It might seem scary to allow children to see the dead person, but it can be helpful for some children, particularly if they haven’t been able to say goodbye before the death. It does need to be handled sensitively.
Ask the child what they would like and be guided by that.
Give adequate information to help them make their decision– Funeral directors, nursing staff etc. can help if you do not know all the answers.
Tell them –
- Who will come with them
- Where the person will be (e.g. in a coffin at the chapel of rest, in a bed at home, hospital etc.)
- What the dead person will look like (very pale, cold to touch, not able to react in any way, if they will be wearing their glasses, if their face will be marked in any way etc.)
- That they may be able to touch, stroke, and kiss if they want to, but they do not have to.
- That they may be able to spray the person with their favourite perfume/aftershave.
- That they may like to take a picture, poem, letter or object with them to leave in the coffin.
- That they can change their minds at the last moment and choose not to go into the room.
- Offer alternative ways of sating goodbye (visiting a special place, spending a quiet time together with a photograph, writing a letter, drawing a picture.
- Give them time afterwards to talk about how they feel and to ask questions.