The Funeral and Other Children in the Family

There are lots of ways in which you can include children in the arrangements for the funeral. Being involved helps both you and them to adjust to your child’s death.

“Involving our daughter in the funeral is something that is not our right to tell her ‘No’. It is her right to have that memory, because then if she grows up and says ‘I don’t remember Beth’s funeral’, it was not our decision.”

If children are going to come to the funeral, it will be helpful to prepare them for what they might see and hear, before, during and after the funeral. For example, you can help them to understand that the people at the funeral will express their sadness in different ways and that some of them may be crying and upset.

“I took Corey, aged 3, to the chapel and cemetery the day before the funeral. What we found hardest was when Haley’s coffin was to be covered with dirt. I hadn’t explained that to him – I had presumed he would understand.”

If you have an open casket or if you choose to view the body before the funeral, prepare your children for what they will see, for example, the body will be cold and still. Be prepared for the questions your children may ask. Red Nose Grief and Loss can help you prepare to answer questions.

“Charlotte probably thought it was Beth’s engagement party. We said it was her funeral but we had just been to an engagement party so it was on her mind. It was Beth’s party all the same. Her engagement party, that’ll do!”

“Dane was only 18 months old but he was at her funeral and we never questioned him not being there. He was there and he was up the back running around with other people, but he was there.” “We made decisions on what we thought was best for the children, but now wished we had involved them more.”

“We explained everything to our children, J (4) and D (3). They drew pictures and put them into the casket. Jessica had her toys and teddies with her. The children saw her at the church and again at the cemetery. We had my father make the casket. He is a carpenter and he lined it beautifully.”

“I now know that Mum and Dad were trying to protect me, but I wish I had been able to say goodbye to my little sister my way. I wished I had been able to give her a last kiss and say I loved her.”

“We spoke at the funeral and we taped the service. The older boys carried the coffin. This was what they wanted to do: four years on, they both say that despite all the tears, they felt great pride carrying their little brother on their shoulders.”

“We made decisions on what we thought was best for the children, but now wished we had involved them more.”

Brothers wrote:

“On the day, my family came in a limo. Then we walked down the middle of all the people and put some flowers on top of his coffin. After the funeral, we had a party. I felt sad. I think it was important that me and my friends went.”

“I remember many things at the time of Andrew’s death. One incident which was good for me in a way, but extremely sad, was when I held my baby brother Andrew in my arms for the last time to say goodbye. This was at the funeral parlour.”

“It would have been nice to have had some soft colours around the coffin. We all wrote letters to him, which were buried with him. No one else knows what I wrote – it was just a letter between Andrew and I.”

This article was prepared using extracts from Your Child has Died: Some Answers To Your Questions1 and Choices in Arranging a Child’s Funeral.2 The full texts are available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 3/6/20