When a death occurs, there’s often confusion about the role that children should play, if any. Sometimes people are reluctant to include children in a funeral service or even allow them to attend, but this can be a mistake. Children grieve when they experience a loss, albeit in a different way than adults, and allowing them to participate in communal grieving can help them heal.
There are many ways to include children in a funeral.
- It can be as simple as letting a child put a flower onto the casket. This gentle and symbolic act of giving a final gift can help a child gain closure and say goodbye to a loved one.
- It might be appropriate to have the children in the family draw pictures or write letters to put in the casket. Sometimes adults feel there were things they still wanted to say to the person who has died, and children can feel that way too. By allowing children to express themselves in this way, you offer them a way to cope with the loss.
- Children can contribute to a memory box. As adults are gathering mementos to leave in the box, talk to the children about what is being done, and allow them to gather their own special trinkets that represent memories of the loved one who has died. It could be as simple as a shell the child found on the beach with Grandma or the feather he wanted to show Grandpa. Whatever contribution the children want to make, respect their memories as you would an adult’s.
- If a child is comfortable being in front of people, you might ask him or her to read a poem, sing or greet guests. There are many small tasks at a funeral, too, such as taking responsibility for the guest book or memory box.
- Some people will have children write messages or put their handprints on the casket. There are many creative ways for children to get involved. It’s important to let them participate in a way that feels natural and appropriate to other family members.
- Sometimes it’s possible to let children get involved before the death, offering comfort to a loved one at the end of life. We tend to want to shelter children from end-of-life realities, but they understand death more than one might think. Reading a book or bringing a glass of water to a loved one at the end of his or her life might bring comfort to the person who is dying, as well as to the child.
Of course, all this should be done with care, keeping in mind the emotional and psychological needs of the child. Although children often want to be included, it’s important that they never be forced to attend a funeral or participate if they aren’t comfortable doing so. Then, too, it’s vital to consider the feelings of those closest to the one who has died, being as sensitive to their needs as you are to the needs of the children.
When thinking about your own funeral, it’s important to preplan so that your loved ones will understand your wishes. Preplanning is considerate to your family because it spares them from having to make difficult decisions at a painful time in their lives. It’s also a smart way to ensure your funeral happens the way you would want. At Chapel of the Chimes Oakland, we’re happy to show people how easy it is to preplan. Call us at 510.379.4866 or visit our Plan Ahead page to request your free preplanning guide.