How can I remember with my friends and family? Can I go to the funeral too?

Many adults are very uncomfortable about including children in death-related issues and activities, and therefore leave them out. Some adults may think they dont have the perfect way to explain funerals and memorials. Others feel powerless when children are sad or cry, and sometimes adults inhibit tears and try to stop the grief process, usually without realizing thats what they are doing.

Children become recognized mourners when adults create ways for them to ask questions and share thoughts and feelings about a loved one who has died. Preparing and inviting, but never forcing, children to participate in funerals and memorials creates an inclusive environment. This nurturing space supports their emotional and spiritual growth as human beings by being actively involved in commemorating.

Jason (6): a case study

Jason was 6 years old when his best friend, Wyatt, died of a rare form of cancer. Every night Jason asked his mom the same question: What is Wyatt doing in Heaven? Mom responded in many ways: Maybe Wyatt is with God. Maybe he is having fun. Im not really sure. It became a bedtime ritual to think about Wyatt being in heaven and comforting to wonder about good and happy things.

One morning Jason excitedly ran to his mothers bedroom and exclaimed, I know what Wyatt is doing. He loved fishing so much. I think he is catching the biggest fish ever!

Jason, his classmates, and the entire school were in deep mourning. His teacher, Mrs. Jones, and the principal, Mr. Arnold, realized the children needed to be part of Wyatts commemoration and memorial service. They permitted Jason and all of the students to become identified mourners by allowing them to ask questions, participate in activities, share thoughts and feelings, and be invited and prepared for Wyatts memorial service.

What should we do with Wyatts desk?

You and your friends can decide what to do with Wyatts desk and the things inside. You could leave it in your classroom as a place children could go to and be with Wyatt. Students could leave special notes, drawings, and photos there to remember Wyatt. You could also decide to take the desk out.

What can we do with the stuff inside?

You have many choices about deciding what to do with the stuff inside Wyatts desk. You could leave it there just the way it is or invite Wyatts parents to take his things. You could also have all the kids that wanted to take something to keep that would feel like a part of Wyatt.

I miss Wyatt a lot at school. So do my friends. What can we do to remember him at school?

It is hard when you miss your friend at school. Doing something to remember him with friends helps you to feel better. Your class can have a meeting to brainstorm ideas about creating a memory project at school. Here are a few suggestions. Children can plant a flower, blow bubbles, bake a cake to bring to Wyatts family, make a memory mural, or put together a class quilt to give to Wyatts parents.

We had a class meeting and decided to bake his favorite peanut butter cookies, make a class mural, and create a class quilt. Can you help us with that?

The cookies sound like fun to make. You could eat some in school, bring some home for your family, and make a batch for Wyatts family. The mural is a good group project. Everyone can draw or write a memory or message to Wyatt. You can leave it in your classroom all year and add a note whenever you feel like it. At the end of the year you could give it to Wyatts parents as a special gift for them. The class quilt could be made in squares, with the handprint of each child in Wyatts class. It could be presented to Wyatts parents at his upcoming memorial service.

What is a memorial service? Can I come?

A memorial service is a time when family and friends come together to remember the person that died. It might be at a church or synagogue, at someones home, or even at school. Wyatts memorial service is going to be at the community center building down the street from school. His family is going to have the service in a few weeks. Everyone that loved Wyatt can come together to remember him. You are invited to come, as are all the other classmates.

Let me prepare you for what it will be like. Parents, children, friends, relatives, and teachers can come. Pictures and memories of Wyatt will be all around the room. There will be bubbles for children to blow to remember Wyatt and an art table to draw or write a memory. Some people may be sad and cry, others might not do anything at all. That is OK. Wyatts teacher, Mrs. Jones, is going to sing Wyatts favorite song, If youre happy and you know it with the children. Wyatts mom and dad will give all of the children a memory bag filled with things they feel Wyatt would want his friends to have. Your class can present them with the beautiful quilt you made. Would you like to go?

Can we share memories at the service?

Yes, children and grown-ups can share memories if they like. You can share a memory or favorite picture but you dont have to.

I want to share my picture of Wyatt and me on the junior soccer team. Can I do that?

Of course you can. I think it would be wonderful to share the soccer picture. You might tell the story you told me about Wyatt scoring his famous goal that won the game. You could even make extra copies of the picture for everyone to take home.

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