Adults sometimes feel that children will be scared if they see a dead person, but for some children it can be helpful; particularly if they haven’t been able to say goodbye before the death.

It is important to be guided by what the child wants and to offer them information that will help them make their decision. If you are unsure what to do you could speak to medical staff or the funeral directors.

It is helpful for children to know the following:

  • who will come with them
  • where the dead person will be (e.g. in a coffin at the chapel of rest, in a bed at home, or hospital) It is helpful if a member of family has already viewed the body, so that a description of the room where the person will be can be given.
  • what the dead person will look like. Explain that they will be very cold and pale and not be able to react in any way. If their face is marked in any way, children should be prepared for that, and that the person’s eyes will be closed.
  • that they may be able to touch the person if they want to, but they do not have to
  • they can take a letter, picture, poem or object with them to leave in the coffin
  • they can change their minds at the last moment and choose not to go into the room
  • that there are other ways to say goodbye if they don’t want to see the body. For example they can visit a special place or you can leave something on their behalf

If the child chooses to view the body, it is important afterwards allow plenty of time for them to ask questions and talk openly about how they feel. The reaction may not be immediate, so be prepared to talk whenever they are ready.