Children & Grief
Funerals can be a valuable learning tool for children if they're old enough to understand the experience. A funeral can help a child begin to comprehend the reality of death, say goodbye to a loved one, and realize that although this is a sad occasion, life continues.
Should we include children in the funeral?
Children should have the same opportunity to attend the funeral as any other family member. However, they should not be forced into attendance. Explain the purpose of the funeral as a time to honor the deceased, as well as a time to comfort and support each other. This is also a time to affirm that life goes on. Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker can provide your family with age-specific resources for each person's journey through grief.
How do we prepare children for the funeral?
Simply explain what will happen before, during and after the funeral service and ask them if they would like to go. They should know that some people may be crying or expressing a variety of feelings and that these are normal expressions of loss.
Do children grieve?
Children grieve in different ways than adults. They don't talk about and sometimes cannot even identify with what they're feeling. Since their attention span is so much shorter than that of adults, children may want to leave the funeral service early or roughhouse during the visitation. These behaviors are normal. If the behavior is disturbing others or you, explain that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to act and that you expect the child to respect the feelings of others. Bereavement groups can be extremely helpful for children experiencing any type of grief.
Ways to involve children in the funeral process
Let children participate in the funeral arrangements by helping to select flowers and prayer cards, write a letter or color a picture, and other funeral-related decisions.
- Place pictures, poems, or memento in their loved one's casket.
- Arrange a photo board to display at the visitation.
- Choose pictures to be used for a video tribute for their loved one.
- Read a poem or scripture verse during the service.
- Act as a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer.
- Ride in the front seat of the lead car or hearse to the cemetery.
- See where their loved one is being buried. They may want to watch the burial process.
- Help decide where the flowers should go following the service.
How to provide emotional support for children during this time
- Explain that death is not like going to sleep. Children often worry that they will not wake up.
- Explain that death is final. This may be difficult for your child to understand. Children in various stages of development may or may not understand the concept of permanency and finality.
- Explain that death is not punishment. Neither the deceased nor the child is being punished for something they have done.
- Provide security. Children often worry that another special person will also die. The child should know that there will always be someone to care for him or her.
- Assure the child that she or he is not the cause or the reason the loved one died.
- Listen carefully. Let the child talk about what he or she wants to talk about.
- Allow all feelings. There are no wrong feelings, but there is unacceptable behavior. Encourage talking–not acting out.
- Relate to the child on his or her level. Use vocabulary and concepts that are appropriate for the age and development of the child.
- Include the child in the family grieving process. Allow children to participate in and attend the funeral if they wish. Like adults, children need to grieve.
- Talk honestly. Be honest and open about your own feelings.
Grief resources for children and teens
As part of our service to you, we offer the following resources to help support children during this mourning period. Feel free to contact any of these organizations for help, comfort and support. Please contact groups before attending a meeting.
Click on the link below for a listing of grief support meetings & groups.
Teens and Family Grief Support • 2nd & 4th Thurs., 6-7:45pm
7106 W. North Ave. • Wauwatosa
Child and Family Grief Support • 2nd & 4th Tues./Wed or 1st & 3rd Thurs., 6-7:30pm
7106 W. North Ave. • Wauwatosa
My Good Mourning Place
For children ages 5-18. Pre-registration is required. Latino families welcome.
4005 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee
Healing Hearts of Waukesha County
First United Methodist Church • Mon. evenings, 6-7:30pm
12 week program for children ages 4-18 and adults who care about them. Spanish speaking families are welcome.
For more information, program dates and to register call 262-751-0874 or visit www.healingheartsofwaukeshaco.org
Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center • ages 5-12, four week session
2900 W. Oklahoma Ave. • Milwaukee
Call Sue 414-649-6634 for dates and times
Ages 3-18 and parents/caregivers. Pre-registration is required.
420 7th St. • Racine
For more information and to register call 262-634-2391
1845 N. Farwell Ave., Ste 310 • Milwaukee