of life.

And please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about funerals and saying goodbye to your loved ones. 

Since 1905, families in the Greater Pottstown area have turned to the independent, family-owned Schumacher and Benner Funeral Home & Crematory to meet their funeral needs with professionalism and sensitivity.  

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