What happens at a funeral? Can I go?

A funeral is a ceremony or service held shortly after a person’s death. Funerals are all very different, they maybe traditional, religious, a burial or a cremation. They are often personalised to reflect the person who has died and to give those who are left behind a chance to talk about and share memories of them.  Different cultures and religions have very different customs and ceremonies when someone dies, please see the links at the end for detailed insight into this.

Traditionally, the body of the person who died will be inside the coffin and this will be transported to the place where the funeral is being held in a vehicle arranged via the undertaker (funeral directors) this is usually a traditional hearse (a long black car with windows so the coffin is visible) but may be something alternative like a horse and cart or motorcycle and side carriage.  The family may choose to have a funeral procession; these are extra cars which follow the coffin to the ceremony (you will not be in the same vehicle as the coffin).

The coffin is made specially to fit the person who died so will be the same shape and size as them, these are made out of a variety of materials, often wood, but it may be wicker, elaborate or personalised.  The coffin is then carried in to the service by Pallbearers these are either people who work for the funeral home or people the family have invited to carry the coffin usually people who were important to the person who died.  Sometimes mourners (that is the collective name given to ‘everyone’ who attends) will follow the coffin in and at other times they will already be seated inside.  The family will make this decision.

The family will let you know what their arrangements for the funeral are. Some families like mourners to wear black to a funeral, as that colour is traditionally linked to mourning whilst others prefer people to wear something bright as they are celebrating the life of their special person or for everyone to wear something which was their favourite colour…

During the service immediate members of the family and close friends usually sit at the front.  The service normally consists of readings, songs/music and eulogies, these are short speeches where people talk about the life of the person who died, what made them special and share important memories.  If some of the stories told are funny, then people will often laugh as they recall these moments.

If someone special to you has died it can help to be involved in organising the funeral, you may want to take responsibility for or work with a trusted adult to do this. Some of the things you could consider helping with may be:

  • Compiling a montage of music for the coffin to be carried into and for people to walk out of the ceremony at the end of the service

  • Compiling a slideshow of photos of their life

  • Helping to write the Order of Ceremony (a small leaflet style book which tells mourners what is going to happen)

  • Giving out the Order of Ceremony when people arrive

  • Giving out a small gift at the end of the ceremony to everyone, often a flower or seeds…

  • Sharing a eulogy – reading out a song, poem or reading either one you have written or one which resonates with you.

Some of the information you may want to find out before you go to the funeral are; Who will be there? What is going to happen? Where will the service take place (you may want to visit beforehand to help prepare yourself for the event on the day)? When will the funeral happen? Why are we doing this?

For more support and advice visit:

Information about funerals – https://www.coop.co.uk/funeralcare

Information about cremations – https://scattering-ashes.co.uk/help-advice/funeral/cremation-faq/

Information about funeral traditions of different religions and cultures –



 “I was 11 when my dad died and I helped put together a slideshow of photos and my brother compiled a track of ride songs from our dad’s favourite rollercoasters. That helped us to feel involved. I don’t really remember the funeral apart from our car broke down!” Simon Says Young Person.

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