A dear friend of mine recently lost her grandmother. The night she died, the family gathered together to prepare for the next morning’s meeting with their funeral service provider. As they sat around the kitchen table sharing stories, organizing photos and collecting tidbits for the obituary, the inevitable question arose: “What are we going to do with the kids?”
Both my friend and her sister have young children, with ages ranging from four months to six years. This was the first loss their family had experienced during their lifetimes, and no one was quite sure whether the great-grandkids were old enough to participate in – or even attend – the service.
When my friend asked for my input, I gave her the advice I’ve gotten from countless funeral professionals: “Always go to the funeral.”
Having grown up in funeral service, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t exposed to the realities of grief and loss. We lived in an apartment on the second floor of the funeral home, so I was literally surrounded by the reality of death – and the joy of a well-lived life. In the years we lived at the funeral home, I encountered countless grieving families and saw many, many children participating in services and visitations. Being there and seeing other family members expressing sadness normalized grief for those kids, the way it had been normalized for me.
As an adult, I believe there’s tremendous value in our funeral traditions, and it’s important to pass them on to our children. However, I also recognize that death can be overwhelming at any age, and it can be challenging for parents and caretakers to set expectations and answer questions. Fortunately, there is a new resource available to help facilitate those conversations.
Last month, I had the opportunity to hear Good Grief CEO Joe Primo speak at the NFDA’s Professional Women’s Conference. Joe was instrumental in developing the Funeral Service Foundation’s “Youth and Funerals” resource catalog. The new program is designed to provide resources funeral professionals can offer to families who are struggling to talk with their kids about death and dying.
I sat listening to Joe outline the program details, all the while wishing I’d been able to share the Foundation’s wealth of resources with my friend. The materials he talked about answered all of her questions: How do I explain death to my kids? Should I bring them to the funeral? Will they need additional grief support?
Fortunately, these resources are available now for funeral professionals to use in supporting the families they serve. Simply visit the Funeral Service Foundation’s resource page to access their library of materials, including a video you can embed on your funeral home website and a customizable eBook to help families understand how to talk with their kids about end-of-life issues.
You can also access a wealth of resources on the Good Grief website, including printable tip sheets on communicating with grieving kids, supporting youth at the funeral home and preparing children for a loved one’s death.
All the materials created to support the “Youth and Funerals” program were developed in collaboration with funeral service professionals and grief and bereavement experts. In addition to the educational value of the program, the resources are designed to underscore the important role funerals and memorialization play in the lives of youth. For more information about the program, visit the Funeral Service Foundation website.