Planning for a funeral is the last thing on anyone’s mind during pregnancy, but for a family who has been given a poor or fatal diagnosis it is a cruel reality. It can feel very unnatural to be planning such things while your baby kicks around in your belly. Many families choose to plan ahead of time so that they do not have to worry about preparations after the birth of their baby. Some families just aren’t ready to face those decisions so they wait and that is ok. You can plan some things ahead of time and wait on other things. There is no correct way to do it.
One of the most important decisions a family must face is choosing the funeral home. Not all funeral homes are the same. Prices and services among funeral homes vary and so does the compassion of the staff. Call and ask about making pre-arrangements over the phone and to set up a meeting with the funeral director. You may already know what funeral home you will be using or you may decide over the phone. An in-person meeting is not mandatory.
Ask the funeral home what services they offer and the basic cost. Many funeral homes offer discounted or free services to families whose baby has died. Find out exactly what is discounted or free. There are differences in cost between burial and cremation so you may want to know the cost of each, especially if you are unsure what you will do. Take into consideration the compassion of the staff when deciding on what funeral home to use. You want someone who will be kind, gentle, and supportive when you are fragile, both during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
Once you have chosen a funeral home you can set a time to go over pre-arrangements in person. Do not feel like you have to take care of everything in just one appointment. You can make multiple appointments or even wait on some things until after your baby is born. Making arrangements can be emotionally difficult and it is ok to show those emotions. You are doing something that no parent ever wants to imagine doing for their child. The funeral home staff should understand, as they deal with death every day. It may be helpful to bring along a support person when making arrangements. This could be a family member, friend, or spiritual leader, such as a pastor.
Burial vs. Cremation
One of the biggest decisions to make in this process is whether you will choose burial or cremation for your baby. Either option allows you the choice to have some type of service, if desired. Some parents choose cremation over burial because of the cost. Cremation typically costs less than a burial. Parents may also choose cremation because they prefer to keep their baby close to them. If the family has plots in a cemetery they may lean more towards burial. Some cemeteries even have plots available for families for free if they have lost a baby. If you choose to have your baby buried, some type of embalming will likely be performed, depending on the age and condition of the baby. Any concerns or questions you have about either can be answered by your funeral director. If finances are a concern, ask about programs that help to cover the cost.
If you decide on burial for your baby, you will need to choose what casket your baby will be buried in. Depending on the type of casket, you may also need to pick out a vault. Some baby caskets come with a combined casket/vault and some are separate. The funeral home will likely have a free option for a casket for babies, but it may be made of just Styrofoam. If you are uncomfortable with this option, ask for lower priced caskets. There are many styles available and different materials are available in different price ranges. For example, caskets made of particle board will cost less than caskets made of steel. The same concept applies for vaults too. Ask the funeral director what options are available for both caskets and vaults. A catalog should be available for you to look at.
If you decide on cremation, you can choose to buy an urn either before your baby is born or any time after they have been cremated. You can also choose to not buy an urn at all. The crematorium will place your baby’s ashes in a temporary container. You may choose to keep them in this until you have chosen an urn or if you plan on scattering your baby’s ashes. Another option with cremation is cremation jewelry that allows you to wear some of your baby’s ashes in a beautiful piece of jewelry so your baby is with you always.
There are other services that the funeral home provides that you have the option of choosing. If you are having a service with a burial they may have the option of a limo available for you to ride in to the cemetery. It is available for the parents and anyone they choose to ride, such as living children or grandparents. The funeral home can provide you with copies of the death certificate if applicable. They will charge for the cost to get the certificate, but it saves you from having to get it themselves later and having to face people when you may not be ready.
Funeral homes do offer the option of purchasing urns, cremation jewelry, and headstones through them, but do not feel obligated to do so. There are outside companies you can use for any of these. Also, if you are not ready to look into getting any of them that is ok. These are all things that can wait for when you do feel you are able. When you do order keep in mind that it may take weeks for it to come in. A headstone may take even longer.
If you have chosen a burial for your baby, then you will have to decide what cemetery your baby will be buried in. The funeral home can provide you with a list of local cemeteries and perhaps even some quotes on the price per plot. You can choose to call the cemetery and set up a meeting or call and get information over the phone. It is important that you go and visit each cemetery so that you may see how well the grounds are taken care and if you like the surroundings. This is a place you will likely be visiting often so you want your baby to be buried in a place that is beautiful and peaceful to you.
There are a few things you should ask when calling or meeting with different cemeteries. You will want to find out the rules for each. Some cemeteries allow you to plant your own plants and have other items on the ground, while others only allow you to have things that are attached to the headstone or vase. Most cemeteries are open from dawn to dusk every day, but it is good to find out from each one their visiting hours and if they close at any time during the year for certain reasons. Cemeteries located in regions that get snow are closed when a large amount of snow has fallen and you do not want to be caught off guard if you stop for a visit and you cannot get in. You can also ask how often the graves are tended to and the grass is mowed.
Find out what it costs per plot and what plots are available for purchase. Maps of the cemetery should be available to look at and decide what area you may want. Always look at the plot in person before deciding as it may not be appealing in person to you. Some people prefer plots near trees, while others prefer lots in the open or near the road. You may also be looking for plots close to other family members. The cemetery will charge you the cost for the plot and also to dig the grave when it is time to bury your baby. Once the plot is purchased you will be presented with a deed to the small portion of land.
Many cemeteries have the option of having your baby buried in a special section with other babies (many parents call this section ‘babyland’). You can choose to bury your baby here or elsewhere in the cemetery. Something some parents consider buying plots for themselves when buying a plot for their baby, so that they will be buried close together.
Families are often unsure about having a visitation or a service for their baby that has died. No one really knew their baby so why have one? Having a visitation and/or a service allows those in your life to surround you with love and support. They may not have known your baby but love your baby because they love you. It is a way you can honor your baby. Do not feel obligated to do either as both are optional. Choosing to not have either does not mean you do not love your baby. You can have both no matter if you choose burial or cremation for your baby.
You may consider having an open casket for the visitation and/or service if you would like to give people an opportunity to see your baby and say their own goodbye. An open casket is a valid option for any baby, but if your baby has damage to the skin or severe deformities it is ok to not have the casket open. Your funeral director may advise you, but the final decision is yours to make. If you choose to have a closed casket and there are those who would like to see your baby or if you want anyone to have the chance to say goodbye you can have them come before the visitation or service to do so. You can also have your own time alone before the casket is closed and sealed for good. You can choose to do this before or after the service.
If you decide to have a visitation or a service you can choose to make it public or private. If you choose to have a private service, you can choose who to invite. It can be as few or as many as you are comfortable with. Whether it is public or private, you can have the service at a church or funeral home or choose to have just a graveside service. If you decide on having a visitation and/or service at the funeral home, church, or even in your own home you are allowed to hold your baby at any moment you feel the need to. You can even hold your baby the whole time. This option is often not presented to parents and can be comforting to them to have those last moments being close to their baby.
Once your baby is born the time draws closer and closer that you will have to say goodbye. At some point it will be time to either call the funeral home to come for your baby or be discharged from the hospital to take your baby to the funeral home. One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is to hand their baby over to someone else and walk away. It goes against the very instinct a parent has.
Think ahead of time what you may want to arrange with the funeral home. Would you rather they come to the hospital for your baby or would you prefer to leave the hospital with your baby? You can keep your baby with you as long as you want, even until after you are discharged. Depending on your baby’s condition, you may feel the need to give up your baby sooner. You can consult with the funeral home if you are unsure. Make sure the maternity unit is aware of your wishes after delivery. If you plan for one way and end up changing your mind, it is ok. The maternity unit and the funeral home should be willing to accommodate want you want. If you are planning a home funeral you will need to find out from the funeral home if your baby should go there first or can go directly to your home. Laws vary by state so make sure if you do want a home funeral or if you are crossing state lines at any point that you are aware of all the laws.
Held by Natalie Grant
I Will Carry You by Selah
Thought You’d Be Here by Wes King
Small Bump by Ed Sheeran
Climbing Clouds by Jetty Rae
What’s Mine is Yours by Katherine Nelson
Glory Baby by Watermark
Beauty Will Rise (entire CD) by Steven Curtis Chapman
Not Right Now by Jason Gray
Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray
Steady my Heart by Kari Jobe
Come as You Are by Crowder
Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher
The Hurt & The Healer by MercyMe
Bring the Rain by MercyMe
Homesick by MercyMe
Hold On by TobyMac
Keep My Heart Alive by Sanctus Real
Rescue Me by Kerrie Roberts
Keep Breathing by Kerrie Roberts
Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North
Hold my Heart by Tenth Avenue North
Worn by Tenth Avenue North
Busted Heart by King & Country
Broken Hallelujah by The Afters
Keep my Heart Alive by Sanctus Real
I’m Not Alright by Sanctus Real
Strong Enough by Matthew West
Save a Place for Me by Matthew West
The Sun is Rising by Britt Nicole
Your Hands by JJ Heller
Who You Are by JJ Heller
Blessings by Laura Story
My Hope is in You by Aaron Shust
I Want You Here by Plumb
Need You Now by Plumb
Borrowed Angels by Kristin Chenoweth
Gone Too Soon by Daughtry
A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
Never Alone by Barlow Girl
Fly by Celine Dion
Who You’d Be Today by Kenny Chesney
See You Again by Carrie Underwood
There You’ll Be by Faith Hill
One More Day by Diamond Rio
Hello, Goodbye by Michael W. Smith
Welcome Home by Michael W. Smith
With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman
Still by Gerrit Hofsink
Precious Child by Karen Taylor Good
Alright by Calvin Nowell
Slipped Away by Avril Lavigne
Hug Him Once For Me by Erica McClure
In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan
Smallest Wingless by Craig Cardiff
I’ll See You Again by Westlife
Footprints in the Sand by Leona Lewis
One More Day by Rocket Club
Dancing in the Sky by Dani and Lizzy
Music Source (part of this list came from source linked, others added by SGM Team)