You may be wondering how much your child or children should be involved in things like the funeral. Often members of the family will have conflicting ideas based on their own experiences of what was helpful to them or not. You may also have an ‘instinct’ about what feels right to you for your child or children.
Seeing the Body
It can be helpful for children to be given a choice about going to see the body of their loved one. Some children ask if they can go whilst others are clear that they don’t want to go. It would be helpful to take some time to explain what going to see the body would be like, so for example: the person might look like they are asleep but they aren’t, they have died; and if we touch them they will feel cold. They may also like to choose who will go with them. Alternatively, some children like to choose an object or write or draw something to be placed with the person in the coffin.
Attending the Funeral
It can also be helpful for children to be given a choice about whether they would want to attend the funeral or not. Funerals can be a chance for everyone to say a goodbye together. Children will need an explanation of exactly what will happen and what they will see. They may even want to do something like read a poem or light a candle or even choose some music. It might be useful to identify someone who is known to your child already, who can be there to support them. It may be important to explain again to young children that the person has died so they cannot feel anything or breathe. Otherwise they may have worries about the person feeling pain or being frightened.
Creating Your Own Ritual
If you or your children decide that they are not going to the funeral then that doesn’t mean that you cannot create your own ceremony as a family. Some of the families that we have met have created their own special ritual by: releasing a biodegradable balloon at a special place; placing flowers in a river or sea; blowing bubbles at a significant spot; putting a potted plant in the garden; or having a special candle or lantern to light together.