After the death of a loved one and going through the first steps of talking to your toddler about a death, there are often funeral services that will be held to memorialize the person. The time immediately after a person passes away can be a whirlwind of emotions and things to do, and it can be a rather hectic and overwhelming time, both emotionally and physically, as arrangements are made and services are held.
Here are some tips for what to do in this time to make it easier on you and your toddler:
1. Tell them what to expect
When a loved one dies and services will be held for them, you can give your child a brief overview of the schedule for the next few days – we’re going to go stay at Grandpa’s house and see all the cousins and other family for a few days, then there will be a service for Grandma, and then we will go back home. For the services, give your child an idea of what to expect ahead of time, too. You can tell them that a lot of people who loved Grandma will be at the church and they will gather together to talk about Grandma and her life, and people will hug, cry, sing, and pray.
2. Determine whether they should or want to be present for the funeral and rituals
Use simple language to talk about funerals and rituals as your family observes them. It’s ok to allow children to go to the services, or at least give them the option. Some may want to participate, some may not. Very little ones may be too young to understand what is going on for most of it, and for viewings may not understand why they can’t just go wake grandma up. It can be very helpful to arrange either a family friend or church helper or volunteer in a play room in the building where the kids can go to still be present, but not underfoot or overwhelmed by all the happenings.
3. Explain what will happen after the funeral too
Tell your child what is planed for after the funeral, to help demonstrate that people will feel better. Let them know that people will go eat food together, hug and laugh and talk and share happy memories about the loved one, and that this will help everyone feel happy again.
4. Keep the memories alive
Over time after all the services are over, don’t avoid mentioning the loved one, help your child draw or write down favorite memories with them that they can hold on to and feel positive feelings about. If possible, you may want to save an item from the loved one which can be held onto as a memento to for your little one, either now or later in their life. Perhaps a musical instrument or piece of sports equipment, but it doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy – a favorite hat or special t-shirt could do just fine too.
The time period after the death of a loved one can be challenging, but just remember that in difficult times, simple and clear communication, and a lot of love and hugs goes a long way with little ones.