Helping children to

understand death

HELP & ADVICE

For children

Lellet Fields Brand Mark
It can be difficult for children to understand about death and they are unlikely to be familiar with cremation. It can be helpful for them to know beforehand what will happen during the service and what happens to the body, making a difficult time less confusing.

Talking to a child about death and cremation

You know what level of information is right to share with the child but general advice applies to all children:

Be honest and answer any questions they have. Don’t give more information than they have asked for but don’t withhold information. Often a child’s imagination will create a more frightening explanation than the reality. 

Don’t lie or use euphemisms. Use simple, direct language. For example, talking about ‘being taken to heaven’ when adults are talking about ashes may cause confusion.

Avoid words that may be frightening to them, such as ‘fire’ and ‘burning’. Talk about ‘Granny’s body’ being cremated rather than ‘Granny’.

Explain that the body will be in a coffin or casket and won’t feel any pain and tell them what you will do with the ashes afterwards. 

Ask them if they’d like to be involved – maybe creating a drawing or writing a letter which can be put with the coffin. 

If you take your lead from the child and answer their questions honestly and without embarrassment it makes it easier for the child to continue to ask questions. In turn, you will be more aware of what is worrying them and can address specific issues.

Some child-friendly cremation information

There is no smell and no smoke when a body is cremated. It just gets very hot – about three times as hot as the oven at home. The heat burns away all the parts of the body except for some pieces of bone.

The person is cremated in a coffin and they don’t feel anything because they have died and their body has stopped working. It’s like the cocoon when a butterfly hatches – the cocoon is left behind but the butterfly has gone.

After cremation, what’s left looks like white, lumpy ash because it’s bone. It’s put in a clear plastic bag so you can see it if you want to. It is then either scattered somewhere so it goes into the soil, or can be put in a pottery jar and kept somewhere special. Some people even have their ashes put into a firework so they can be sent into the sky!

The people doing the cremation are trained and they understand that the person who died was someone who was loved so they work hard to make every cremation special.

Looking after a child at the service

The Family Room is a quiet, private space in the main reception building and this can be made available if you anticipate them needing to leave the service at any point. Please speak to us beforehand so we can ensure it is kept free.

You are welcome to bring children to the crematorium beforehand so that they can settle in before the service and if there is anything we can do to help, just ask.

The virtual tour of Lelley Fields may help you to make the surroundings familiar before you arrive. Plus, You can read more about our children’s area on our services page.

Both the The Child Bereavement UK and Grief Encounter sites have plenty of guidance which you may find useful. Use the links below to find out more.

child bereavement UK logo

Child Bereavement UK

Works with anyone affected by a child grieving or dying

grief encounter logo

Grief encounter

Provides a lifeline to children and young people affected by the death of someone close to them

winstons wish

Winston’s wish

Supports grieving children and young people after the death of someone important.

Some animations to help children understand funerals from Child Bereavement UK

What happens at a burial?

What happens at a cremation?