Children and young people and funerals

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Going to the funeral

One of the most frequently asked questions by parents, caregivers and people who support bereaved children and young people is, “Should I take my child / young person to the funeral?” In most cases we would say that a child or young person should be given the choice to go to the funeral / cremation if they want to, unless there are particular religious, cultural or family reasons not to.

Going to a funeral can help children understand the finality of death and joining family and friends in saying goodbye. Explain what the funeral / cremation is for and what will happen. Explain that there are no set feelings they should experience at the funeral / cremation. Include your child or young person in planning the funeral and find ways in which they can take part in the service if they want to, to help them say goodbye. Children and young people may want to write something to be read out during the ceremony or put something in the coffin, or they may want to say something themselves. It is important they do not feel under any pressure to do this.

Explain to them that they can change their mind, even at the last minute and can participate as little or as much as they feel comfortable. You may want to ask someone who you and your child or young person trusts to help take of them during the ceremony, to explain to them what is going on and to go out with them at any point if they wish to do so.

If your child or young person decides not to go to the funeral, make it clear that this is OK. Try to find other ways to involve them – for example, by taking photographs and writing down and talking about what happened at the service. Try to work out with them other ways they can say goodbye.

How can I help?

  • Give your child or young person the choice of whether they wish to see the body or attend the funeral / cremation.
  • Reassure your child or young person that it is OK if they would prefer not to attend the funeral / cremation and that by doing so they aren’t being disrespectful to the person who has died.
  • If your child or young person is certain that they would like to see the body and / or attend the funeral / cremation, make sure you explain to them what these entail and what to expect.
  • Reassure your child or young person that they can participate as much or as little as they want to. This is OK.
  • Try to avoid not talking about funeral / cremation preparations around your bereaved child or young person as they may feel excluded or over looked and may wish to help.