When a loved one dies and children are affected, should you take them to the funeral and if so, how do you prepare your little ones for the experience? Read on for some top tips and helpful advice.
What age should children be to attend a funeral?
Many experts are of the opinion that if kids are old enough to understand feelings of love, then they are also old enough to grieve for a lost loved one. It therefore follows that the child should attend the funeral, as long as they are prepared for what's going to happen and are sympathetically guided through the experience. Excluding a child from a much-loved relative's funeral can lead to feelings of confusion and make them feel that death is a taboo subject that can't be faced.
How should you prepare your child for the funeral?
In advance of the funeral, make arrangements with the funeral director to bring your child to the funeral home, church or crematorium so that they can see it all beforehand. This can help to show the child that there's nothing to dread about the funeral venue. If possible, arrange for the funeral director to explain to the child what will happen to the deceased before and after the funeral.
Explain to the child that the idea of the funeral service is to allow the deceased's friends and family to say a final goodbye to the person who had passed away and to celebrate their life. Make sure the child understands that the tears and grief they will see are all a normal part of the grieving process and that there will be laughter and happy memories shared too.
It's a matter of personal choice and cultural tradition whether you decide to take the child to view the body in its casket. The funeral home will have a special viewing area and the deceased will be prepared so that, to the child, they appear to be sleeping peacefully, and viewing the deceased can provide an opportunity for the child to say goodbye to their loved one.
If the person is to be buried, explain to the child that the grave is a special hole in which the deceased will be able to sleep peacefully in their special casket. It's also somewhere that can be visited by friends and relatives so that the special person will never be forgotten. In the case of a cremation, explain that the person's body, in its casket, will be put into a special bonfire and that their ashes will then be scattered somewhere that was special to that person.
Remember that a funeral director and funeral home staff members are there to provide help and support to grieving families, as well as to make the practical arrangements; always ask for their experienced help and advice on preparing children for their first funeral.