by Anne Berenberg, PhD and Vicki Scalzitti
The next thing is to explain that the body of the loved one (not the loved one) will be cremated, using the words “Uncle John’s body”, not “Uncle John”. Explain that the remains of the body will be returned in a container called an urn and that the urn is not very big. From this point, provide information based on the questions the child will ask. Ask each child if he or she has any questions. If the child asks how the body gets smaller or what it’s like, say, “Cremation is a process that makes the body kind of like sand.” If the child asks how, say, “The process uses heat.” If the child asks, “Is it fire?”, answer by telling them again that the body is no longer alive and that it is just left behind, like a fallen leaf. When you are sure the child understands, you can say, “Yes, the way that cremation happens is with heat or fire.”
The key to explaining cremation is to be lead by the child to reveal the level of detail he or she needs to understand. Using non-dramatic words to describe the process is also important. If the child seems shocked, explain that bodies are cremated every day – that we believe it is an honorable way to take care of the body after someone has died. Most kids accept the idea fairly easily when they get a careful explanation.
Anne Hatcher Berenberg, PhD and Vicki Scalzitti co-authored the book 10 Steps for Parenting Your Grieving Children. Anne is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in work with children, adolescents, and their parents in Northfield, IL. Vicki is Manager of Children's Bereavement Services at Rainbow Hospice in Mt. Prospect, IL. Please stop by and visittheir website.