Saying goodbye to the baby – funerals and services
Parents were often offered a funeral for their baby, which for many came as a surprise. They were often unaware that it was a possibility and unsure whether it was the right thing for them. Many found it hard to make a decision quickly after their baby’s birth. They were often in shock and the early stages of grief, and felt they needed more time.
While it was a distressing and very sad event, most parents did decide to attend a funeral for their baby. It was an opportunity to acknowledge their baby’s life. Emily and Mike felt their baby’s funeral offered them closure. Some parents said they were concerned what other people thought about them having a funeral for their baby. Courtney was worried people would think it wasn’t appropriate to have a funeral when her baby was “not counted as a stillbirth.” Other parents found it too distressing and did not want to attend. Kareena and Raj felt they had “sort of had our moment so we didn’t want to spoil it”. Interview 24: Matthew didn’t want to attend the cremation of his daughter as he thought it would be too painful.
Arranging a funeral
Arranging a funeral was not something expectant parents had thought about. Some parents were offered an individual service for their baby at the hospital while others were offered a group funeral where a service was given for several babies who had died. Some parents wanted a more personal approach and chose to organise their own ceremony through a funeral director. Many parents felt they didn’t know where to start and “didn’t have the head space” to organise a funeral so soon after their loss. They appreciated the help of hospital or funeral directors arranging everything so all they needed to do was to turn up. Others found planning the funeral gave them a helpful focus. Parents often made the service more personal by writing poems or letters to their child or choosing special music and songs. Some described placing special mementoes with the baby – blankets and soft toys they had kept with the baby.
For some parents attending their baby’s funeral was a very private matter with only them present. Other parents wanted their older children to be present, and sometimes close family and friends were invited. Collecting the ashes
Some parents chose a burial for their baby while others had a cremation. Collecting their baby’s ashes after the cremation was often very distressing for parents. Helen Z found herself physically unable to speak when she went to the crematorium to collect her son’s ashes.
Many people talked about how they found comfort in visiting the baby's grave or the special place where they had put the baby's ashes. Some parents chose a permanent memorial such as a cemetery, a Sands memorial garden, a woodland burial or their own garden as it offered a place to visit and reflect. Others kept their baby’s ashes in a special place in the home as they wanted them to be close by and they could move house with them. Carly felt “in hindsight, I would have had her buried, rather than cremated. Like I feel like I would have liked somewhere to visit, like a grave.” Delays
Many of the parents we talked to described waiting for several weeks or even months for the funeral to take place waiting for investigations to understand the cause of the death or because the number of slots kept free by the local crematorium for hospital funerals were sometimes very limited. David and Asun found this time offered an opportunity to reflect on the kind of funeral they wanted. For Vikki the long waiting time delayed her grief.
After the death of a baby, the baby’s body may need to be moved to different locations for investigations before burial or cremation. Parents often talked about how important it was to know where their baby was. Parents appreciated it when they were kept up to date about where their baby was. Both Asun and Camille found it upsetting not knowing where their baby was and thinking they were all alone. Vikki found it distressing when she couldn’t find out from the hospital where her baby was and had to ask the funeral director to find her baby.