Most of the rituals in our society focus on children. Unfortunately, the funeral ritual, whose purpose is to help mourners begin to heal, is often not seen as a ritual for kids. Too often, children are not included in the funeral because adults want to protect them.
Funerals are painful, but children have the same rights and privileges to participate in them as adults do.
Here are ways to appropriately include children:
Help explain the funeral to them – Tell children what will happen before, during and after the ceremony. Give as many specifics as they seem interested in hearing. Here is an example, If the body will be viewed either at a visitation or at the funeral itself, let the child know this in advance. Explain what the casket and body will look like. If the body is to be cremated, explain what cremation means and what will happen to the cremated remains.
Find age-appropriate ways for children to take part in the funeral – Grieving children feel included when they can share a favorite memory or read a special poem as part of the funeral. Bashful children can participate by lighting a candle or placing something special in the casket (a memento, a drawing, a letter or a photo).
Understand that children often need to accept their grief in doses, and that outward signs of grief may come and go. It is not unusual, for example, for children to want to roughhouse with their cousins during the visitation or play video games right after the funeral. Respect the child’s need to be a child during this extraordinarily difficult time.