Planning a funeral for a child is a situation that nothing can prepare you for, it’s a devastating and traumatic experience for any parent and their families. You will need as much support as possible around you, from family, friends and other support groups and networks. The initial days, weeks, months and even years will doubtless be incredibly challenging; grieving and experience of grief is a very personal experience with no specific time for this process and no two people experiencing the same range of emotions.
You will also require help, advice, and information from your funeral director. Here at CPJ Field, we made it our policy back in the 1950s, not to charge for our professional services for the provision of a child’s funeral. For the purposes of this service, we consider a child to be a person of an age up to and including the age of 16. We always strive to be with you, supporting you as little or as much as you feel you need with the utmost care and compassion.
Practicalities following the death of a child
Planning a funeral for a child can start at any time, but you can only hold it once you have the death certificate or appropriate form from the coroner. The former contains lots of important information. Once you have been issued with a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, you must register your child’s death within five days.
Letting people know
If you are receiving child benefit, you may find that this continues for some weeks. However, you will have to contact the appropriate agencies, which can be done easily online or by contacting the child benefit office. Your child’s GP, dentist, optician, school or college and other places that have your child’s details such as banks and building societies, clubs and local groups will also have to be notified. Also consider social media accounts that your child may have had. If you are a working parent, consideration will have to be given as to when you return to work as naturally this may be something you cannot contemplate at this time. Any absence from work can be self-certified for the first week and you may find after that period of time, your company may grant you compassionate leave.
How to plan a child’s funeral
Think about which funeral director you would like to appoint, the kind of service you would like, and where you would like to hold it. This could be religious, traditional, outdoors, a memorial service or a celebration. You will want to choose between a burial and cremation.
A Funeral Director will help with providing information about where you can get emotional support and assist with processing paperwork and making special requests happen. Here at CPJ Field, we are here to listen to your wishes and support you as much or as little as you require.
Do you have to pay for a child’s funeral?
The Children’s Funeral Fund for England can help to pay for some of the costs of a funeral for a child under 18 or a baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy. The funding is not means-tested, but the cremation or burial must take place in England. Further details can be found on the Government website.
- Burial fees
- Cremations fees including the cost of a doctor’s certificate
- Coffin, shroud or casket (up to a cost of £300)
How we can help with costs for a funeral of a child
At CPJ Field, we do not charge for our professional services for children aged 16 or under. This includes guidance, expertise, care and attention from our team of trained funeral professionals, including completion of statutory documentation. We will also liaise with the crematorium, cemetery or other service venues, as well as with doctors or HM coroner.
- Care, preparation and presentation of the child
- The collection of the child and bringing into our care in one of our funeral homes
- Provision of a suitable vehicle on the day of the funeral
- Provision of a coffin for the funeral
You may find that the costs of a funeral for a child do vary and there may be aspects that you have not considered. Make sure you get a written estimate before making the final arrangements. You may be eligible for a funeral payment and if you are on a low income, your funeral director will be able to advise you.
What to say?
At such a heartbreaking time it’s very difficult to find the right words to say at a child’s funeral. As a parent, you may find it impossible to speak the words yourself and may prefer to ask a close friend or relative if they would be able to speak on your behalf. You may feel you are able to write a eulogy, although there are many poems and readings available online that may cover perfectly what you want to say. We have produced An Anthology of Poems and Readings that are relevant to all manner of hobbies, pastimes, interests and beliefs.
When writing a eulogy, start as soon as you feel strong enough, gather your ideas and research quotes, poems and/or religious verses. We advise that you start by making notes as they come to your mind and practice, practice, practice. Take a look at our eulogies blog for some tips and advice on writing a eulogy.
What to wear?
There really isn’t a right or wrong approach to what to wear. Grieving parents may choose to wear black, whilst some may choose outfits in their child’s favourite colour. It’s always a good idea to wear comfortable footwear. As a rule, outfits should be smart and presentable.
How to personalise a funeral for a child – making it special
- Prepare a memorial, booklet or memory board that includes photographs, stories and short dedications, many crematoria provide AV equipment to share videos and photos at the ceremony
- Capture the personality and spirit with balloons and decorations
- Wear the child’s favourite colour
- Play favourite music
- Consider transport including a horse-drawn hearse, limousine and other specialist vehicles; anything from fire engines, to tanks, tractors, whatever reflects the individuality of the child’s life
- Floral tributes and dove releases
- Condolence stationery
CPJ Field personalising children’s funerals
Kar-Ming Yeung, one of our funeral directors who works from the Heritage and Sons and Shires funeral home covering the Luton, Dunstable, Bedford, and Tring areas describes some of the memorable personal touches he has seen added for children’s funerals:
- Children dressed in their christening outfits
- In the chapel at the crematorium, chairs have been moved into a semi-circle around the coffin, which was placed in trestle rather than the catafalque
- Spending more time than usual at the family’s house with the hearse to allow school friends, who are unable to come to the service to pay their respects
We believe that the key is to let the family do whatever they need to do to help get them through this traumatic time.
Preparing siblings for the funeral
It is important that siblings have the chance to say goodbye in ways that feel right to them to help with the grieving process. There is no exact formula for involvement and the ways that children participate will vary, sometimes dependent on cultural and religious beliefs. Some may want to see pictures and other memorabilia and to actively participate in the funeral service.
When preparing siblings and other children, explain who and what they may see and the order of the day. It’s OK to talk about emotions and how people might be feeling and to ask questions. Some children may not want to attend the funeral and it’s important to explain their options and to remind them that you support their decision, although they are welcome to change their mind at any time. Be prepared to give them information about the funeral, to reassure them, be attentive to their needs and validate their feelings.
How can siblings be part of the funeral?
- Be involved in the funeral service by choosing flowers, the coffin, readings or music
- Create a memory box or board of special photographs and other mementos including awards, toys and school projects
- Wear clothing in the sibling’s favourite colour, sport’s team, cartoon character or an item they helped to select
- Place a special item, such as a teddy bear in the coffin
- Write a letter or note, or draw a picture depicting a special memory to be placed in the coffin
- Recite a reading, poem or convey thoughts
- Distribute programmes or flowers at the service
- Plant a tree or flowers in memory
Thinking about yourself
Importantly, don’t forget yourself. The day will be physically and emotionally exhausting and draining. Try to stay nourished and hydrated as well as wearing comfortable clothing including shoes. Take breaks when you need them and support loved ones. Speak to your GP beforehand if you are worried about how you will manage on the day.
What support is available to you?
Help is available from local services and national organisations. The organisations we have highlighted below all offer bereavement support to families regarding a funeral for a child. Please note this is not a definitive list.
Child Bereavement UK
Helps children, young people, parents, and families to rebuild their lives, when a child grieves or when a child dies.
0800 028 8840
The Lullaby Trust
The Lullaby Trust raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies and offers emotional support for bereaved families.
0808 802 6868
The Compassionate Friends
Supporting bereaved parents and their families.
0345 123 2304
The Good Grief Trust
The Good Grief Trust is run by the bereaved for the bereaved. They are here to offer all the advice and support you need today and help you move forward with life tomorrow.
Cruse Bereavement Support
Grief can be overwhelming and you don’t need to deal with it alone. Cruse helps people through one of the most painful times in life, with bereavement, support, information and campaigning.
0808 808 1677
Helping bereaved people find support and wellbeing. It is a bereavement, signposting website where you can find support services, information, help lines and resources to help you and your family members at any stage in your bereavement.
What to do after the funeral
Any form of gathering after a funeral for a child can bring family and friends together, giving them the important opportunity to share stories, photos, anecdotes and to reminisce. You can meet at a range of venues such as a local hotel, restaurant, pub, a community venue, a place of worship or arrange for people to come back to your home. This could be arranged for people attending the funeral or you could just plan something for you as a family. Indeed, you may not wish to make any special arrangements instead preferring time alone. Your friends and family will understand your wishes.
How can CPJ Field help?
Back in the 1950s, our own family experienced the sorrow, desolation, and heartbreak of the death of a child. Since this time, it has been our policy not to charge for our professional services when the funeral is for a child, aged 16 or under.
You may also find that many crematoria, celebrants and churches do not charge if the person is under the age of 18. Our caring and compassionate colleagues are here to guide you through, signposting you to charities that can help, giving you our time and professional knowledge. We are also on call to help you personalise the funeral as much as you want, which is our small way of helping you and making this acutely difficult time a little easier when you most need it.
For more help and information visit our ‘Arranging a child’s funeral’ section of the website where you can download the brochure.