Cremations are becoming an increasingly popular choice among Americans. Since the 1960s, there's been an incredible 1,238.88% increase in the number of people choosing cremation. Some people choose it because it's more environmentally friendly and easily personalizable (you can choose to store ashes in an urn, plant a tree with them, or even have them made into jewelry these days). Others choose it because it's more economical than a traditional burial. However, cremation does present some problems—one of which is how you explain it to young children. Here are some ideas of where to start.
Tailor your explanations to the child.
You want to express some important but fundamental concepts about death and cremation so that the whole idea of it doesn't frighten your child. Children under 5 may not understand that death is final. They may wonder when Grandma or Granddad are coming back. Even children above this age may not have a clear understanding of what death really is, or that everyone is affected by it. Keep in mind that certain words may be very frightening to children and choose your words carefully.
- Explain that the deceased is no longer inside his or her body. That his or her body is what is left behind when the spirit or soul of the person leaves it behind.
- If your family has religious beliefs surrounding death, this is a good time to explain what happens to the spirit or soul after it leaves the body.
- Explain that the deceased can't feel anything anymore and that cremation doesn't hurt.
- Don't use the word "burned." Many children are taught early that burning and fire are painful and dangerous, so you don't want them to associate the very appropriate fear they have of fire with cremation.
- Explain that cremation takes place inside a special room that helps turn the body into ash. Again, stress that this doesn't hurt the deceased.
Consider involving the child in the memorial process.
One of the nicest things about cremation is that it opens up a number of ways to handle the mortal remains of the deceased. Instead of locating the remains at a graveyard, you now have options ranging from scattering the ashes to turning some of the ashes into gemstones. There are also kits you can buy that will allow a tree to grow from the nutrients in the ash.
Whatever method you choose, consider allowing your child to have a small keepsake with some of the ashes. There are keepsake items these days that are tucked inside stuffed animals, miniature urns, glass ornaments for the window, and memorial lockets. Find one that is appropriate for your child and explain that some of the ash will be put inside so that, in a way, you are taking the deceased with you no matter where you go.
For more ideas about how to handle this process, consider talking to a professional in cremation services like J Allen Hooper Funeral Chapel.