Experiencing a loss is a difficult time for anyone. Grief, not to be confused with mourning, is how people process their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
One of the myths about grief is that it always occurs in stages. There are the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
However, not everyone goes through these emotions in this order—or even experiences all of these emotions. It is normal to move around between the stages as well.
As personality type affects how people handle grief, different age groups cope differently as well. Children and adults have different methods for dealing with grief, and it also depends on the individual.
Overall, children need to know the truth when it comes to death. Depending on their age, determine how to talk to them about it in a way that they will understand.
Children may feel misunderstood or alone when dealing with loss. The changes and absence of the deceased can be confusing to them. Some may want to talk about while others may not.
Some ways children may react to death are:
- Loss of appetite and concentration
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Reverting to outgrown behaviors
- Asking excessive questions about the deceased
- Inventing games about dying
- Drop in school performance
Some of these reactions are specific to certain age ranges as well.
Children ages two to four feel sad but confused. They do not realize the permanence of death yet. If their loved one died of an illness, they may fear germs and getting sick, or they could fear traveling in cars if the deceased died in a car accident.
By ages nine to twelve, children realize that everyone is going to die someday. They may feel pressure to be strong when someone dies and not openly share their grief.
Teenagers might be afraid of death, but do not want to discuss their fears. They want to regain a feeling of self-control, so they may take risks because they don’t think anything bad will happen to them.
Parents can help their children by grieving with them, listening, offering love and reassurance, helping memorialize the deceased, encouraging questions, and seeking professional help if needed.
How to Involve Children in Funeral Planning and Services
Being involved in the funeral experience can help children further understand death, grief, and the importance of honoring someone’s life. Depending on the child’s age, families and funeral professionals should work together to find age-appropriate ways for them to participate in the funeral.
Children Involvement in Funeral Planning
When funeral planning, besides determining the main funeral arrangements, there also are little details to figure out. These provide many simple, yet meaningful ways children can be involved and add some personalization, such as:
- Finding photos for their loved one’s Memorial Video. They can help look through their family’s old photo albums and find their favorite photos of their loved one.
- Decorating memorial displays about their loved one. They can help arrange decorations in the room of the funeral home to create a personalized tribute to proudly display at the funeral.
- Choosing special readings, songs, prayers, poems, or quotes to include in the funeral service. They can help their family members find the perfect songs and readings to represent their loved one.
- Writing or drawing something to put inside the casket. This lets them pay tribute to their loved one and honor their memory.
- Selecting the post-funeral reception food menu. They can help their families choose the food and be their assistant in the kitchen to help make the dishes if cooking at home.
Children Involvement in Funeral Service
During the funeral service, there are many ways to include children in the events. Whether they’re comfortable with public speaking or would rather do something more behind-the-scenes, there are several options, such as:
- Depending on religious beliefs, participating in a part of the church funeral service, such as lighting a candle.
- Reading a poem or performing a song during the funeral service. These also could be done in groups to make everyone more comfortable.
- Helping set up the memorial displays for the visitation and funeral service. They also can help arrange the funeral flowers and any sympathy flowers that people delivered to the funeral location. If donating the flowers to local hospitals, nursing homes, or hospices centers after the service, they can help to deliver them.
- Sharing memories aloud with funeral guests or writing them down to put in a memory box. They can create a memory box from a shoe box for funeral guests to put their memories inside.
- Being a greeter at the visitation. They can simply greet those arriving at the funeral visitation and tell them where to sign the funeral register book and other information.
It may be a good idea to have a separate room dedicated to children during the funeral service. That way, they have somewhere to go if they need some time away from the funeral activities. At Basralian Funeral Home, we can turn our arrangement room into a “chill-out” area for children and families.
What other ways can you involve children in the funeral? Share your ideas in the comments below!