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Children and Cremation

Author: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 July 2010 | commentsComment
Children Cremation Death Relative

Most children are unfamiliar with the cremation, so the death of a friend or relative which results in cremation may be a very confusing time for them. Children whose lives will be touched by cremation will probably require some information to understand the decision and process. Explaining death to children, explaining cremation to children and involving children in cremation decisions are all important to ensure that children have an idea of what is happening following a death.

Explaining Death To Children

How to explain death to a child will depend upon the age of the child and that particular child’s personality. However, if cremation is going to occur (or has occurred) following a death, then the adult explaining death will probably want to focus on an explanation that focuses on the fact that once a friend or relative is dead, the body that is left is not really that person any longer. Whether the adult wants to discuss a spirit or soul is obviously a personal decision, but by assuring children that the body no longer houses the personality of their loved one it will be easier to then explain why a burial or cremation is needed for the deceased.

Explaining Cremation To Children

The most basic level of cremation – the burning of a body – should not be communicated bluntly to a child. No matter the age or personality, most children will hear the word “burn” and not be able to focus on much else. It would be extremely upsetting for anyone to believe that a loved one was being burned but children, who often have a tenuous understanding of death, may well believe that their loved one is somehow being burned alive and therefore will be in danger and pain. Instead, adults might want to focus on explaining that the deceased will be in a very hot room and that (s)he will eventually be returned to the family as ashes.

Adults should try to keep these explanations simple and answer directly only the questions that a child has asked. If a child wants to know more, (s)he will ask further questions but it may be that by giving more information than the child requires (s)he could become overwhelmed by it all.

Involving Children In Cremation Decisions

Children will usually not be involved in the decision to cremate a deceased loved one or not, but if an adult believes that they would benefit from some involvement in the process then there are some decisions that children can help make. Involving children in the process by asking them to help with urn selection, urn placement, the scattering of ashes or memorial services before or after the cremation can all help children feel more involved in the process. This involvement will of course depend on the age and inclination of particular children, so it is not recommended that children be pushed to be involved or make a decision with which they are not comfortable.

Children are not necessarily familiar with cremation. Explaining death and cremation, and allowing them opportunities to be involved with cremation related decisions if they desire to be so, will help children become more comfortable with the process.

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