It is difficult to explain death, funeral, and cremation to young children. Nonetheless, it is essential to tactfully make the child understand these issues, depending on his or her stage of development.
Try to remain comfortable, calm, and composed while explaining this sensitive topic to a child or else he or she may pick up on your emotions.
As the author, educator, and grief counselor Dr. Alan Wolfelt puts it, “Any child old enough to love is old enough to grieve.”
You can simply make clear to the child that in the process of cremation, the deceased, enclosed in a casket or container, is taken to a crematory or crematorium and placed in a room where it is reduced to soft, fine particles like white or grey sand. Thus, the process helps the body return to dust.
In case the child wants to have a look at the cremated remains, you may consider looking at the ashes yourself, give its description to the child. If the child still insists then let him or her see the cremation urn and its contents.
Sharing information about the cremation process with your child can help him or her heal. When bothered about the extent of details that you should share, just answer his or her questions honestly and give only as much information as the child asks for.
Do not withhold all the information as it is not going to help the child in the long run as he or she may image much worse and scarier explanations.
Keep the following tips in mind while telling a child about cremation.
- Do not use complicated words and language; just use the words that the child can understand easily and keep the explanation simple.
- Each child has a unique lead, follow that lead. For instance, some kids can be extremely curious about the process whereas some might be scared of it.
So, listen to child’s questions carefully and pay attention to his or her behaviors. Do not explain things that the child does not seem interested in.
- While explaining, avoid using the words such as ‘burned’ and ‘fire’ as they may have a strong impact and frighten the kid.
Plus, your explanation should make it clear that the deceased is not hurt in any way during cremation as the dead body does not feel pain.
- Give general information like- the funeral director and cremation staff handle the body with reverence and respect, there is no smell and no smoke during cremation, after cremation, the remains resemble kitty litter or fishbowl rocks, the process is environment-friendly, and so on. Do not give too information to young children, though.
- If you believe in the concept of soul or afterlife then comfort the child with these beliefs to help him or her accept the fact that your loved one is no longer in the form of a body.
You can make the child feel better by explaining that deceased individual has returned to God, and his or her body has been returned to the earth respectfully.
Consider letting the child witness the scattering of ashes, especially if the child has lost a parent or someone very close. Similarly, involve the child in the process of final disposition of the remains, in case you choose some other method.
As for viewing of the body, let the child decide whether he/she wants to view the body or not. When allowing the child to view the body, make sure he or she is under care of a guardian or close relative who can answer the child’s questions or take the little boy or girl away in case he/she is overwhelmed.
Viewing the body of the deceased can help the kid accept the reality of death. If you are doubtful and uncomfortable explaining cremation to a young child, you can consult a child guidance counselor.