Explaining burial and cremation to children can be a daunting task for parents, as burial and cremation are concepts that can be difficult for children to understand and might be scary for their imaginations to think about. For some children they may not wonder about what happens to their sibling’s body, but other children may have a lot of questions. How you explain this may also be connected to your religious and spiritual beliefs. We have provided some talking points that might be helpful in guiding the conversation.
It may be comforting to help your children understand that there are special people whose job it is to take care of our bodies when we die. Share as much information as you think will be comforting to your child. You could tell them things like these people will clean and dress your child or wrap them in special blankets, etc.
Whichever choice you make, explain to your child that it is simply the body of their sibling and that the body can no longer feel, think, or breathe. Burial and cremation do not hurt and their sibling is not scared.
If you choose to bury your child, prepare your other child(ren) for what will take place using age appropriate language. Explain that his/her sibling’s body will be put in a special box and the box will be placed in a deep hole. Earth will be placed over the hole and grass will grow. This will be a spot that you can visit to remember and think about his/her sibling.
Use simple straightforward language to describe this process. An example of what you might say would be, “we decided to have your brother/sister cremated. The special people who took care of his/her body took him/her to a very special room. This room gets very very hot and allows the body to turn into ashes. This did not hurt because when you are dead you do not feel anything. Once his/her body turned into ashes, the nice people collected all of them and placed them into a special box.”
Depending on what you choose to do with the ashes you can provide further explanation such as, “some people will spread the ashes in a special place or keep them in a special box in their home. We are going to do _______________.”
Avoid using words like fire or burned. These words may be scary for kids to think about and associate with their sibling.