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.