Some Information about Formalities and Funerals

We at LOLA know that, of all the plans you have for your baby when you find out you are pregnant, planning a funeral or memorial is not one of them. Finding yourself in this situation can be a shock, and you are unlikely to have any idea where to begin. In addition, understanding and completing the paperwork associated with your baby’s death may feel overwhelming.

We have summarised some practical information below for you, in the hope you’ll find it useful.

Registration and Other Paperwork

If your baby has died and was born after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s stillbirth must be registered. Your bereavement midwife can help you with how and where to do this. The birth certificate will need to be shown to the person organising a funeral if you are having one, or the crematorium or cemetery.

If your baby has died and was born before 24 completed weeks of pregnancy (and this may legally be described as a ‘late miscarriage’ by some, even though you have laboured and delivered your baby stillborn) the death cannot be registered. However, if you are planning a funeral or memorial, the funeral director, cemetery or crematorium must have a Medical Certificate from the hospital.

There may also be additional forms you need to fill out to complete all of the formalities associated with your baby’s birth, death and funeral, and it is good to check this with your bereavement midwife. You can also see the SANDS pamphlet at page 8 for more detailed information on the formalities and paperwork.

Planning a Funeral or Memorial

For some parents, having a funeral or memorial may be very painful and not something you wish to do. Others may welcome it as an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate their baby’s life. For parents who choose to have a funeral or memorial for their baby, the information below may help you know where to start, and what is involved.

Making arrangements with the help of your hospital

Some hospitals may offer practical help to plan and arrange a service and burial for your baby. This is usually in conjunction with other parents who have lost a child, but some hospitals do offer individual funeral ceremonies for bereaved families. Ask your bereavement midwife what happens at your hospital.

If you decide to use your hospital to assist in arranging a funeral or memorial service you will have the benefit of placing the responsibility for most of the arrangements in the hands of someone who is experienced, at a time when you may feel you don’t have it in you to deal with this on top of your loss.

It is important to remember if you do this, there may well be some limits as to time, location or the type of funeral. The service may also be on a fixed date for you together with other families whose babies have died. The service may be non-denominational, or may be organised by the Chaplaincy at the hospital where your baby was delivered.

Making your own arrangements

Alternatively, you may prefer to arrange your baby’s funeral yourself. There are benefits and detriments with both approaches and your preference may depend on whether you feel you would benefit from having extra assistance in making arrangements, or whether you are comfortable and able to go about making arrangements independently.

You can begin by finding a funeral director who will help you to arrange the funeral you would like for your baby. You may start by looking online at the Good Funeral Guide, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors or the National Association of Funeral Directors. Alternatively, if you have a local funeral director, you may find it easier and more personal simply to call them to arrange an appointment to go in and talk.

Some funeral directors do not charge at all for funerals for babies. Others may charge a fee. You may apply for help with the costs of a funeral by applying to the Social Fund for a Funeral Payment or by contacting the Child Funeral Charity.

You will also need to consider things like setting a date, who you will invite to your funeral (you may want it to be just you and your partner, or for your family and friends to attend), what sort of coffin you would like for your baby, what you would like engraved on the plate of your baby’s coffin, the flowers you would like to be placed on your baby’s coffin or at the service, the music you’d like to be played, who you would like to speak or read at your baby’s funeral, whether you want candles or a printed order of service. You will also need to decide between a cremation or a burial.

This pamphlet on planning a funeral for your baby has been prepared by SANDS, the leading stillbirth charity in the United Kingdom, together with parents who have suffered baby loss. It contains a wealth of information and guidance, including a checklist to help you to plan your baby’s funeral, which we are sure you will find useful.

This blog, where parents discuss their experiences in planning a baby’s funeral, may also comfort you in knowing that you are not alone in this awful process, and provide you with some ideas for things you would particularly like to do for your baby’s funeral.

Helpful Links

You may also find these links useful in managing some of the things you will need to do after your baby has died.

These government sites explain the legal responsibilities and benefits available for bereaved families. Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go.

Child Funeral Charity provides financial assistance to families who have to arrange a funeral for a baby or child aged 16 and under. Families must be referred by a professional who have knowledge of the family and their circumstances.

The Money Advice Service details benefits families may be entitled to following the death of a baby or child.