Following the loss of a close family member or friend, there’s a common misconception that children are too young to attend funeral or memorial services.
Parents or grandparents may feel that funerals are only designed for adults because they may be too traumatizing for children. However, final arrangements play an important role in the healing process. When you include children, you help them better understand the concepts of death and grief, as well as memorialization.
As you prepare, here are three reasons to involve children in final arrangements for the deceased.
In the wake of a loved one’s death, children often feel forgotten if they are left out of the memorialization process. While you may think you’re protecting your child or grandchild, allowing him or her to be present during services is an important part of the healing process. It signifies the finality of a loved one’s passing, while giving the bereaved a chance to honor the life and legacy of the deceased.
Involving a child in a funeral service also gives them the necessary time to process their emotions, which aids in the development of healthy coping skills. Allowing children to take part in services gives them permission to express their emotions in a safe, supportive environment.
Like adults, every child handles grief in their own unique way. Be prepared to answer questions or concerns they might have about death or the funeral process.
>>>Related resource: How to Talk to Children About Death and Grief
Funeral or memorial services serve as an opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate a life. Children often find comfort in being surrounded by close friends and family members, so being in the presence of people they trust during a difficult time helps them feel more at ease.
During the funeral service, encourage your child to express his or her emotions in a way that is easiest for them. Some children may find comfort in sharing memories of their loved one in the form of a poem, while others might prefer to draw pictures to include on a memory board. Remember to allow your child to express emotions that make them most comfortable.
If you’re worried about how your child or grandchild will react, consider designating a close family member or friend they trust to watch after them during services. This will reassure your child that there is a familiar face that will guide them along if they get overwhelmed.
Designating a special role for your child to fulfill during the funeral service can give them the closure they need. Consider activities that will keep them busy and interactive like selecting floral arrangements, handing out programs or offering readings. Before assigning roles, ask your child if they feel comfortable participating in services.
If you feel apprehensive about involving your child in a funeral, consider a separate room dedicated to children during services. That way, they have a safe place to escape to if they need time away from the funeral.
>>>Related resource: 5 Books to Gift Grieving Children
Complimentary Resource: Help Your Child Cope with Death and Funerals
To get the resources you need to help your child, we encourage you to download the complimentary guide, Youth & Funerals: Understanding the Important Role Funerals and Memorialization Play in the Lives of Youth. This resource includes communication tips for discussing death and funerals using age appropriate language, plus suggestions on how to prepare your child to attend a funeral or memorial service.