Kids at a Funeral… A Celebrant’s Perspective

Most people, when it comes to funerals, have a clear preference about whether they think their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren should attend a funeral. Some people have different ideas about whether children from outside the immediate family should attend a funeral or not. And some people think that funerals are no place for children.
So here’s one celebrant’s perspective on whether children attend a funeral or not; family member of not. Just as with grieving, there is no single correct way to grieve.  And when it comes to kids and funerals I invite you to apply the same rule. What works for you and your children? There are a range of factors that can influence your decision as a parent. Some of which follow…
A violent or sudden death of a person, seemingly way too young to die, might be the last place you want your kids to be because of the intensity of the emotions and grief which they might be exposed to. And in a range of funerals the specific circumstances might mean that for other children it is crucial for them to attend to know that they are saying goodbye to a family member who won’t be coming back.  Kids can get easily confused when adults use euphemistic language about death. Think about what it might mean for a six year old to be told that their Grandma has ‘gone to a better place’.  They might find themselves asking the question: “Why would Grandma think that a place without me is a better place to be?” We use the language of ‘passing’ or ‘passing away’. Yet, how do kids make sense of that language?
I am all for using the language of death and dying. Flowers die. Pets die. Family members die. It is part of the cycle of life.  Kids, in different developmental phases, will make sense of death in different ways. All sorts of language and beliefs can support them in making sense of the death of a loved one. So too, all sorts of seemingly supportive and gentle language can create self-stories for children that are unhelpful. Ultimately, it is your choice about how you think, talk and tell your children about death and dying. I stand by my beliefs that death, just like birth, is a part of life that happens for everyone. The more of us who understand that basic premise the better.  And the less shocked we’ll be when we finally work out what death is and really means for oursleved and others.
All of this doesn’t mean you have to talk about death all the time or out of context. Life’s experiences provide the best lessons. They provide the opportunities to have conversations with loving openness and gentle frankness.
To finish, I want to tell you a story about a funeral I celebrated today. Kids were welcome, encouraged. People let me know that they were happy for kids to be running around and being kids.  And they did that in a pretty unobtrusive way, all things considered!
A not-quite-yet two old, who prior to the service had been active and entertaining, created a beautiful moment, not just for those who were mourning their dear friend, but for me too. As I approached the lectern, Ryder walked across the front of the Chapel and standing next to me, took my hand. He stood there, smiling beatifically, holding my hand, while I delivered the introduction and opening blessing. The smiles of everyone present were a testimony to young lives being an important and affirming part of the farewell of a loved one.
When it was time to move on in to the ceremony, he simply let go of my hand and wandered back across the front of the Chapel to his mum. Talk about brilliant timing.  When kids can affirm life so simply and readily they are a welcome and giving part of a celebration of a life well lived!
We have just one life…
Jacqui Chaplin
Independent Funeral Information | Life Story Collector & Writer | End of Life Tributes | Easier End of Life Experiences | Funeral Planning and Celebrancy
Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.
For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.
Call +61 (0)412 741 531 or email


Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.

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