Many people think kids should be kept away from funerals, and in some, traumatic cases there is wisdom to that philosophy, but for the most part funerals have become a way to celebrate the life of the person being farewelled. If death is a natural part of life, shouldn’t kids be involved in the ceremonies that mark its passing? Here are some ways to involve kids in funerals.
- Talk to them about death beforehand: Kids are incredibly intuitive and they will know when something is up. Be honest with them about what has happened and answer any questions they have as truthfully as possible.
- Include them in the preparations: If you are planning the funeral, involve your kids in the process. Let them help pick out flowers, choose photos or write a eulogy if they want to.
- Take part in rituals: Many cultures have rituals, both formal and informal, surrounding death and funerals. Families also have rituals particular to them. If you are comfortable with it, let your kids take part in these rituals. They might find it comforting to perform certain actions or say specific words, and it can help to frame death as part of life.
- Give them the option to be involved on the day, if it’s appropriate. A funeral should always be planned around the values and personality of the person being farewelled, and often there is an opportunity to involve kids as part of that. Would Grandad have been thrilled to have the grandkids play a song at his funeral? Would Aunty have loved to see her great-niece read a poem?
- Attend the funeral: Even if your kids don’t want to be involved in the actual funeral service, it’s important that they attend. It can be beneficial for kids to witness the funeral ceremony. This can help them understand death and also see how people cope with grief. Just be sure to prepare them for what they will see and let them know that it’s okay to cry. It will also help them to understand their departed loved-one better. They may have seen the deceased as their Grandma, their Dad, their teacher, but funerals often involve favourite music, pictures, and stories from across a person’s whole life, helping them to see their loved one in a new light.
- Have a post-funeral gathering: After the funeral, have a gathering at your house or another location where kids can share memories and talk about their feelings. This is a good time to provide comfort and support to your kids. If they are feeling overwhelmed, have a few activities planned that can help take their mind off of things or have a plan for them to leave with a family member if they need to.
- Be honest with your kids: It’s important to be honest with your kids about death. They may have a lot of questions and it’s okay to not have all the answers. Just be honest with them and tell them
- Finally, be honest with your kids about how you’re feeling. If you’re sad, angry, scared or confused, tell them. It’s okay for them to see you grieve and it will help them understand their own emotions. Let them know that it’s natural to feel all kinds of different things after someone dies. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to be honest with your kids about death. They may have a lot of questions and it’s okay to not have all the answers.
If you’d like to hear more, check out our podcast, Death Defined (https://deathdefined.com.au/Video/) where we discuss the complicated emotional spectrum of death with real people, from their experiences. Hosted by funeral director Matt Kwoka, we delve into the complicated emotions, processes, and taboos surrounding one of the experiences that unites all humanity.