5 Ways Funeral Professionals Can Bring Value to Grieving Children

Death is a complicated, confusing and overwhelming topic.

Whether someone’s only been to one or two funerals in their lifetime, or they’ve attended more than they’d like to count, it doesn’t make loss any easier to understand or experience. Heck, even us funeral professionals who have been doing this for years still have to step back, take a breath and try to process the events that unfold in front of us every once in awhile.

So if adults, let alone adult funeral directors who have spent decades in this profession, have a difficult time processing and accepting loss, just imagine how the children walking through the doors of a funeral home for the first time feel.

If death is confusing and complicated for adults, just try to imagine it through the eyes of a child. “Why is my loved one sitting in a casket? Why do I have to wear a black suit / dress? Why can’t I talk or laugh loudly like at all of my other family gatherings?”

But it doesn’t have to always be confusing or uncomfortable. The truth is, a funeral can be just as valuable for children as it is for their adult family members. And funeral professionals can play a large role in delivering that value. Here are just five ways that you can get started…

1. Talk to them openly and honestly, as an expert.

It’s no secret that there is a stigma around death and grief. And a lot of the reason behind this is because they’re unknown, uncomfortable topics that a lot of people don’t like to talk about honestly… especially around kids. Think about it… even the way that we share the news of someone’s passing (“They’re in a better place,” “they’ve moved on,” “they’ve gone home…”) is a way of sugarcoating the pain of death. But kids may not always understand the meaning behind “a better place.” After all, what’s wrong with the place that they were in before… the world where they are in right now?

By talking to children openly and honestly about loss and grief, you’re not exposing them to pain and sadness. Those feelings are going to happen no matter what. Instead, you are helping them understand the natural feeling of grief and sadness that everyone experiences during a time of loss. You’re letting them know that it’s okay to experience feelings of sadness or confusion, and helping them understand where these feelings are coming from. Not only does this help children better to connect to their own emotions, but it gives them a healthy, honest look at death as a whole.

2. Take the time to listen to them, not just talk to them.

While it can be very valuable for kids to have someone be honest with them about the topic of death, it’s even more valuable to have someone there to hear what they have to say on the subject. And if there is one thing that funeral professionals are great at, it’s listening.

I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself — for many families, listening often brings more healing than advice or suggestions ever will. Sometimes people just need to talk. They need to tell stories, share memories, or reminisce about the good times. And no one is better at leading into these conversations than funeral professionals. After all, it’s how we get a true picture of someone’s life, and help make their funeral personalized to the amazing, unique person that they were.

So don’t just listen to adults… sit down with kids that come into your funeral home and listen to the stories and memories that they shared with their loved one. Ask them questions: What will they miss most about their loved one? What do they wish they could tell them? Not only are these conversations a great way for children to jump start their own healing process, but it’s also another way for funeral professionals to help tell a deeper, richer story of a loved one’s life, because they have a picture painted from every perspective.

3. Help understand what they need to heal.

Everyone processes grief and loss differently. Some people need to see an open casket in order to truly accept that their loved one is gone, while others have a hard time seeing their loved one in that kind of position. Helping to understand what aspects of the funeral process will best help families along their healing path is one of the reasons why funeral professionals are professionals for a reason.

However, helping people understand what they need to experience or do in order to heal shouldn’t end with the immediate family or other adults in your funeral home. Extend your expertise to the children who are going to be attended the funeral events, as well. Ask them whether or not they want to see their loved one one last time, or if it would help to touch them and see that it really is their loved one in front of them.

Many children that walk through your funeral home doors are experiencing this entire process for the first time, so take advantage of the opportunity to deliver value from start to finish, and set a positive attitude towards funerals right from the get go.

4. Walk them through what to expect

Many children that you sit down with and speak to about funerals many not necessarily have an opinion or idea about what will help them the most throughout the process. After all, they’ve never done this before… and young children may not even realize what it is that they are walking to. In this case, the best thing that funeral professionals can do is to make sure that no one is caught off guard or walking into something that they’re not prepared for.

Take time to greet every child that walks into your funeral home, ask them their name, get to know them a little bit, and then ask them whether or not this is the first time they are getting to attend a life celebration. If they say yes, take the opportunity to walk them clearly through what they can expect from the day, and ask questions along the way.

For example, “When we walk into the visitation room, you are going to see your grandfather lying down in the casket. It’s going to look like he’s sleeping, and he may even look a little different than you remember him, but it’s the same grandpa you know and love. You can even touch him, hold his hand, or talk to him if you want to. Do you think that you would like to do that?”

Children don’t know what is and isn’t allowed at a funeral, or what they can expect. So it helps to walk them through the process, let them know what people might do, and offer them advice on what they can do to make the process more valuable for themselves.

5. Share valuable, educational resources with them and their family

Last, but certainly not least, funeral professionals don’t just have to be valuable grief and loss resources for children when they are attending a funeral. Help them in the days, weeks and months following their loss by offering them and their family educational, helpful resources that they can benefit from when you’re not around.

After all, like with any adult, children may not need the most guidance or assistance during their loved one’s funeral. They may get hit by the feelings of grief or confusion days, months or even years after the fact. Prepare them by offering them resources that they get value from wherever they are ready, and from the comfort of their own home.

funeralOne’s f1Connect websites come pre-loaded with a mountain of helpful resources for children and family with children, including e-aftercare videos with grief counselor Dr. Virginia Simpson specifically on the topic of loss during childhood, and Sesame Street’s ‘When Families Grieve’ content that walks parents and children through the process of healing together, as a family.

To get these educational grief resources for kids, along with hundreds of other pages of valuable content, on your own funeral website, contact our funeralOne website specialists today!

How does YOUR funeral home bring value to the children that are walking through your door? Do you follow any of our advice above? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

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