Our Journal

Children and Funerals: Should children attend a funeral?

The question of whether children should be present at a funeral or even a more modern memorial service, is one that many families grapple with when faced with the loss of an important person in their lives.

Some people believe that children should be shielded from the sadness of the event. Others argue that including children in a funeral service can help them navigate the complex emotions they might be experiencing. Or that it’s an experience that allows them to come to terms with the reality of the loss.

At Tomorrow Funerals, we encourage you to talk to us if you are feeling unsure about the idea of having children present at the memorial event.

Understanding children’s grief

Children experience and process grief differently from adults. Their understanding of death evolves as they grow and develop emotionally. Depending on their age, children may struggle to comprehend the permanence of death or the symbolic significance of a memorial service. It is essential to consider their emotional readiness, capacity to understand, and individual coping mechanisms when deciding whether to involve them in the process.

Benefits of including children in the funeral

Proponents of including children in life celebrations, funerals and memorial services argue that their presence can foster a healthy approach to grief and provide valuable opportunities for emotional growth. By participating in a memorial service, children may feel a sense of inclusion and validation, helping them acknowledge and process their own grief. Witnessing rituals around death and expressions of love from others can create a supportive environment that normalises grief, allowing children to learn and develop coping mechanisms from a young age.

Preparing children for funerals

For children to benefit from attending a modern memorial service, it is crucial to prepare them beforehand. Open and age-appropriate discussions about death, the purpose of a memorial service, and the emotions they may encounter can help children feel more comfortable and informed. Providing them with context and explaining what to expect during the service can reduce anxiety and allow them to make choices about their level of participation.

When facing the loss of a close relative, adults often grapple with the decision of whether or not to view the body during a funeral. However, when it comes to children, this choice becomes even more delicate.

Creative ways to include kids at funerals

Here are some things we’ve seen work well to help kids express themselves emotionally at funerals and memorials:

  1. Plant a Tree or Flower: Involve children in planting a tree or a flower in memory of their loved one. This activity provides a sense of growth and connection to nature, whilst being sustainable.
  2. Art Corner: Set up a designated area with art supplies where children can draw or paint their feelings and memories related to the person who passed away.
  3. Memory Boxes: Encourage children to create a memory box by decorating a small box and filling it with mementos, drawings, or written memories of their loved one.
  4. Collage: Provide photos, scissors, and glue for children to create a collage using pictures and words that remind them of their loved one. This activity allows them to express their emotions visually.
  5. Storytelling Circle: Create a safe space for children to share stories or memories they have about the person who has passed away.
  6. Quiet Reflection Area: Set up a quiet space with comfortable seating, pillows, and blankets where children can go to have some time alone for reflection or rest.
  7. Music and Dance: Play the favourite music of the person who died and encourage children to express themselves through dance or movement. This activity can be a celebration of the person’s life and a way for children to release emotions.

Remember, whilst it’s a wonderful idea to offer children options, it’s also important to give them the freedom to choose the activities they feel most comfortable with.

Respecting individual needs and boundaries of children experiencing grief

While including children in memorial services can be beneficial for many families, it is essential to respect the individual needs and boundaries of each child. Some children may express a strong desire to participate, feeling a deep connection to the deceased or seeking closure. Others may feel overwhelmed or may not fully comprehend the significance of the event.

Alternatives and supportive strategies for kids and funerals

In situations where it is decided that children will not attend a memorial service, alternative strategies can still facilitate their grieving process. Seeking the guidance of grief counsellors or child psychologists can also provide valuable support in helping children navigate their grief journey.

The decision to include children in modern memorial services is a complex and personal one. Whether children attend a memorial service or engage in alternative strategies, the key lies in creating a supportive environment that acknowledges and honours their unique grief experiences.

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Our Journal contains our entire list of resources for creating personal memorials.
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