This may be the first time your children have been confronted by a loved person’s death. If so, you might be struggling with the issue about if – and how much – to allow your children to be involved in the funeral or memorial service. Some parents mistakenly conclude that the kids are “just too young” to go, and then often, the child feels left out of an important family event.
You can, of course, ask younger children whether or not they want to attend Grandpa’s funeral. However, keep in mind that asking a child who has never attendee a funeral if he wants to go to this one is little like asking, “Do you want to go to the Moon” Kids simply don’t’ have the framework and experience to make that decision.
Here are some ways to help your children get ready for the funeral or memorial service:
Talk about five senses: Talk about flowers you will see and smell. Describe the music, eulogies, and readings they will hear at the service. Help them understand they will see some people crying, some laughing and some doing both; let them know it is okay to do any of these! Explain that a body in casket will be cool to touch and somewhat waxy in appearance. I like to put candle in the refrigerator for a few minutes and then let children hold it; that is similar feel of an embalmed body.
Remember the ancient proverb "A picture is worth more than 10,000 words"
Use pictures: Funeral directors often have photos you can use to help your child understand what he or she will see. Seeing photos of hearse, casket, cemetery, headstone, and flowers might help him understand.
Appoints and “mentor”: And adult friend, Sunday school teacher, athletic coach. Or well know neighbor can assume responsibility to sit near your child during the service, answer question, and even take him it her out if child becomes restless. By having a “mentor” with your child, you know that your child is well cared-for, event if you are distracted.
Encourage the kids to participate: Children can help select photos and create a collage. They can present the gifts of bread and wine during funeral mass. They can write a letter or poem to be read or displayed at the service. And they can place a gift-a drawing or other objects in the casket at the visitation. The memorial ceremonies will hold much greater meaning and healing power for your children if they can participate instead if just attending.
Provided by: Pathway Volunteer Hospice, 3300 E. South Street, Ste # 206, Long Beach, CA 90805. Phone: (562) 531-3031