Kids are often interested in the physical aspect of death and mechanics of the wake and/or funeral. Here are some questions and answers that might help you respond to their curiosity.
If the body is dead, why does it need to be preserved? Using child friendly language an appropriate answer is a dead body will decompose very quickly. Therefore, it needs to be embalmed so that it can be view by visitors. That means that certain chemicals are injected into the body, like a transfusion, to preserve it until it is buried. The body is cleaned and the hair is washed. The openings of the body are disinfected and closed so that fluids will not leak out. If parts of the body are damaged because of injury or disease, they are specially treated and restored.
Sometimes children are disturbed by the change in appearance of his or her loved one. Why can't the funeral home people let the person's body alone when they die? Why do they have to put make-up on him and make him look phony? An honest direct answer would be no one is trying to make the person look like he did not die. The people at the funeral home just try to make the dead person look like he did when he was alive so that his loved ones will have a nicer image to remember.
What is a wake? A wake is a time to honor and recognize the deceased, and a final viewing of the body. It is seen as a sign of respect. Before the deceased is buried, many people like to gather in the presence of the dead person and talk about him or her or tell stories of the deceased life. They do this to pay their respects to both the dead person and the family of the deceased.
What is cremation? To begin with, it is probably easier to explain what cremation is not. Cremation is not a final disposal of the deceased remains or type of funeral service. Cremation is a process by which a dead body is burned and turned into ashes. Sometimes the ashes are stored in a special jar called an urn, sometimes they are buried, and sometimes they are scattered over the ground or the ocean. Sometimes the deceased will leave specific instructions as to how his or her ashes should be handled.
If death does not hurt, why is everyone crying? Help the child understand that physical death, in itself does not hurt. The family is crying because they hurt inside. The sadness comes from the fact, that a relationship that meant much to everyone has been lost.
Why do I feel angry and mad? Anger is a natural emotion, feeling mad is not a bad thing. Recognize the anger and find acceptable way to express that emotion.
Sometimes I am very, very, sad. Why do I feel so sad? Death and separation brings sadness. Crying, talking, praying, and patience will promote healing. These are feelings that we want a grieving child to express openly.
Is it okay, sometimes I want to be alone? Being alone is completely acceptable. Let the child know that you are available.
Is five years old to young to go to a funeral? Young children should be allowed to attend a funeral, but they must be prepared first about what to expect. The size of the room, where the child will sit, where the casket will be located, and if the casket will be open or close.
Why do people send flowers? Isn't it a waste, since the dead person can't see them? People send flowers to show the dead person's family that he or she was important to them. Flowers are appropriate not only because they are beautiful, but because they symbolize life and death. In place of flowers, some families prefer donations to a favorite charity
You do not talk in Italian if you are speaking to a Frenchman, talk to a child in his or her language. It is essential that kids be allowed to ask questions and adults answer with honesty and an age appropriate response.
Yvonne Butler Clark
It's Okay to Cry, Inc.
4706 Brownstone Lane
Houston, TX 77053
Visit us at http://www.itsokaytocry.org for additional grief support books and dvd