Interview with Michael Schoedinger: Including Children in the Services
Parents and caregivers often wonder if, and how, they can include their children in the funeral services following the death of a loved one. Giving children and teens the ability to participate in a way that feels comfortable for them can help to promote feelings of empowerment and resilience through a very difficult time.
Schoedinger Funeral Home and Cremation Services
Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services, based in Columbus and Central Ohio, not only recognizes the importance of including children in the services, they go to great lengths to support children and honor their experiences with age-appropriate opportunities to connect with their departed loved one – and their community – at a time it matters most.
Interview with Michael Schoedinger, President of Schoedinger Funeral Home and Cremation Services
Michael shared his insights about how their home is going the extra mile to give children the time and space to say their own meaningful goodbyes in powerful ways.
“Including children creates a better healing experience for them in the long-term and helps them to go forward about their life in a healthy way.”
1. How does Schoedinger Funeral Home support children who are grieving the loss of a loved one?
It starts with our arrangement conference. We ask if there are young children affected by the death. Our staff offers guidance for parents on how to be proactive when speaking with and including their children, instead of ignoring their need to express themselves.
We have grief therapy dogs available to offer comfort to children and their families, and we have lots of age-appropriate grief resources – coloring books, journals and activities – to help children express themselves.
The Memory Drawer is one of the best things we do. This treasured memories box is something we offer for cremation or burial. We give the family stationery, kids and adults, so they can write a goodbye letter or draw a picture to encourage survivors to say goodbye in their own private way. Families place their drawings and letters in the casket or cremation container as a way to say their goodbye.
2. What do you find are some of the best ways to include children in the services?
The number one great thing we like to do is include children and teenagers as a part of the pallbearer team as an honorary pallbearer. Other good opportunities are to have them be a eulogist or reader, or to offer them a few minutes during the service to share a favorite memory. Children may also like to participate by handing out funeral brochures or memorial cards.
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3. If you could offer one piece of advice to the parent of a child facing the loss of a loved one, what would you tell them?
Don’t ignore your children. Be very thoughtful and engaging with them. Plan on spending time with your children away from TV and video games to check in. Talk about the life that’s been lived, and ask your children, how are you feeling? Think of ways to involve them in the events that are happening and give them options so they can choose what feels right for them. Be neutral when asking these questions so as not to sway children one way or the other. Helpful questions can include: Would you like to attend the service? Do you want to speak? Would you like to see grandma in her casket?
4. How do you respond to any parents who express concern about a perceived negative impact that the services may have on their child?
I ask them to reflect on their own experiences. I ask them to share their earliest recollections of death, to tell me about the experiences they had when they were a child, to think back to when they were 4 years old, 14 years years old. We talk about whether those experiences were good or bad. I help parents to see that they now have the ability to control that experience for their own child, and then we talk about what sort of experience and memories they wish for their own children to have.
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