Chapter 3: Funerals, memorials, and other rituals

Preparing children

The expert says
Kim Widger, children's grief researcher, talks about preparing and involving children who'd like to be part of a funeral. (3:22)Video transcript
The expert says
Andrea Warnick, children's grief counsellor, provides tips on how to prepare children for a funeral. (3:22)Video transcript

Seeing only the upper half of Grandma's body in the open casket confused the kids. They wondered what had happened to her legs!

Provide your child with as much detail as possible about what to expect, including what they'll see, hear, smell and even feel.


  • Where the memorial or service be held.
  • Whether it will be indoors or outdoors.
  • The size of the room.
  • What colour is the room. 
  • If there will be pictures of the person.

  • Number of people attending. 
  • They may see crying, laughing and other emotions.
  • People they don't know may approach them.
  • What people may say to them.
  • Ways to answer.

Casket or urn

  • Whether there will be a casket or an urn.
  • What a casket is.
  • What an urn is
  • Whether the casket will be open.
  • What an open casket is.

The body

  • Whether they will see the body.
  • Where the body will be.
  • Whether they can touch the body.
  • What the body will feel like.
  • The body includes the person's head.

The service

  • What will happen at the service. 
  • If people be talking, singing, speaking, praying.
  • The names of people they may know who will be taking part and what they will be doing.

At the graveside

  • If they will go to the graveside.
  • What will happen at the gravesite. 
  • How they will get there.
  • If there will be a casket or an urn.
  • What will happen with the casket or the urn.


  • Whether a reception will be held afterwards.
  • What will happen at the reception.
  • Will they sit. Will they stand.
  • Will there be food.

The rules

  • If they need to be quiet.
  • If they need to sit still.
  • Whether they can play.
  • Whether they can leave.

Their emotions

Remind your children that we can feel happy and sad at the same time. Children are particularly good at doing this so it’s okay to laugh and have fun at a funeral.

Checking in

Some grownups don’t remember that children can feel happy and sad at the same time. Suggest your child checks in with someone they trust if an adult seems frustrated with their behaviour.