Saying Goodbye to a Loved One

Five Rituals to Consider When Planning a Funeral for a Child

Losing a child can be devastating, but many people find the funeral rituals to be part of the healing process. If you are planning a funeral for your child or if you are helping a friend or relative plan a funeral for their child, there are several things you may want to consider.

1. Take Your Time

Traditionally, funerals are held close to the time of death so that the body may be displayed. However, the rules are not set in stone. When you are planning a funeral for a child, you need to honour your grief and take your time.

If the child is being cremated or if you weren't planning on having a viewing, you may want to wait a few weeks for the funeral. That allows for a bit of extra grieving or preparation before the event.

2. Consider a Picture Board

In lieu of an open-casket or sometimes in addition to having the deceased at the funeral, many people like to make picture boards. This shows the mourners the joy of the child's life, and putting together the board with friends and family can be a comforting way to reminisce and grieve together.

3. Set Out a Notebook for Memories

When you lose anyone that you love deeply, you want to hang onto their memory, and it can be healing to hear stories about them. When a child has passed, many people simply don't know what to do or say. As a result, they may be reluctant to approach the family with stories or condolences.

A memory notebook can help with this. Consider placing one out somewhere at the funeral or reception. Then, invite people to write memories of the lost child. Weeks or even years later, that notebook full of thoughts and memories may serve as a real comfort to the grieving parents and family.

4. Look Into Bird Releases

Symbolic gestures can also help with healing, and you may want to consider doing something like a bird release. There are professional handlers who can come to the funeral and release a white dove into the sky. Many people also do balloon releases for children's funerals in particular, but the strings and the deflated balloons can be bad for the environment and local wildlife.

5. Plan for Other Children

Ideally, you may also want to make some plans for other children to be at the funeral. Although some families attempt to keep their children from this experience, others think it's a necessary part of life.

To accommodate the young friends of the deceased child, you may want to open the nursery at the church — that can be helpful for young children. If you are having a reception, you may want to ensure there are some child-friendly foods. Finally, if the funeral is at a funeral home, ask the funeral home director if he or she has any advice.