Arranging a Funeral or Memorial Service
Depending on the age of your baby or week of pregnancy at the time of your loss, you may be required by law or have the option of holding a funeral or memorial service. If you decide to have a service, you will be faced with some important decisions. Making final decisions about your baby may take some time and usually there is no rush. It is important to make decisions you are comfortable with.
You and your spouse may want to ask a family member or friend to help you figure out what is best. Sometimes a family member or friend can place calls to funeral homes and cemeteries for you. You may want to talk with a pastor, rabbi, priest or other spiritual leader about your religious needs and beliefs surrounding the service.
There is no right or wrong way to have a funeral. Saying good-bye to your baby is a very personal and private matter. Ask for what you need, even if you think it won’t make sense to others.
Choose a funeral home and director you feel comfortable with. You do not have to pick the first person you call. Find someone you feel will support your needs and choices. Ask about costs and the special things you want.
Be patient with yourself and each other. No one can be protected from the pain of losing someone so very loved. Parents go through this pain in their own way and at their own pace.
What Are Your Choices?
DO YOU WANT CREMATION OR BURIAL?
This is a very personal choice. If you have strong personal or religious feelings about either choice, don’t ignore those feelings.
If you choose cremation, you can decide what you want to do with your baby’s ashes. The ashes can be buried in a small cemetery plot or put in a cemetery niche. You will need to contact a cemetery about these arrangements. Some parents find they want a place to visit later.
You can tell the funeral director to scatter the ashes or you can take the ashes home to scatter later. You can also keep the ashes at home if you prefer.
You can buy a family plot or you can buy a small plot just for your baby. Some cemeteries have a special section for babies.
Some parents worry about the costs of burial. Most cemeteries can help you establish a payment plan.
When your baby is buried, a marker with your baby’s name is placed on the grave. A headstone can be ordered and placed on the burial site any time, so take time to think about what you want on the headstone.
What Kind of Service do You Want?
A funeral service is held before the burial or cremation. A memorial service is usually held afterwards. The type of service you choose depends on your family’s needs and beliefs. Some families have both. Some parents prefer to have a private service as soon as possible, while others would rather wait a while.
Where Do You Want the Service Held?
The funeral or memorial service can be held at the funeral home, at your own church or synagogue, at your home or at the gravesite. Some parents are comforted by being in their place of worship, while others would rather use the mortuary or chapel. Some parents choose a garden or park. Decide which location works best for you.
IF THERE IS A CASKET, DO YOU WANT IT OPEN OR CLOSED?
This is also a very personal choice. Seeing the baby seems to be a needed part of saying good-bye for some parents. This can be done in many ways:
A public viewing for family and friends a day or so before the funeral.
A private viewing for you, family and close friends just before the funeral.
An open casket at the funeral.
Seeing the baby at the funeral can be a comfort for some parents. For others, seeing and holding the baby at home or in the hospital is enough. As always, do what is best for you.
Along with this booklet, you will receive a list of mortuaries and cremation services in Southern California. A member of Hoag’s Social Services department may be able to help you identify burial services that meet your needs.
Making Your Good-Bye Your Own
There are many ways you can make your baby’s funeral special. Here are some things other bereaved parents have done or wished they had done:
- Bring flowers from your garden.
- Arrange or purchase a spray of flowers for your baby’s casket.
- Choose a special outfit for your baby.
- Dress your baby yourself or have a friend dress your baby for you.
- Tie the baby’s bonnet or put on the shoes.
- Have pictures taken at the funeral by a friend or the funeral home.
- Keep a lock of your baby’s hair.
- Make a footprint or handprint.
- Choose a special verse, prayer, song or lullaby for the service.
- Place a toy, blanket or something special to you in the casket.
- Bring your baby book or photographs of the baby with you to the service.
You may want to hold your baby one more time before the funeral. This might be important if you have not been able to hold your baby since he or she died. If you want to hold your baby one more time before the funeral, talk to the funeral director about this request.
Children Going to the Funeral
The funeral gives children a way to say good-bye and show their love for their baby brother or sister. We all like to protect our children from the pain of death and sorrow, but it can be good for children to go to the funeral, if they want to. It may be good for children to see others expressing their emotions and that it is okay to cry. Some children feel better if they can give a small gift – a drawing, flower or small toy – to the baby. Going to the funeral may help your child feel more secure and part of the family.