Letting a family member or close friend help with funeral planning can be very beneficial. You can and should still be involved in planning the details, but this allows someone else to take on the burden of logistics and communication during the beginning of your grief journey.
While there are numerous steps and details in funeral planning, don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s your child, and you get to decide how involved you want to be in planning the details. Ask for help when you need it and take charge when you feel the urge. Do what feels right to you and your child, not to those attending the funeral. If you need help or suggestions at any point, please reach out to us and we will be happy to share our knowledge and experience with you.
Planning a funeral is terribly difficult and is likely one of the first decisions you will have to make as a bereaved parent. You may have been to funerals in your life, but you have probably never had to plan one, so you may be unfamiliar with how it works. We’ve listed some key steps to give you an idea of what to expect.
- You will be asked by the hospital which funeral home you’d like to use.
- The funeral will usually take place relatively soon after your child dies, usually within a week.
- You will be asked to bring an outfit of your child’s to the funeral home, and any other personal affects you would like in the casket.
- Most of the funeral planning will be in person.
- The funeral home will ask if you want to bury or cremate your child. If you decide to bury, they will ask what cemetery you would like to use. If you cremate, they will ask what urn you would like to order. Either way, they will ask you to choose a casket. These options are usually shown to you in person or in a catalog.
- You will be asked for a description of your child’s life to post on the funeral home’s website and/or in a newspaper announcement.
- You will have to decide if you want an open casket, a wake, and the times for the wake and funeral.
- You will need to decide the type of service you want. If religious, what church and who will preside. If not religious, the funeral home will probably offer a secular service in their building. They will ask you to choose a chaplain or someone else to officiate.
- The priest or person officiating the service will have a conversation with you about your child’s life and will ask you to decide if there will be a eulogy, what songs you would like, if there will be any readings, and who will do those things.
- You will be asked if there is anywhere you would like to request donations from in lieu of flowers. You may consider an organization that meant a lot to your child, an organization that may have helped during the medical process (e.g., the Ronald McDonald House Charities) or if you wish to help support parents of child loss, Just Enduring would greatly appreciate the consideration as well.
- You will need to choose a prayer or funeral card, which will require a photo and a prayer, poem or another saying on the back.
- You will need to decide who to invite to the funeral. This is a great task to delegate to a close friend or family member.
- You may also want to let one person at work know to pass the information along to your co-workers.
- You will need to decide if you will be having some sort of luncheon after the ceremony and plan the details. Again, this is a great time for a loved one to assist you.
- After the funeral, the funeral home will obtain the death certificates for you.
- If you have your child cremated, it may take a few weeks to receive their ashes.
- If you choose a burial plot, the headstone will take some time to complete before it can be placed on the gravesite.
Funeral Home / Cemetery / Cremation Questions to Ask
Some additional questions to consider include:
- Find out if they offer free or discounted services for child loss.
- Find out how much the casket and/or urn will cost and when they will expect you to pay the bill.
- Do they have a florist they recommend?
- Do they have a cemetery they recommend? If you decide to bury your child, we recommend choosing a location near you so that you are able to visit your child’s grave as often as you’d like.
- If you decide to use a cemetery, find out ahead of time what their restrictions are for visiting, headstones, and placing flowers or other items on the gravesite. Some locations have strict rules.
- If you choose an urn, think about what you want written on the urn. If it is too overwhelming, consider getting a temporary urn until you feel you are able to choose a permanent one
Planning a child’s funeral is probably unlike anything you have experienced. It often feels out of place to attempt a traditional funeral. Below are some suggestions on things you may wish to include at your child’s funeral or memorial service.
- Consider putting some personal effects, like toys and favorite things in the casket with your child. You can display them during the wake/ funeral and either bury them with your child or bring them back home to create a memory box with.
- Having someone create a photo collage of your child to display at the funeral home.
- Doing a balloon or lantern release after the ceremony with your loved ones.
- Lighting candles during the ceremony.
- Asking for donations for a cause associated with your child.
- Having a memorial tree planting in memory of your child or offer seeds for your friends and family to plant on their own.
- Choosing songs your child liked, songs that remind you of your child, or songs that are about losing children (even if they aren’t typical funeral songs). Please contact us if you need suggestions.
- Choosing readings or poems that are more child-like in nature or are specific to child loss. Please contact us if you need suggestions.
- For the funeral cards, consider using a photo of your child and/or a saying from their favorite book or something else that has meaning to you. Often, the stock cards are meant for older adults and do not seem to be fitting for a child.
- Consider giving a eulogy for your child. As the parents, nobody knew your child better than you. It may help to write it out beforehand, or even pre-record it to play at the funeral if you think it will be too difficult to do in person.
- You may wish to hold your baby during the planning process and/or after the funeral, when everyone has left. Some parents do not wish to do this, while others find comfort and closure in it.
- Ask the funeral home if they save your child’s fingerprints or handprints. Often they do, and they offer jewelry and other items using those prints. You can usually decide the details well after the funeral is over. Some people even put a small portion of the ashes in a necklace or similar item to keep with them.
- Before burying your child or having them cremated, you may wish to ask for a lock of hair, handprints, and/or footprints as a keepsake.
- Consider whether you want to take any photos or videos of the funeral or ceremony. Some parents may not want to do this, in keeping with a traditional funeral, but others may find comfort in being able to look back at the images since they are usually in a fog during that time and may have a hard time remembering details.