As for adults, funerals are an important chance for children to say goodbye and to feel included in grieving rituals. Taking a child will be a very personal decision and will vary according to your knowledge and understanding of the particular child. Where appropriate, it can be helpful for a child to attend as this will help them to understand the finality of death but equally there are other ways to achieve this if it does not feel right. Planting or naming ceremonies and balloon launches are less overwhelming ways for children to have their own ritual of saying goodbye at a time when their adults are more able to focus on them.
Whether or not a child is going to attend it is beneficial to let them know in advance what will happen at the funeral; what the service will be like e.g. readings and music, what happens after that etc. Explaining what happens at a funeral can be an important part of helping the child decide if they would like to attend. If it has been decided that a child will not attend they can still be made to feel a part of the ceremony by selecting something significant to be buried or cremated with the person such as stone or an item of clothing. If a child is going to attend it can be helpful to ask a trusted adult to take care of them during the ceremony if you feel you may become too distressed.
Taking babies and very young children to a funeral can be stressful – particularly if you are worried about their potential to make noise. However, infants may also bring some light relief to a sad day, reminding us all that even when life ends, there is still new life and hope. It might be that taking a baby or small child to the ceremony is too difficult, but that their presence would be very welcome at a reception or ‘wake’ afterwards.
If you would like to talk about this further, you can chat online from 9am – 9pm weekdays, call the helpline or email us.