Parents and caregivers often wonder if it is appropriate to include their children in the services following the death of a loved one. If you are wondering about this, you may think that funeral services are for only meant for adults, or that attending the services may be very sad or upsetting for your child.
Being included in the services, though, can give children an opportunity to feel comforted and supported by their family and friends. This can also help children to feel included and connected at a time it matters most. Giving children the ability to participate in a way that feels comfortable for them can help to promote feelings of empowerment and resilience through the grieving process.
There are many different ways children can be included in the services, through attendance, participation, and other age-appropriate activities designed to help memorialize their loved one. The most important thing is to give children options about how they would like to be involved. Supporting children through this choice can empower them to find a way to participate that feels most meaningful for them. It is equally important to ensure the child knows that he or she can change his or her decision about their involvement at any point and time.
There are three helpful steps you can take to support your child and to help him or her to navigate through the services:
- Prepare: Before the services begin, talk with your child about what they can expect to see and hear. It can be very helpful to arrange a time for the children to walk through the location where services will be held beforehand if this can be arranged.
- Support: Who can help support your child during the services if you need assistance? Asking a close friend, neighbor, or another trusted adult to help care for and support your child during the services can give you and your child added support.
- Discuss: After the services have ended, set aside time to talk about any questions your child has. There may be new questions that your child didn’t know they had before, and this can be an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about the passing.
There are many ways children can be included in the services and you may wish to ask your funeral home director or celebrant for ideas that will work well for you and your family. Remembering A Life is an organization that offers resources to help families create meaningful services, including many different considerations for children and funerals. Here is an overview of different ways to include your child in the services that you can consider:
- Make a card, draw a picture, or write a letter to place inside the casket or next to the urn
- Choose meaningful items (photographs, momentos, keepsakes) to display during the visitation and/or services. This is a great opportunity to remember favorite memories together with your child.
Give your child an opportunity to choose a role to participate during the services:
- Hand out funeral brochures or memorial cards
- Share a special memory, poem, reading or song during the service
- Join as a junior pallbearer
If your child is not able to attend the services, there are other things you can do to include him or her:
- Watch a video recording of the services together with your child
- Share the funeral brochure or memorial card
- Share the script or speeches that were given during the services
Visit the article, Supporting Children and Teenagers During a Loss, for ways to support a grieving child or teen at each stage of development.
For additional resources on supporting children and teens after a loss, you can visit the following organizations. They provide helpful insight, suggestions and resources for children and their families: