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Yes, Your Child Should Attend the Funeral

Funerals play an important role in the lives of grieving children. When we normalize funerals, we help children better understand death.


Kelly Manion

Director of Community Engagement, Funeral Service Foundation

Funerals and memorialization play an important role in the lives of grieving children.

Grief can bring you to your knees when a loved one dies. Even with a compassionate funeral director at your side, planning a funeral may be overwhelming. Your first instinct might be to shield your child from such an unfamiliar event that can carry big emotions. Perhaps this funeral is your first, because when you were growing up, funerals were only for adults. You might think your child is too young to remember your loved one, or that funerals are traumatizing. Or, like many, you don’t want your child to see you cry.

However, your child will feel the death of your loved one in a very real way, because if they are old enough to love, they are old enough to grieve. Funerals provide us with the foundation and support to carry our grief forward.

Funerals and memorials are indeed sad occasions; however, they’re also filled with memory making, reunions, stories, and love. At a funeral, you understand you’re not alone in your grief. Excluding your child from the funeral means that they’ll miss out on this comfort and community. They may feel forgotten and might assume funerals are far more frightening than what actually takes place.

When we normalize funerals, we also normalize grief and help children better understand death. So, yes, your child should attend the funeral.

Talking about death

We often use euphemisms like “passed away,” “lost,” or “eternal rest” to make conversations about death less difficult. However, children will take you at your word. If you explained that “Grandpa went to sleep and won’t wake up,” your child may fear that they — or someone they love — will fall asleep and not wake up. Or, because your child probably thinks that you are old, if you said, “Pop was old, it was his time,” your child might think that you could also die very soon.

Don’t be afraid to talk about death in concrete terms. “Grandpa died last night” is simple and clear. You can clarify that his body has stopped working, and it won’t start working again. Explain that a person who has died can no longer talk, move, see, breathe, or think. Reassure your child that your loved one does not feel pain, fear, cold, et cetera, and encourage questions.

Involving children in funerals

Including your child in planning the funeral or memorialization will help them process their grief and connect to you to one another. Reassure your child that participation and attendance is their choice, and that they can change their mind at any time. Let your child’s age and comfort level guide their involvement. Younger children may want to:

  • Draw a picture or write a letter to your loved one
  • Wear your loved one’s favorite color
  • Create a picture or memory board
  • Participate in religious customs
  • Serve as pallbearer or casket escort
  • Recite a poem, reading, or reflection
  • Sing or play an instrument
  • Distribute flowers or programs
  • Share special memories over your loved one’s favorite meal

Older children might find meaning and comfort when helping with the funeral arrangements. They can help select a casket or urn, choose readings or music, design a memorial program, curate a playlist, or produce a video.

Preparing your child for the funeral

Explain the day to your child. Where will they be? Who will they see? What will people be doing? Where will they go if they choose not to attend? Even the smallest details will help. If your loved one’s body will be present, consider scheduling a private viewing with your funeral director. Your attention may be needed elsewhere during the funeral activities; a trusted friend assisting you with your child will give you peace of mind. 

Continuing to connect

Your child’s grief, like yours, will twist and turn in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, so continue to offer your comfort and love. Create a safe space for your child to ask questions, process their feelings, and share their memories.

For more information about supporting grieving children, visit

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