Deciding whether a child should or should not attend a funeral is a choice, which proves to be extremely difficult. The impact, which it may have can have a lasting effect on their childhood and in some cases adulthood. The decision really comes down to the child and their relationship with the deceased and how you feel attending or not attending will affect them.
Often, our first reaction is to try to spare them an upsetting experience, but going to the funeral may help them to come to terms with the death. We do not advise you to force a child to go if they do not want to, but if they want to go then it is usually best to let them. Not being allowed to go may raise all kinds of worries in their mind about what is happening and why they are being kept away.
If you take a child to the funeral, it is important to prepare them before hand by telling them what to expect. Someone close to the child should stay with them throughout the service to comfort them when it is needed.
What you should tell a child
It is important that a child is told as soon as possible when there is a death in the family. The news should be broken by the person closest to them in as simple and straightforward a way as possible. For example, saying ‘Grandfather’s gone to sleep’ could make the child afraid of sleep. They will also keep wondering when grandfather will wake up. You should encourage the child to talk about the person who has died and you should answer any questions briefly but truthfully.
Why do people die?
It is a natural thing that happens. All living things die eventually plants, animals and people.
Where do dead people go?
Different people believe different things. Some people believe that the spirit goes up to heaven. The spirit is often called the soul. It is the spark of life that never goes out.
Why did they go and leave me?
I know it does not seem fair but they still love you and would be with you if they could.
Why didn’t someone else die instead?
All over the world people die every day. Their time had come it would not have made any difference if someone else had died, the person you love would still have died too.
Is death a kind of sleep?
No, it is quite different. Sleep gives you a rest and keeps your body healthy. While you’re asleep your body still works for example, you are still breathing. When you die, all the parts of your body stop working.
Does dying hurt?
Many old people just quietly drift away. People in accidents often die so quickly they don’t know anything about it. Even when someone is sick for a long time before they die, doctors can give them medicine to take away the pain.
When someone dies, are they being punished?
No, death is never a punishment. People die because the most important parts of their body stop working, either because they have simply worn out when they are old, or because they have been damaged because of an accident or a bad illness. But this does not mean that if you become ill you will die.
Why can’t we stop people from dying?
Doctors often can. Illnesses that would have killed people years ago can now be cured. Most people who go to hospital come out better. Sometimes when there are a lot of things wrong or parts of the body wear out, despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses, people die.
How long will I live?
Probably a very long time. If you look around, there are lots of old people. We all have to die at some time, and as you get older you worry less about it.
Will I ever feel any better?
It is only natural to feel sad and hurt when someone you loved dies as everyone does. You must believe me when I tell you that every day you will feel a little bit better. You will always miss them but it won’t hurt in the same way. Talking about how you feel might help to make you feel better.
Why do we have a funeral?
We have a funeral to give everyone who loved the person who has died a chance to come together to share their sadness and to remember all the good things about them.
What happens at the crematorium or cemetery?
When someone dies, they do not need their body any more so we may take it to the crematorium, where it is turned into ashes. We can bury or scatter the ashes in the gardens at the crematorium, in a churchyard or in some other favourite place. Instead of cremation we may bury their body in a churchyard or cemetery. The gardens of remembrance at the crematorium, churchyard or cemetery are quiet places where we can walk and remember the person who has died.