How To Explain Cremation To A Child? Read This

It’s extremely difficult to explain death and cremation to a kid but it’s also essential at the same time. 

Here we’ll discuss how to tactfully explain the cremation process to a child to help them understand what happens to a human body after death.

The death of a close family member can have a huge impact on a child, and it can also be downright confusing. You need to have a warm heart and cool head to explain death and cremation to a child so that these concepts make sense to them.

It can be challenging, especially if it’s the child’s first experience with death and mortality, but it can be done if you use the right approach. While it’s tempting to lie to a child for the sake of temporary comfort, you’ll need to make sure that you stay honest.

In this article, we’ll discuss some important tips that will help you explain death and cremation to a child, based on their age.

How To Explain Cremation To A Child: Best Tips

While explaining cremation to a bereaved child, you’ll need to stay composed, calm, and comfortable. Following the tips listed below will make this process easy for you.

Use Simple and Plain Language

You must never use complicated or disturbing words, such as “burn.” Use the words that a child can easily understand and keep your explanation as simple as possible.

explain child

You also don’t need to use the word cremated remains, especially if you’re dealing with a younger child. However, you can refer to the word ashes for older children.

It’s important to avoid flowery language as it will confuse the kid. For instance, you don’t want to say that your loved one has gone into a deep sleep.

It can cause anxieties and fears about going to sleep, and the kid will find it difficult to feel comfortable in their bed. Be direct and keep things simple depending on the child’s age and maturity level.

Explain the Concept of Death

Before explaining cremation to a kid, you’ll need to let them know about their loved one’s death. A very young child may not understand what death means. It’ll make it difficult for them to understand why the body of their loved one has to be cremated.

Don’t go into specific details while explaining death, give only as much information as needed. Just tell them that the body of a person stops working when they die, and they never come back. You can use the death of the child’s pet as a loose analogy if possible.

Introduce Cremation

Once you have explained the concept of death to the child, you’ll find it easy to introduce the cremation process.

You can use the following tips to make sure that the child understands what cremation is and doesn’t become afraid of it.

  • Remain calm and keep your explanation simple.
  • State the matter of fact without using alarming words like fire and burn. A young child can get frightened by hearing such words, and it can lead them to develop anxiety or fear.
  • You can say that the body of their loved one will be sent to a building called a crematory. In that building, the body will be transferred to a warm room where it’ll transform into powder (or ashes, depending on the age).
  • If you’re dealing with a very young child, then you can say that the body is transformed into small particles that feel and look just like sand. However, you’ll need to make it clear that it won’t be sand that you see on the beach. It’ll just look similar. Otherwise, the child might start linking sand with dead bodies.
  • Explain to the child that cremation is a peaceful process. You’ll need to make it clear that a dead body doesn’t feel anything, so the cremation process will not hurt their loved one.
  • You can also give some general information to the child, like the cremation staff and funeral director will handle their loved one’s body with respect, care, and reverence.
  • If the family of the child has religious beliefs, then you can explain that the spirit of their loved one will go to heaven.

You can use the following example as your explanation as well:

Grandpa wanted to be cremated rather than buried in the ground. So, we’ll send him to a warm room where his body will transform into “soft powder/ashes”.

Then the powder/ashes will be placed inside a container called a cremation urn. We can keep that urn but it can also be put in a very special place so that we can visit grandpa to remember him.

It’s a peaceful and quiet process, which will give grandpa comfort. It will not hurt him, as his spirit is not in the body anymore.

Let the Child Lead

One of the best ways to make sure that your explanation about the cremation process offers the right level of detail to the child is to ask them if they have any questions. You’ll need to follow the child’s lead and provide them with all the information they need to know.

Keep in mind that younger children will most probably be unsure if their questions or feelings are expected. So, you’ll need to tell them that it’s perfectly fine to have questions about death and cremation.

sad man

You can also say that the feeling of loss and sadness they have is normal and all the other people also feel the same. Provide them with all the time they need to formulate their questions. Encourage them to ask as many questions as they want.

Some kids are extremely curious by nature and will ask tons of questions. Whereas, some other children are introverted and not so talkative. But they’ll also have many questions in their mind. 

They’ll process your explanation internally and need encouragement to start speaking. The most common questions that a child may ask on such an occasion include the following:

  • How can the whole body of a person fit into a small container (urn)?
  • How hot will it get when the body is transferred to the warm room?
  • Will my (relation) feel pain during the cremation process?
  • Will I see my (relation) after cremation?
  • Can I watch the cremation process?

Answer Each Question Honestly

It’s important to note that each child is different and can have a unique lead. You’ll need to follow that and give honest answers.

Pay attention to the behavior of the child, and never talk about things that the kid doesn’t seem interested in. You don’t want to answer questions that are not asked.

Other Things to Consider

Not all children are interested in understanding the concept of death and cremation. A child may also be disturbed and not want to talk to anyone. Therefore, it’s critically important to make sure that you ask the child’s permission.

leave me alone child

Bring up the conversation topic and examine the child’s behavior to see whether they’re interested in knowing more about cremation or not. If you feel that your words are making the child uncomfortable, then talk about something else.

It’ll give them a little comfort that will help you lead the conversation to the topic. Never force any child to hear things that they don’t want to. It can lead to damaging and long-lasting psychological effects.

Additionally, a child must never be a part of any grief rituals if they don’t want to, such as seeing the cremated remains or the dead body. 

If a child wants to see the cremated remains, take a look at them first and explain to the child what they look like. After that, ask them if they still want to have a look.

You’ll also need to prepare properly so that you can answer all the questions that a child may have. Learn as much as possible about cremation and read a book or article about how to console others.


How Do I Tell My 6-Year-Old About Cremation?

The best way to tell a 6-year-old kid about cremation is to use simple language and avoid words like burn or fire. 

You want to tell them that the body of their loved one will be sent to a warm room where it’ll turn into small soft particles/ashes like sand. Then, those particles are placed in a cremation urn, a small container.

Should Children Attend A Cremation?

Children should not attend a cremation at a crematory, as seeing their loved one being placed inside a retort or furnace can disturb them mentally. 

However, they can attend a burial, funeral, or wake only if they want. Attending these rituals allows them to say goodbye to their loved ones in their own way and receive support and love from family and friends.

Final Words

Explaining death and cremation to a child is never an easy process. It requires honesty, understanding, compassion, patience, and listening skills. Never use harsh and scary words and pay close attention to the child’s behavior while talking to them.

If you feel that the kid wants to ask questions, encourage them and answer all the questions they have with honesty.

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