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Children's Questions About Funerals
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This page is designed especially for children. It will help you answer some question you may have about death, funeral, and feelings.

 

When someone you know or love dies, it can be a very confusing time. What you need to know is that everybody dies at some time, and it is ok to feel confused. Dying does not need to be scary, and the more you know the more comfortable you will be when you talk about death.

What is death?
A. Death is the permanent cessation of vital signs (Webster's Dictionary). This means that either the heart or brain has stopped working and cannot be fixed. The person does not breathe, move, or feel pain. Death is very quiet and peaceful. Death can happen a lot of ways: sickness or disease, by accident, or by the hand of someone else. When someone we love dies, we oftentimes get together to remember and say goodbye; this is called a funeral.

What is a funeral?
A. A funeral is an event to get together with family and friends to remember and say goodbye to a loved one who has died. Funerals are not scary and should not be uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable at a funeral, tell your parents. It helps when you talk about things. Not all funerals are the same. Different religions and cultures have different rituals, but many have music, flowers, and prayers.

Is there anything I can do to help?
A. Yes, sometimes you can help make the funeral arrangements. This means you may be allowed to help select flowers, songs, clothes for the deceased, and even the casket (the box-like container a body is buried in (Rofes, 317)). Sometimes being on your best behavior and helping your parents can be the biggest help of all.

What if I feel sad, is it ok to cry?
A. Yes, sometimes it makes you feel better to cry. It is natural for everyone to cry. If your mom and dad cry, you should not be afraid; they are just showing that they are sad. It is ok for everyone to cry; boys, girls, moms, and dads. Most people feel very sad when someone they love dies, they feel sad because they will miss that person very much, and crying is a natural way to show sadness.

Is it ok to touch a dead body, or will I get in trouble?
A. If you have an adult with you at the funeral home, it is ok to touch a dead body, and you will not get in trouble. You are naturally curious, and sometimes when you see and touch a dead body it helps you answer your questions. Remember to be gentle and have an adult help you. Don't be afraid about how the body feels or looks. The body may feel cool and the skin might not be as soft as yours, but this is normal.

Is it ok to put something in the casket?
A. Yes, it can be very helpful for you to put something special of yours in the casket. You can put small items in the casket that are important to you; such things as notes saying goodbye, pictures, even a small toy. No matter what it is, it may help you feel better to know that something of yours is with the dead body.

Death can be very confusing, but it is a natural part of being human. Death is very peaceful and quiet. It can be very sad, but you should remember that person for the good things they did and how special they were to you. Saying goodbye can be very hard, but understanding death and being able to help will help you feel better. Don't be afraid to talk with your parents, relatives, or teachers about how you are feeling. Talking about it will make you feel better. Ask questions and listen closely; but don't be afraid to talk about death or the person who died. The more you know, the better off you will be.

References
Rofes, Eric E. and The Unit at Fayerweather Street School. The Kids' Book About Death and Dying. Little Brown and Company, 1985. pp. 31-47. 

Webster's Dictionary. Nickel Press, 1991, K. Nichols.

 

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