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if your child dies

 

After the young person dies, life can suddenly become a jumble of powerful thoughts and feelings. You might have a sense that there are things you need to do and start planning immediately, or you could be overwhelmed at the thought of the funeral and what comes next.

 

In this section, we’ve listed some of things that might happen, the steps you might need to take, and common issues that bereaved parents, family members and partners face. It can be useful to have thought about these things in advance, so you don’t feel under pressure to make decisions. At the same time, there will be people who can support you, including the Redkite support team.

what do I do when they die?

If you have been supported by a palliative care team, or your medical team has taken on the palliative care role, they will most likely put together a plan with you about what to in the hours and days after death. If you’re at home, there's no pressure to do anything immediately. If the young person dies during the night, you can wait until morning to call your medical team.

 

If you want to, take the time you need to be with them. Nothing needs to happen straight away. You can hold them, talk to them, place a special item with them or take photos or a lock of hair to remember them by.

 

Some siblings may want to see their brother or sister after death, while others won’t. Younger children may need help to understand what has happened. Each member of the family should have the opportunity to say goodbye in their own way.

 

It’s a good idea to talk with your social worker or palliative care team in advance, to consider what each person would like to do at this point – though at the actual time, people may make different choices.

 

Remember, there is no rush. Take your time.

 

The moment when the young person’s body is moved could be very emotional. You might want to consider whether you would prefer not to be present, or if you feel the need to be there. It’s up to you and either decision is completely valid.

how you might feel

There's no right or wrong way of acting or coping. Don’t feel you have to behave in a certain way or meet anyone’s expectations. Whether you’re numb, angry, devastated, overwhelmed, or even feeling some sense of relief, these are all valid feelings. Whatever you feel now, and in the days, weeks and months to come, is your experience.

registering the death

If the young person dies in the hospital or hospice, medical staff will help you prepare their body and organise a death certificate. It may be possible to take them home with you for a short time if you want to, before they are moved to a funeral home.

 

If you are at home, call the funeral director when you are ready and they can guide you through the process. They will usually be the person to register the death and arrange a death certificate.

If you want, contact the Redkite support team, who can talk to you about how we might be able to help cover the cost of funerals.

the funeral

Your funeral director will guide you through this process, but it’s important to know that there are very few legal requirements. Remember that you don’t need to agree to anything you’re not comfortable with.

A funeral is often a blend of grief and a celebration of life. There are many different ways to hold a funeral or service. Questions might want to consider include:

  • Where it will be held?
  • Who will lead it?
  • Is there particular music, readings or photos that could be included?
  • Who will speak? (Remembering there is no obligation to speak if you don’t want to.)
  • What will the order of the service be?
  • Will you have a gathering or a wake after the service?

The funeral can reflect who the young person was, what was important to them and what you want people to remember most.

 

Many parents wonder how they will get through this day. It helps to recognise beforehand that the funeral is likely to be draining, both physically and emotionally. Acknowledging those feelings and being prepared to ask for support will help.

should younger children come to the funeral?

Many people wonder whether younger children should attend a funeral. Children usually cope well as long they have things explained to them beforehand, someone they can turn to during the funeral, and someone to talk to afterwards. This is a good role for a favourite aunt, uncle or family friend.

Last updated September 2015.