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Preparing Children for a Funeral / Celebration of Life

Many people wonder if it’s appropriate to have children attend their mother’s funeral. Will they understand what’s going on? Will seeing her body traumatize them? Will seeing other people’s grief and possible loss of control make them anxious?

The best option is to let the child decide if they want to go. Children want to be included, but they will also appreciate having the option of saying no. Tell them what the service will be like and then respect their choice to attend or not. While very young children might have a hard time sitting quietly through a service, they may find it meaningful to have been included, especially as they get older. Families can always ask a friend or family member to help with their care during the service. Nanny Angel’s will often attend the funeral of the parent who has died.

Tell the child what to expect in advance. If there will be an open casket, let them know what that will look like – and reassure them that their mother is not hurting, hungry, or cold. If the body was cremated, let them know there was no pain (see the child-friendly explanation of cremation). Prepare them to witness people expressing grief – seeing adults crying can be upsetting if they aren’t expecting it.

Children may want to participate in the service as a way of commemorating their mother. Give them the option (but be open to them saying no) of reading a poem they’ve written, singing a song, saying a prayer, or honouring her memory in another way.

Encourage children who choose not to attend their mother’s funeral to have their own memorial – they can plant a tree, light a candle, write a poem, say a prayer, or write a list of reasons they love her and will miss her. Having a ritual to help them say goodbye can help them with the grieving process.