The funeral of HM The Queen takes place on 19 September at Westminster Abbey. High profile events such as this can elicit strong feelings in children and they may have questions and concerns around death and funerals, which may feel difficult to answer.

What you say will be influenced by your culture, beliefs, or your faith if you have one. The following are suggestions to give you the confidence to talk about The Queen’s funeral in a way that feels right for you and your children.

Explaining a funeral

As adults, we may assume that children will know what a funeral is. Unless they have previously experienced the death of someone they know, most young children will have little knowledge of what a funeral is and why we have them. Any information that they might have will probably have come from the media or via overheard conversations. The Queen’s funeral will be different in many ways to funerals a child may have seen in the media, or that they may have attended, and so how you describe it will differ from the way you might describe a family funeral. You might say:

“When someone important to us dies, we say goodbye to them by having a funeral. A funeral is a time when family and friends get together to think about and remember the person who has died.” 

“Because the Queen was very well-known, lots of people will come to her funeral, as well as her family and friends. If you want to, we can watch The Queen’s funeral on television together.”

Be honest

When talking to children about any aspect of death, it is important to be honest; use simple, straightforward language that uses the real words such as ‘dead’ rather than ‘lost’, ‘gone’ or ‘passed away’ which can be confusing to a child.

You might say: “The Queen’s body is in a special box called a coffin. She can’t feel anything because when someone dies, their body stops working and can’t feel anything.”

Explain what will happen

Even if a child has been to a funeral before, you may need to explain The Queen’s funeral as it will be different in some ways. You might say:

“The Queen’s coffin will be taken to a big church called Westminster Abbey in London in a gun carriage.”

“Soldiers will carry The Queen’s coffin to the front of the Abbey.”

“At The Queen’s funeral, there will be a special service at which people will sing songs called hymns, play music, say special prayers and share memories of The Queen.”

“After the ceremony, The Queen’s coffin will be taken in a car to a big church at her home at Windsor Castle. Because she was The Queen, there are special traditions that are followed and her coffin will be lowered into a special area in the church called a vault.”

Watching the funeral on television

If you are planning to watch The Queen’s funeral on television, ask your child if they would like to watch it with you but don’t put any pressure on them to watch.  Don’t expect them to stay engaged with what is happening; faced with difficult emotions, children have a tendency to 'puddle-jump’ moving quickly between sad and happier feelings. This is normal and helps them cope with difficult feelings.

Answer any questions they ask honestly and in age-appropriate language. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so but say you’ll try to find out. 

Managing feelings

Let your child know that different people react in different ways and it’s OK to be upset – or not - when they watch The Queen’s funeral or hear about it in the media. For some children, and adults, the focus in the media on The Queen’s death and funeral may make them think about people who are special to them who have died or they may worry someone close to them will die. Children may see people around them or on television who are emotional - some may be tearful. Explain that some people are sad because they are thinking about their memories of The Queen or about other people who were important to them who have died. Let them know that it’s OK if they get upset. You might say:

“People react in different ways when someone dies - everyone is different. It’s OK to show that you’re upset.”

Equally, if your child is not feeling upset, then tell them that that is OK too.

To help explain why the funeral or other events may trigger emotions for your child, watch our short animated film: The Invisible Suitcase.

If your child is upset or feels overwhelmed, allow them a safe space to take some time out if they need it.

Questions around someone they know who has died

The coverage of the funeral of The Queen may prompt questions from your child about someone they know who has died, or someone who is not expected to live. You might find some of the following resources helpful:

Explaining to a child that someone has died

Children’s understanding of death at different ages

Remembering someone who has died

Puddle Jumping Animation

The Invisible Suitcase Animation

How we grieve

When someone is not expected to live