Does cremation hurt? How to talk to kids about cremation
When we lose a loved one, we can’t help but question it. Why them? Why now? Are they in a better place? As adults, we understand that many of our questions must go unanswered. And we learn, one way or another, to make peace with that.
But for children, losing someone—especially for the first time—can be confusing and scary. And when your son or daughter asks a question like, “Does cremation hurt?” it can be unsettling and difficult to know how to answer them. However, just because you don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean you can’t help lay their worries to rest. Knowing how to talk to kids about cremation can help you navigate one of the more difficult parent-child conversations you’re likely to ever have.
Tips for talking to your child about a loved one’s cremation
Every child processes death differently. How your son or daughter perceives a loss depends on a number of factors, many of which are out of your control. What you can control, however, is how you respond to their questions and concerns. These tips can help you have a constructive and comforting talk with your child about a loved one’s death and cremation.
1. Consider their age and personality
When preparing for this conversation, it’s important to keep in mind that children are still developing certain awarenesses and ways of thinking. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us understand both the meaning and permanence of death, but the same is not true of kids. Kids around six or seven years of age may understand that death is final, but may just be coming to grips with what it actually means to be dead—that someone who is passed away no longer functions or feels anything in this world.
Personality is also important to consider. If your child is naturally curious, for example, you may need to be ready to answer a lot of questions, some of which may surprise you. A more introverted or shy child, on the other hand, may need to be coaxed a little in order to get them to open up about what’s on their mind.
2. Let their curiosity guide your conversation
Take a “need to know” approach whenever possible. Try not to give more detail than is necessary to answer their questions. Often, the best way to do this is to begin by asking your child if they have any questions. Answering only what they ask in simple, direct terms can help you bring them peace of mind without unintentionally adding to their concerns. Asking your son or daughter what they want to know also lets them know that it’s okay to ask questions and talk to you about this topic—which in itself can come as a great comfort.
3. Keep answers honest, but gentle
Keep your answers straightforward and honest. At the same time, it’s equally important to keep your language easy to understand and gentle—avoid using more alarming terms like “burning.” For example, in answer to the question, “Does cremation hurt?” you may wish tell your child something like, “No, cremation doesn’t hurt. When someone dies, they don’t feel things anymore, so they don’t feel any pain at all.”
If they ask what cremation means, you can explain that they are put in a very warm room where their body is turned into soft ashes—and again, emphasize that it is a peaceful, painless process.
Answer only the questions your child asks, and keep an eye on their reactions. If at any point they seem to be getting frightened, slow down and take a moment to comfort them, then gently steer the conversation in a slightly different direction. If you don’t know the answer to their question, it’s okay to say you don’t know—the important thing is that they know you love them and are there for them.
4. Remain calm during the conversation
It’s no secret that children sometimes say shocking things. This is especially true when discussing a sometimes delicate topic like a loved one’s death or cremation. Keep in mind that they do not mean to offend or upset you—they simply haven’t yet acquired the social filters through which most adults speak. They only know that they have questions, and they’re hoping that you have the answers.
How you respond to their questions will affect how they process loss and how safe they feel in coming to you with their concerns, which is why it’s vital to remain calm during this conversation. If they come to you during a particularly trying moment, or if you feel yourself becoming upset during the conversation, gently let them know that you need some time to yourself right now but that you will talk with them soon. Then—and this is the important part—be sure to keep that promise and revisit the conversation as soon as you can.
If you find it too difficult to talk to your child about this topic, consider the option of consulting a guidance counselor for help. Even if you can’t talk about it right now, it’s important that your child’s questions and concerns are addressed so that they do not try to cope unhealthily by bottling up their emotions instead.
5. Keep the dialogue open
Not all children will be ready to talk right away. Some may simply be too young to be curious about cremation, while others may simply need some time to figure out what it is they’re feeling and what they want to know. Even if they do not have any questions for you now, be sure to let them know that they can come to you whenever they need to talk, even if a significant amount of time has passed since the loss.
Check in on them now and then. Don’t push them to talk, but keep the door to conversation open by asking how they’re feeling and if there’s anything they’d like to discuss. Consider involving older children in your loved one’s memorial service if they were close with that person—ask their opinion on what flowers they think their loved one would have liked, or whether they would like to read or say anything during the service.
Why it’s important to talk to kids about cremation
Fears surrounding death and cremation are most often rooted in a primal fear of the unknown. This is especially true for kids who are just learning what death is and how to accept it as a natural part of life. How we handle the loss of a loved one becomes a model for our kids, who form their own ways of coping based on what they learn by watching us.
By discussing a loved one’s cremation openly and letting your child voice his or her fears, you can not only comfort them but show them that it’s okay to talk about it, just as it’s okay to grieve. They’ll learn that they can come to you when they need support, and they’ll be better able to work through difficult emotions instead of repressing them. And someday, when they have children of their own, they’ll know how to talk to their kids about difficult topics like death and cremation because they’ll have learned it from you.
Tulip Cremation provides a simple direct cremation service for a low, transparent price and no hidden costs. Our Family Care Team is available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and offer expert, caring support to help make a difficult time a little easier to navigate. For more information or to begin arranging cremation, call us at (844) 942-4909 or arrange online with just a few easy clicks.
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