Making Arrangements: Tools and Resources
Including Children at Funerals and Burials
There are no traditions in Judaism that address the attendance of funerals or burials by children. Those decisions are up to the family, based on the age of the child and your understanding of what he or she can handle.
Child psychologists tell us that, just like adults, children need a chance to grieve and say goodbye to their loved one. Attendance at the funeral and/or burial can provide an opportunity for this while being safely surrounded by family and friends. Alternatively, the experience of attending a funeral or burial may be overwhelming for a child. If your child is old enough, you might consider asking him or her if he or she would like to attend and addressing any concerns or fears he or she might have.
If you bring a child to a funeral or burial, we suggest that you explain as much as possible in advance about what will happen—including the range of emotions he or she is likely to feel and see expressed. This will also give your child permission to express his or her emotions.
It may also be helpful to explain any Jewish customs or traditions that will be a part of the ceremony. For many children, the big questions that death raises may be hard to understand. But children do understand following rules and performing rituals, and the rites and traditions performed at the funeral might be a way for the child to understand what’s going on, if only practically. In addition, this can be seen as an opportunity to introduce the child to Jewish traditions surrounding death.
If a child is old enough, he or she can take part in the service—sharing a favorite story or memory or reading a poem. These are often moving experiences for everyone, and they suggest the connections between generations.
If you decide to bring children to a funeral or burial, we encourage you to identify an adult other than a parent to be responsible for them, so that the parents have the ability to do what they need to do during these emotional events.
Finally, cremation can be a confusing and frightening topic for children. The counselors of Sinai's Mourner Care Program can provide guidance on how to discuss cremation with children of various ages.
Please feel free to call our Mourner Care Program for any advice regarding the attendance of children at funerals and burials and, in general, for assistance in helping them understand and relate to the death of a family member or family friend. Counselors can be reached at (415) 921-3636.