Service for TodaysSeniorsNetwork.com
readers...roll mouse over, click on
highlighted links in stories to review items
Now, keep up to date
with daily feeds of newly posted stories
about America's Seniors...click on the box
to the left
Including children in Funeral Services
Newswise — After the loss of a grandparent,
parent or sibling, children are often
sheltered from experiencing the funeral.
But, there is no set rule that children need
to be left at home to grieve alone or in
their own way.
Certified Funeral Celebrants are offering
new options to include children in
personalized funeral services that focus on
a decedent’s life stories. Uplifting life
celebrations help both adults and children
begin the healing process, but it is always
a family’s decision on how children are
Funeral Celebrants are
uniquely trained to be sensitive to the
needs of each family and skilled in finding
ways to reach out and involve every member
in a way that will be special and
Get Lost in the Grieving Process
Doug Manning, founder of the In-Sight
Institute, Oklahoma City, and leading author
on grief and trainer of Celebrants, reminds
families that children often get lost in the
“Children know something is wrong, but they
don’t know what’s wrong -- they’re left out
of the funeral, if it’s not explained, or
they’re shuffled off to someone else to take
care of them during the funeral. Children
tend to blame themselves.
‘They may think, ‘this happened because I
wet the bed. This happened because I wished
that person was dead.’ If we leave a funeral
to the imagination it comes back to haunt us
because a child’s imagination is wild,”
“Even though it may sound crude to say, ‘Let
the children see the body,’ I had a case
where a little boy lost a friend. His best
friend had two brain surgeries. He saw the
body and was so relieved because he thought
the brain surgeries meant the doctors cut
her head off.
leave it to the imagination and that’s what
happens. Sounds tough, but it’s a whole lot
healthier to include children in the
process, talk to them, explain to them
what’s happening, and allow them to attend
the funeral service, instead of letting them
jump to their own confusions.”
Ruthann Disotell, Celebrant and Funeral
Director in New Jersey, has conducted many
funeral services that included children.
“With more than 30 years in funeral service,
I have found that children handle death much
better than adults.
have no pre-conceived stigmas. That's
something we teach them when we ‘shelter
them from pain.’ Children are included in
all the other family gatherings. Why not a
funeral? Not including a child tells them
that there is something wrong, something
unnatural about death, funerals, grieving.
all pain is bad. Sometimes it is refining,
teaches us the value of life and compassion.
These are not bad attributes for a child to
possess,” Disotell says.
“Instead, we should give children the choice
of whether or not to be there for the sad
times. Encourage, not force.
"Participating in a life celebration can be
affirming to a child's heritage, to know who
they came from and what terrific attributes
Terri Shanks, a Funeral Celebrant in Sussex,
England, has witnessed parents who shelter
their children from the reality of death.
“When a young dad was killed in a motorbike
accident, he was a builder and his wife
didn't want the kids to know that HE was in
the coffin. She told them it was full of
tools that daddy needed in Heaven as God had
a leaking roof which is why it rained so
much,” Shanks remembers.
“During the service the children each placed
more tools on the top of the coffin for
daddy and they seemed to really 'enjoy' the
whole service... I am just concerned how
they will feel in the future when they
realize the truth.”
In reaching for the truth, Shanks has
offered families a way to involve the
“I do try to involve children as much as
possible, especially at the family meeting
where they can share their memories -- which
I ensure I will refer to in the service.
want to participate in the service with a
reading, spoken tribute, a musical tribute,
decorating the coffin with flowers, candle
lighting or simply displaying some drawings
they have done,” says Shanks.
“It is really important that when I work
with families where children are involved I
make sure the kids fully understand in
advance what is going to happen.”
Funeral Director and Celebrant Bill Joyner
of the Bright Funeral Home in Wake Forest,
North Carolina, was brought into a situation
as a mother was dying.
“I was called one day to meet with the
husband and sister of a 42-year-old mother
who was dying of cancer. They had one little
girl, age seven.
"The mother had put up a gallant fight.
However, the time was near and Hospice had
been called in to assist. In our meeting and
the ones that followed, I asked how the
little girl was doing. They shared the
stories about how she and her mother would
curl up in a large recliner and just enjoy
each other’s company and do ‘girly’ things.
"The mother was spending, as much time as
possible with her little girl as she knew
that time was limited. They also told me
about ‘Chester’ the raccoon that was afraid
to go to school. His mother told him of a
secret, the ‘kissing hand,’ where she would
kiss his hand and every time he was lonely
he could just place his hand on his cheek
and he would feel his mother’s kiss.
"I learned that the mother and daughter had
a ‘kissing jar’ where they would cut out
small hearts and the mother would kiss them
and place them in the jar. That way when she
was not there, her daughter could take one
of the ‘kisses’ out,” Joyner explains.
“The mother died and in the service the
little girl, as suggested, had written a
letter to her mom to say goodbye.
"I read the letter for her as she stood
bravely next to me. Then, starting with the
little girl, each person in attendance took
a rose petal and kissed it and placed them
in a small velvet pouch to be placed in th
casket with her mom. This was everyone's way
of saying goodbye and sending kisses.”
Disotell has had many funerals where
children were allowed to make their own
“One of my first experiences with children
was in the back of a church, where the
casket had been opened after a Rosary
service for a viewing. I watched as a small
girl of about four or five came up to the
"As I looked around for her parents, she
tippy-toed to peek in the casket. Then, it
happened. She turned to me and a beaming
smile stretched across her face as she
proclaimed, 'My grandma is an ANGEL!'”
“I led another celebration of life for a
young father whose life was cut short by a
motorcycle accident. I only met the
seven-year-old just prior to the service. I
spoke to him about the service we were going
to have and asked if there was something he
wanted everybody to know about his dad.
'Just that he was a cool dad,' he replied.
we had a service full of heart and humor and
talked about this special connection between
father and son. Because he was a fan of
country music, we played Toby Keith's
'Watching You,’ a song about a boy who
mimics everything his dad does. The boy
picked up his head as if to say, 'Now,
everyone knows about me and Dad,’” explained
After the service, the boy approached
Disotell and asked if he could see his
“The casket had been open for the family and
then closed before receiving friends. The
funeral director cleared the room and closed
the doors for a private time for the wife
"There had been injury to his head, which
had been repaired, but the cosmetic work was
extensive, so I drew his eye to something
more natural. 'Look at his hand. My, his
hand looks so strong. Did he always have
strong hands?' The boy nodded with pride.
'You can touch his hand if you want to. It
will feel cool, but it's okay, if you'd like
to hold his hand.' He reached in and
squeezed his dad's hand. Then, he turned to
his mom, 'Mom, touch his hand. Go on, touch
it. It's okay.' Amazing: a child counseling
his mother,” Disotell says, moved by the
“I asked him if he would like to help 'tuck
in' his dad and the boy pulled the blanket
up over his dad. 'Should I cover his face?'
'If you want to.' And he placed the blanket
over his dad's face. 'Would you like to help
close the casket or should I do that after
you go?' He stepped forward and I handed him
the lid as I brought it down. He latched it
and stepped back looking like he had a rite
of passage into manhood.”