One of the most difficult things a parent can be asked to do is to plan the funeral or memorial service of a child who has yet to be born. Most experts agree that a formal funeral or service is an important part of the grieving process of giving birth to a child who isn’t meant for this world—and getting started early can help you process some of your emotions in advance.
Most infant funerals in this type of situation occur within a week following your loss. Because you and your family will be undergoing a difficult trial (and possibly recovering from surgery or childbirth), having everything prepared ahead of time can allow you to focus on what really matters during this time.
Plan a Memorial Service Your Way
There is no rule that says you have to hold a traditional funeral for your child, or even that you have to hold one at all. You can call it a memorial service, a commemoration of life, a going home party, or even a birthday celebration. How you set it up is entirely up to you, though you may want to follow a few general guidelines.
- Contact a Funeral Home You Trust: Funeral homes tend to be familiar with the process of burying a newborn child, and will be able to coordinate services according to your wishes. Look for a home that offers sympathy and a friendly approach, as you’ll be entrusting your child’s legacy to their hands.
- Determine Your Interment Wishes: The decision of whether to bury or cremate a child can be an agonizing one. Bear in mind your religious preferences, your desire for portability (if you will be moving away at a later date and may want to visit the grave), finances, and personal wishes. Both of burial and cremation are viable options and can be accommodated in a way that is caring and appropriate.
- Take Your Time Making Decisions: It can be comforting for many families to choose the details of the burial. A special outfit for your child to wear, a hand-knitted blanket to be wrapped up in, the final casket, a burial location and headstone—even the flowers and special memorial tributes you want at the service. As these are one of the few things you’ll be able to do for your child, it’s okay to take your time and savor the process.
- Set a Date: Because many children in this situation are born via C-section or another planned delivery, you may be able to make advance memorial service plans. By setting a date and confirming location and other services, you allow family members to organize their schedules to join you.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is locate resources—both online and in person—for individuals in your situation. Support groups, grief counselors, and other parents can help you through the process. In addition to providing you with tips for the memorial service, they can help you begin to understand your loss and what it means for your family’s future.