Children old enough to comprehend the death and loss of a loved one should know what has happened and what will happen, and be included in the entire process that accompanies the death of someone we love.
While children don’t have the emotional maturity or the complexity of emotions that adults may experience when someone they love has died, it’s essential to know that children can still grieve the loss more intensely than you might expect, especially if they were very close to the person who has died.
1. Explain to your children that death is part of life and that the grief that comes with death is normal
Death can be a difficult concept for anyone to understand, especially young children. It’s essential to explain to them that death is a natural part of life and everyone will experience it at some point. It’s also important to acknowledge the fact that grieving the loss of a loved one is an ordinary and necessary part of the healing process. Encourage your children to express their emotions and offer comfort and support. Remind them that although someone may physically be gone, they will always live on in our memories and hearts. It’s okay to feel sad or angry about someone’s death, but it’s important to remember the joy they brought into our lives and celebrate their existence. Death may never be easy to accept, but by talking openly about it with our children, we can help them cope with their feelings and prepare for their own eventual experiences with loss.
2. Explain the funeral process to your children
Be sure to be specific. Let them know what to expect at the visitation. It can be very shocking – and perhaps even scary – for children to see someone they love lying in a casket, motionless, with their eyes closed, and their hands folded over each other, almost looking like the person did when they were alive. It can also be surprising for children to touch their loved one’s body and discover that it is very cold.
You should explain visitation protocol to your children. Explain to them that they’ll be upfront in the funeral home beside you and the rest of the family and people will come by and express their condolences. You must also prepare your children for the kinds of grief they might see because they will likely see a range of emotions they have not experienced before.
3. Explain the funeral service to your children
Older children in the immediate family of the loved one who died may be asked to do readings as part of the funeral service. Go through the order of the funeral service with your children, so they know what to expect, and so that they understand the purpose of each part of the service, both as a matter of tribute to your deceased loved one, and as a source of comfort for everyone who is mourning their loss.
4. Explain the graveside service to your children
Tell them its purpose and how it differs from the funeral service. Tell them that the casket will be sitting above the cemetery plot where your loved one will be buried because they’ll see the dirt that has been dug out around it.
The first few days between the death of a loved one and their burial are often so busy that they’re a blur and the reality of them being permanently gone doesn’t fully sink in. However, once the funeral is over, the natural grieving often begins. Discuss the grief process openly with your children and encourage them to talk about how they feel about you. Watch for signs of withdrawal and depression and consider grief counseling if these become protracted.
For more information about grief resources at funeral homes in Sterling Heights, MI, our compassionate and experienced staff at Lee-Ellena Funeral Home can help.