Customs vary in terms of how funerals are conducted and how mourners show their grief. Unless a younger child has already attended a family funeral, he/she may become frightened by all the strange procedures and emotional loss of control unfolding before them.
Prior to the service, explain to the child what happens at funerals or memorials. You might say:
“Mommy’s/Daddy’s body will be in a large box called a casket. He/she won’t be able to see or hear anything.”
If the casket is to be open, explain that family or friends may touch or perhaps kiss the deceased. If closed, explain that there will no longer be any opportunity to see the parent.
Mention too, that there will probably be someone who talks about the parent, and that some of the people who go to the funeral might be sad and crying because they will miss that person too.
Preparing your child in this way allows time for him/her to express any feelings or concerns that should be respected in the situation.
During the Service
Ask a friend of family member (who won’t mind missing some of the service) to sit near you and keep an eye on your child in case he/she becomes uncomfortable and needs to “take a walk and talk about things”. This way, you can focus on getting through the day without having to worry that your child’s needs aren’t being addressed.
With adequate emotional support, the opportunity to observe a funeral and see others confronting loss can make it easier for a child to accept the death of a parent.
Be sure to talk with your child after the service about what he/she experienced.
He/she may find it helpful to draw pictures.