Saying Goodbye: Preparing Children for a Funeral

A funeral is an act of closure and for many the funeral begins the mourning process. While the choice to attend a funeral lies in the hands of the parents, there are things that one can do to prepare and involve children in saying goodbye to a loved one. 

No one wants to talk about funerals but when it comes to children, it is important to have a plan. Read on for ways to help children understand a funeral, prepare to say goodbye, and participate in customs and rituals. 

  1. Children do best with advanced preparation. It is helpful to have an adult explain each part of the funeral in developmentally appropriate language. This should also include explaining any religious or cultural customs. Some children who are visually oriented may prefer to have the order of the steps written out for them. 
  2. Children connect through doing. Offer children the opportunity to write a letter to or draw a picture for the loved one who has passed. If appropriate, allow the child to place the letter or drawing in the casket. Wearing a loved one’s favorite color is a way to engage in meaningful activity and honor a loved one.
  3. Create meaningful opportunities. At the service, create unique opportunities for participation should the child desire to do so. Some activities include blowing bubbles, releasing balloons, putting flowers on a casket or in the grave or putting dirt in the grave. It may be useful to have items for each child to use including child-size shovels. 
  4. Honor the desire to participate in the service. If a child chooses to speak, make sure their speech or poem is written or typed in big print for them to read. Or, if a child wants to share thoughts and does not want to speak, appoint someone to read their words for them. 
  5. Stuffed animals can play an important role.  In times of stress, it can be difficult to know what to do with one’s hands. Consider having the child bring a beloved stuffed animal to hold or purchase a new stuffed animal to remind the child of the love that was shared. Stores that specialize in creating unique and specialized stuffed animals may offer opportunities for personalization.
  6. Seek advice. Preparing for the funeral of a loved one occurs in a raw emotional state. One does not have to have all the answers. Clergy, school counselors and child  psychologists can be helpful to adults as well as children. Reach out for support, books to share with children and guidance for helping a child process big feelings.



So imagine my surprise when I recently hit a wall. I began to feel on edge when I read posts, stories, and comments. Most notably I was having difficulty maintaining my gray zone approach and accepting, much less celebrating, the gamut of views on passionate topics. It was time 


Here’s where the self-care commitment comes into play. I am going to practice what I preach, and take care of myself in a way that I never had–I am stepping out of the gray zone particularly on social media and this is how: as I see posts that really get to me at my core,  I am going to make an immediate, firm decision about whether having certain types of posts or individuals is something I need. If the answer is no, I am going to unfollow individuals. This is a big deal for me and as I shared it doesn’t feel in alignment with my values about diverse opinions. I still believe that people are good even though we see things differently. You see it’s not about the post, the poster, or the topic. It’s all about me and my self-care. 

So there you have it, my self-care routine has another component that will ultimately be an additional step to keeping my entire being in check.