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About John Kennedy Saynor

The Funeral: Where Do the Children Fit In?

by John Kennedy Saynor

daisiesMany parents never stop to think about what they will do with the children when a loved one dies. Probably most wonder who they will get to baby-sit the children while they attend the funeral.

Excluding children from the funeral will delay their grieving and hinder their ability to deal with death and loss later in life.

Here are some practical ideas that have worked well.

  1. Give a child the opportunity to draw a picture of a happy memory they have of the person who has died. This picture can be placed in the casket or with the urn.
  2. Have a child write a letter to the person who has died. This gives the child the opportunity to thank the person for their kindness, tell them how much they love him or her and say goodbye. Put the letter in the casket or with the urn..
  3. A child can either pick flowers from the garden at home or buy flowers and place them either in or on the casket or by the urn.
  4. Help a child to create a scrap book of memories of the one who has died. This may include pictures, letters, cards, anything that will help keep the memory of that person alive.
  5. Older children can act as honourary pallbearers or can read a selection at the funeral. They could also act as ushers at the funeral.
  6. You will find it very helpful to spend time explaining to the children what a funeral is about and what will happen. Taking them to the funeral home for the visitation or wake is helpful in making them feel comfortable in those surroundings. The day of the funeral will be much easier for them if this happens.

It is a fact that many people in their early to mid 30’s have a difficult time resolving the grief of someone who has recently died. This difficulty can often be traced back to their childhood when they were excluded from the funeral of someone they loved. We do not do children a favour by “protecting” them at the time of a death. Involving children in the funeral is one of the most helpful things we can do to prepare them for the future.