A Guide for how to involve Grandkids in a funeral
Including grandkids in a funeral service
The loss of a loved one can be a difficult time for every member of a family. It can be difficult to find things for grandchildren to do at a funeral as, at a time of grief it can be hard to know what to do with ourselves, never mind younger generations that look to us for guidance and support.
What age should children be allowed to go to a funeral?
The first thing to consider is what age a child should be allowed to go to a funeral. Making the decision on whether or not to include a child can be difficult, and it depends on a number of factors.
A spokesperson for Child Bereavement UK says that many young people “want to be involved” in funerals.
The charity has found that if adults say that they cannot come then younger children often conclude that a funeral is either something “really fun or really scary” whilst older children can feel “left out” if the majority of the family are going whilst they stay at home.
Child psychologists suggest that most children have an understanding of death by the time they are 8-10 years old.
It is recommended that parents or close family members sit down with the child and give them the choice as to whether they come or not.
You can explain the general order for the service and what the funeral may be like, and see what they decide.
If they are too young to understand a conversation like this then you should consider whether they may be best left at home.
Things to put in the coffin from grandchildren
An easy way to include grandchildren on the day of the funeral, whether or not they attend, is to arrange for an item that they have chosen to be added to the coffin of the deceased ahead of time.
Creative things to include in the coffin at a funeral
Some ideas of things to make with a child for adding to a coffin are:
- A drawing of their loved one
- A poem for grandad or nan
- A note from the child
- A handful of flowers that the child can pick from the florist or find in nature
- A handprint from the child or a pawprint from any family pets
Things to add to a coffin that you don’t have to make
Other thoughtful things for the coffin that don’t involve crafting would be:
- A photo of the child and their relative
- A book
- A toy or other keepsake they associate with the deceased
How to involve grandkids in the funeral planning
Another way to include grandchildren in the funeral is to discuss the planning of the ceremony with them and ask for a contribution from them for the day.
Some ways to do this include asking them to choose:
- A reading for the ceremony
- A piece of music for the ceremony
- A photo of their loved one to include in the order of service
- A favorite photo to print and to display at the entrance of the crematorium, place of burial or wake to greet guests
- An article of clothing or piece of jewelry for the deceased to wear in the coffin
Things grandchildren can do at a funeral
Younger children and teenagers can be involved in the day by being asked if they would like to:
- Walk up to the coffin to say a personal farewell
- Lay a flower or bouquet on the coffin
- Deliver a reading during the service
- Decorate the outside of the coffin by sticking a photo or picture to it
- Write a personal message on the coffin in felt tip or with a Post-it note.
- Blow some bubbles outside at the end of the service or release some balloons.
Occupying grandchildren at a funeral
What can grandchildren do during the funeral service? Well, this really depends on their age. They might not understand what is going on around them so it’s important to explain the main aspects of the day to them so that they can be prepared.
Sitting quietly can be difficult. Consider the venue ahead of the day of the funeral and check if there are areas children can be taken to so that they can be loud and burn off some extra energy.
- Pack a small handheld game that can be played in silent mode, or a tablet computer which can be used with headphones.
- Get creative – bring some pavement chalk sticks to draw out simple games like hopscotch, with treats for the quietest players.
- Set up a colouring corner and bring a colouring book or print off some scenes to colour in and bring some washable Crayola crayons in case there are any accidents.
It is important that on the day any caregivers also have room to grieve. This can be difficult to achieve when looking after young children who may not fully understand how sombre the day may be.
Ask other relatives or friends who are attending ahead of time if they would be happy to step in should you feel upset at any point.
Older children are likely to understand what is going on throughout the course of the day. If you think they may want to distract themselves from what is going on then it could be wise to bring some of the following:
- A book to read in a quiet corner.
- A tablet computer to play games on.
- A smartphone, if they have one, to listen to music or watch some TV shows on.
Things you can do with grandkids who can’t attend a funeral
If grandkids can’t go to a funeral then there are plenty of things that you can do to mark the passing of a loved one, such as:
- Looking through family photos or videos to remember happier times
- Produce a folder or scrap book with them out of condolence cards received
- Encourage them to draw a picture
- Have a vigil
- Release floating candles in a local stream or river
- Light a candle in your own home in remembrance
- Make a memory book together
Although popular and beautiful, try and avoid releasing ‘biodegradable’ Chinese lanterns or balloons in memory of your loved one, as these aren’t good for the environment and take some time to degrade.