What do you do when a young persons sibling has died and their siblings funeral is coming up. Here are some top tips.
Always give the child a choice to attend the funeral
Studies and comments from experienced counsellors show that the majority of children do not regret attending a funeral. No matter there age, they should always be offered the chance to attend a funeral.
Don't assume your child knows what a funeral is.
Julia Samuel, in her book Grief Works, explains why it is important especially for younger children, to understand what a funeral is and what to expect. Below are a few examples of what you could say to a child.
"At the funeral, we will [explain what will happen]"
"Your [brothers/sisters] body will be in a box, which is called a coffin"
"Remember, [he/she] doesn’t feel anything as they have died"
"A deep whole will be dug where your brother/sister will then be buried, this is called a grave. It will have your [brothers/sisters] name on it so everyone will know where they are buried"
Particular care should be taken when discussing cremation. Some younger people will struggle to understand the process of burning a body and it may upset them. Julia Samuel also gives suggestions:
"____ body will be turned into soft powdery ashes at the funeral. We’ll then put the ashes in an urn and put the urn…”
Depending on the age of the young person, get a close family member (aunt/uncle) or friend to answer any questions the child may have during the funeral.
Having someone the sibling knows to answer questions they may have will help the young person during the ceremony. It is also considered helpful, if possible, to the religious building or cemetery the day before the funeral. This will help younger children imagine the proceedings and be less overwhelmed on the day.
Involve the child in their siblings funeral
Involving the child in their brother or sisters funeral can help their grieving process and make them feel important. You should ask if the child wishes to place a special momento in the coffin, or if they want a certain song to be played or poem to be read.
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be able to offer you advice.