Wednesday, 30 June 2021
The death of a loved one is a painful, and often overwhelming, experience at any age. Amidst coping with your own grief, you may be faced with talking to your child about death and dying and might find that you struggle with the question.
As a parent or caregiver, you may worry that your child is too young to care about, or understand, what happens during a funeral, or why we have them. You may wonder if your child will remember your loved one. Perhaps you believe that funerals are only intended for adults and are too sad or traumatizing for children. Or, like many, you simply don’t want your child to see you cry.
But it is important to understand that you child will feel the death of a loved one intensely, and that he or she may feel forgotten if left out of such an important family event. Your child may feel resentful for many years if he or she didn’t get the say goodbye.
Exclusion from the funeral process may lead your child to create fear-based fantasies far scarier than what actually takes place. He or she will also miss out on receiving the comfort and support that connects friends and family during a funeral.
So the answer is YES, it is appropriate for children and youth to attend a funeral.
Saying goodbye to a loved one who died is never easy, but experts agree that children should be given the choice to attend the funeral, and participate in the process, in ways that feel meaningful and important to them.
A Funeral, sometimes referred to as a memorial, or celebration of life, is a ritual that helps families and friends express their deepest thoughts and feelings about the person who died. Explain that you will be having a funeral just for your loved one, and that everyone will be together to share memories, express how much the person was loved and to say a very special goodbye.
Explain that, at the end of the funeral the casket or coffin will be placed in a special car called a hearse and taken to the cemetery. There will be a very deep hole called a grave. The Coffin will be lowered into the grave and covered with earth. Eventually grass will grow on top of it and soon a plaque or headstone will be put there to mark the place. Let your child know that he or she will be able to visit the cemetery to think about and remember your loved one.
Tell your child that cremation doesn’t hurt because a person who has died can’t feel pain. Use simple, clear, and honest language, avoiding words like ‘fire’ and ‘burn’. Explain that the person’s body is placed in a special box, called a coffin, and then taken to a place called a crematorium. Inside the crematory, it gets very, very hot which changes the person’s body into particles like grey sand, called cremated remains or ashes.
The cremated remains are the placed in a special container, called an urn. Discuss that your family or the family of the deceased, might decide to keep the urn or urns in a meaningful place, bury the cremated remains in a cemetery or scatter them outdoors at a place that was important to your loved one or the family.
Simply attending the funeral will help your child begin processing his or her grief. But whenever possible, consider including youth of all ages to help them feel connected and involved.
An excerpt from ‘Youth and Funerals” Funeral Service Foundation