For many children, death is an abstract concept that only applies to goldfish and distant relations. However, many children do experience the loss of a very close loved one, and when this happens, there are bound to be many questions and concerns. Most children can grasp the idea of death as a permanent loss of someone they know, but when it comes to the actual procedures put in place to deal with this loss, they may become very confused. While burials allow children to see a “final” resting place for their loved one, cremation doesn’t always allow do this. The concept of cremation can be very difficult for some children to understand, and it can be frightening, too. These tips will help explain the concept of cremation to a child who has lost someone that they love.
Start by understanding the process yourself
If you aren’t sure exactly what happens during cremation, don’t be afraid to ask the staff at a crematorium like Care Memorial Cremation Solutions to explain it. Essentially, the body is burned at extremely high temperatures, over the course of 2-3 hours, until the only remains are ash and bone fragments, which are then ground into a fine sand-like ash and placed in a sealed bag. These cremated remains are then placed in an urn or other receptacle and given to the family so that the remains can be stored or buried as they see fit.
Decide how much you wish to tell the child
Understandably, the concept of cremation can be very disturbing to children, so it’s very important that you choose how to explain the process to them. It helps to begin with a general discussion of what death is, and following with the reason why a body is being cremated. Children are naturally curious, and they may ask more detailed questions than you are prepared to answer. Try to be as honest as possible about the process, without using too much detail.
Children may ask you directly about the cremation process, and it’s a good idea to explain it to them, but you must do so in a way that won’t be too scary or traumatic. Children fear things that they don’t understand, so explaining can help take away some of the fear of the unknown. Avoid using words and phrases such as “burned” or “fire”, even though these may be technically true words to describe the process. Instead, focus on letting the child know that the body being cremated is turned into dust or ash, so that it may be placed in an urn and buried or preserved.
Explain that the body feels no pain
One of the biggest concerns that children have when trying to understand the concept of death, and cremation specifically, is the fear that their deceased loved one will feel the pain of the process. It’s important to stress to children that the body is unable to feel anything, and that the process does not inflict any pain on the person that they loved. You can also stress to the child that the people who take care of the cremation process care very much about respecting the body, and wish to make the process easier for the family to handle.
For children who just want a general concept of what happens when you die, be sure to avoid using euphemisms that could confuse them, such as saying the deceased person has “gone away” or “went to be with the angels.” They could overhear other people discussing the death more frankly, and feel hurt and confused by perceived lies. Instead, try to make the subject less taboo for them, so they feel comfortable asking questions. For children who have recently lost someone close, it is extremely important for them to feel that they can trust you, so make sure that you are honest with your answers.
It may help to let the child be a part of the disposal of the ashes. This can help them find closure in the funeral process, and it can help them deal with their grief better, too. Remember that grief can be a long process, and that children won’t understand the concept or even their own emotions for quite some time after the death of a loved one. Be as patient as possible, and you’ll help the child deal with the process of grieving much better.