“I think it’s not so much what you say, it’s just your presence [at the funeral] and being there and letting them know that you’re there for them….I think it also makes it easier for a child then to come back into the building and maybe share with the teacher what they’re feeling.” (Counselor)
This module provides practical advice on funeral attendance by grieving children, their friends and classmates, and school personnel. It reviews implications for relevant school policies. Because parents often notify schools immediately after the death of a family member, school personnel may be the only professionals who have the opportunity to offer guidance to parents about funeral attendance for children. There are benefits for children who attend funerals and memorials, as well as steps families can take to support them through the experience.
Generally, after the death of a family member or close friend, it’s better for children to attend the funeral or memorial service. Children feel included, can be comforted by family and friends, and may gain support from the family’s spiritual community.
School personnel are in a unique position to offer guidance to the family. They are sometimes the only professionals communicating with families before the funeral. They can help families understand how to prepare and support children. This includes steps such as explaining to children what will happen, answering their questions, and letting them decide what they wish to do.
Most families appreciate members of the school community attending the funeral or memorial service. When educators attend, they show caring and concern. The student is more likely to see those attending as safe to talk to in the future. Some families, however, prefer more private events, so it’s important for schools to check with the family.
School policies can facilitate the attendance of interested students and staff at a funeral or memorial service. This might include matters such as setting guidelines for attendance during school hours (parental permission, release time from classes), avoiding use of school buildings for viewings and funeral services, and being sure students and staff do not feel obligated to attend.
View the video by chapters:
The importance of funeral attendance by school personnel
The benefits of peer support and supportive school policies around funerals
Advising families on their child’s involvement in funerals