Children and Funerals or Memorial Services

Riley Children's Grief Team

Most grief experts recommend children be given the choice to attend funerals or memorial services. We can’t take away a child’s pain; however, we can teach them that it is ok to grieve and help them learn tools to cope with grief when it becomes overwhelming.

Here are a few suggestions to consider when having your child attend the service:

  • Most importantly, prepare your child for what they may see and hear at the funeral home. It can be confusing if a child expects everyone to be crying, but then sees people laughing while sharing memories.
  • Invite your child to pick or create something special to be put in the casket with their sibling. Perhaps they pick out a special stuffed animal, or they make a drawing or art piece. They may even pick a special rock or leaf. Similarly, if your child is being cremated, you can ask the funeral home to place the item with the child, or perhaps in the urn prior to being sealed.
  • Have a trusted and known adult (perhaps a babysitter or family friend) sit with your child at the service. If your child no longer wishes to be there at any point, have the adult take the child to go do something else (go to a park, go on a walk, get ice cream, etc.).
  • If your child is old enough, consider having them provide input into certain parts of the service such as pictures, music, readings, etc.

Consider reading this PDF resource Guiding Adults in Talking to Children About Death and Attending Services from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.