Is it OK for My Child to Attend the Funeral of a Family Member or Loved One?

When it comes to death and dying, it is important for children, just like adults, to get a chance to say goodbye. If a child is old enough and able to decide for themselves, it is a good idea to let them choose whether or not they’d like to attend the funeral. Before asking them to decide, it is important to explain what the purpose of a funeral is. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you in your decision.


Age of the Child

While it might be difficult to bring a newborn or infant, it is sometimes hard to arrange childcare, and if you don’t have a choice, it is ok to bring them; in fact, they may be a welcome distraction to mourners, as it can be a blessing amongst all the sorrow. The majority of child bereavement specialists believe that a child as young as 3 is equipped to attend a funeral and burial. It is important for a child to have closure, especially if they were close with the deceased.



Before bringing your child to a funeral or memorial service it is crucial to set aside some time to prepare them for what to expect. Alleviate their worries by explaining step-by-step of the funeral process. Describe what they may see at the service; for instance, there will be a lot of people wearing dark colors, there may be crying, there will be a large wooden box with grandpa inside of it. There will be singing or praying but they don’t have to participate if they don’t feel like it. If they get bored or restless, there isn’t really a place to run around, so they will have to sit quietly and nicely for a while (unless you are able to bring a sitter/nanny with you that can entertain your child in another room if it gets to be too much, which may be a good idea if you have younger children).


Explaining Burial and Cremation to a Child

Just as explaining the ceremony is important, so is the burial and/or cremation. If the body is to be buried, it is important that the process be explained so that the child knows what to anticipate. Keeping it basic can be beneficial, but it is important to also be honest. Say that the loved one’s body will be in the casket, and that it will be lowered into the ground and buried. Remember to reassure your child that their loved one cannot feel anything anymore, and that this will not hurt. Also, remind them that they can visit the cemetery anytime they’d like. When explaining cremation to children, you can say that the body of their loved one is placed in a very hot room, but they are not in pain and do not feel anything. You can tell them that when the body is placed into the hot room it becomes ashes which are then placed into containers or urns, which can be very beautiful.


Give Children a Choice

Just like you will allow your child to decide whether or not they want to attend the funeral, it is important to give them choices along the way. Never force them to do anything they feel uncomfortable with. If you are part of planning the funeral, you may ask your child if they have anything they want to be buried with their loved one.


If You Decide not to take your Toddler

If the child’s capability to attend or the logistics of bringing them don’t work out; that’s OK too. Don’t worry about it, as their capacity to understand closure will develop as they get older, and experience other deaths and losses in their life. When you are emotionally able, you could sit down and have a talk about death with them. It is OK if you are sad or crying, as this is an important emotion to show that it is part of the process. You could even have a small ceremony just with them. Do something important to remember your loved one- whether it be looking at pictures, planting a flower, listening to their favorite song- so that your child feels included in the grief process, even if they weren’t able to attend the funeral.


There is No Right or Wrong Answer

Remember, this is a personal decision, and no one knows your child better than you. If you still need help in your choice, please don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable funeral staff for advice. We can be reached at (781) 595-1492. We also provide a wonderful support library on our website that has several resources to help grieving children.

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