Explaining Cremation to Children: A Guide for Parents

Losing a loved one is never easy, and it can be especially difficult for children to understand and process. As parents, we want to do everything we can to help our children navigate this difficult time and support them through their grief. One aspect of death that may be particularly confusing for children is cremation, which is becoming more common in the UK.

That’s why Rosy Cremations created this guide to help parents explain cremation to children in an honest, respectful, and age-appropriate way. We understand that talking about death can be challenging, but it’s an important conversation. By providing clear and accurate information about cremation, we hope to help parents feel more confident in supporting their children through this difficult time.

Understanding Cremation

Cremation is disposing of a body after death by reducing it to ashes through burning. Cremation typically occurs in a cremation chamber, also known as a cremator. The chamber is heated to a high temperature of around 760 to 1150 degrees Celsius, and the body is placed inside in a special container, typically made of wood or cardboard. The heat and flames from the furnace slowly reduce the body to bone fragments and ash, usually taking 1-3 hours.

Comparison of Cremation to Burial:

Cremation and burial are two different ways of dealing with a deceased person’s body. Burial involves placing the body in a casket and burying it in the ground, typically in a cemetery or other designated area. Cremation, on the other hand, involves reducing the body to ashes through burning.

One advantage of cremation is that it is generally less expensive than traditional burial. It can also be a more flexible option, as the ashes can be kept by the family, scattered in a favourite location or even used in a piece of jewellery or other memorial item. However, some families may prefer traditional burial as it provides a physical place to visit and remember their loved ones.

Overall, the decision to choose cremation or burial is personal and should be based on the wishes of the deceased and the preferences of their loved ones.

Talking to Children About Death

Discussing death with children can be difficult and emotional, but it’s important to be honest and provide age-appropriate explanations. 

Importance of Honesty and Age-Appropriate Explanations:

It’s important to be honest when talking to children about death, but it’s equally important to provide information in a way that is appropriate for their age and level of understanding. Young children may have different needs and concerns than older children, so it’s important to tailor the conversation to their developmental level. Be clear and direct in your explanations; use language they can understand.

Tips for Starting the Conversation:

Starting the conversation about death can be daunting, but creating a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their thoughts and feelings is important. Here are some tips for getting the conversation started:

  • Choose a quiet and comfortable setting where your child feels safe and secure.
  • Use simple, direct language to explain what has happened and how it makes you and your family feel.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and express their feelings, and be prepared to listen and provide support.
  • Use books, movies, or other resources to help your child understand and process their emotions.

Common Questions and Concerns Children May Have About Death:

Children may have many questions and concerns about death, such as what happens to the body, where the person goes after they die, and what will happen to them if someone else they love dies. Here are some common questions and concerns children may have, along with some tips for addressing them:

  • Fear of the unknown: Children may fear what they don’t understand. Provide clear and simple explanations and reassure your child that they are safe and loved.
  • Confusion about what happens to the body: Explain the different options for disposing of a body (such as cremation or burial) and let your child know what your family has chosen.
  • Worry about the future: Children may worry about what will happen if someone else they love dies. Let them know you will support them and encourage them to talk to you about their feelings.

By being honest, providing age-appropriate explanations, and addressing common questions and concerns, you can help your child understand and process the difficult topic of death.

Explaining Cremation to Children

Discussing cremation with children can be a sensitive topic, but providing them with age-appropriate explanations is important. 

Discussing the Decision to Choose Cremation:

If your family has decided to choose cremation, explaining the reasons behind the decision to your child is important. Be honest and provide simple explanations that your child can understand. You can explain that cremation is an alternative to burial and that it can be a way to honour the memory of your loved one in a way that feels right for your family.

Addressing Children’s Concerns About Cremation:

Children may have concerns and questions about cremation, such as what happens to the body, whether the process is painful, and what will happen to their loved one’s ashes. Here are some tips for addressing children’s concerns:

  • Explain that the body is treated with respect and dignity throughout cremation.
  • Assure your child that the process is not painful, as the body does not feel anything during cremation.
  • Discuss the different options for what to do with the ashes, such as keeping them in an urn or scattering them in a meaningful location.
  • Reassure your child that it’s okay to feel sad or upset about losing a loved one and that everyone grieves in their own way.

By discussing the decision to choose cremation, explaining the process in simple terms, and addressing children’s concerns, you can help your child understand and process the difficult topic of cremation.

Grieving and Coping with Loss

Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences for children. Here are some tips for helping children cope with loss:

Grief and Its Impact on Children:

Grief is the process of experiencing and coping with loss. Children may experience grief differently than adults and have difficulty understanding and expressing their feelings. Recognizing that grief can impact a child’s emotional, physical, and behavioural well-being is important.

Strategies for Helping Children Cope with Loss:

Here are some strategies for helping children cope with loss:

  • Provide a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their feelings.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and express their concerns about death and loss.
  • Help your child understand that it’s okay to feel sad and that everyone grieves in their own way.
  • Provide age-appropriate explanations about death and the grieving process.
  • Encourage your child to participate in rituals or activities to honour the memory of their loved one.
  • Provide ongoing support and reassurance to your child as they process their grief.

Support Resources for Families and Children:

There are many resources available to help families and children cope with loss, including:

  • Grief counselling and support groups
  • Books and online resources for children and families
  • Community resources such as hospice and bereavement centres
  • Faith-based resources and support services

It’s important to remember that grieving is a unique and personal process, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. By providing a supportive environment and access to resources, you can help your child cope with loss and begin to heal.

Final Word

Remember, every child and every family is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to discussing cremation and coping with loss. It’s important to approach the topic sensitively and provide ongoing support and reassurance for your child.