Planning a funeral for any loved one will take an emotional toll, but it may be even more taxing when that service is for a baby. However, honoring the life of an infant who has passed away with a funeral or memorial service is one way in which parents can continue grieving while being supported by family and friends.
Throughout the month of September, we recognize National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, and many organizations use it as a time to educate people about causes of infant mortality and available resources for families who have experienced this type of loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant before his or her first birthday, and the infant mortality rate is determined based on the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Although it has continued to decline in the last 50 years, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. has remained at approximately 5.8 since 2017. This means dealing with the loss of an infant is still an unfortunate reality for many families. If your family is faced with the difficult task of planning a funeral for a baby, this helpful information will get you started.
Before the Service
Type of Service – One of the first decisions you’ll have to make following the loss of your infant is determining what kind of service to have and how large you’d like it to be. While some parents may feel compelled to host a large traditional funeral in a church, others might prefer an intimate and private memorial at a meaningful location. Remember, there is no wrong way to honor the life of your baby. Both memorial and funeral services provide an opportunity for loved ones to come together and offer support through the grieving process.
Caskets or Urns— Whether you decide on a casket or an urn, you can find an appropriate vessel size for your baby. Funeral homes will offer you options in a range of budgets and needs. These caskets and urns are often decorated with meaningful and symbolic images such as babies in angel wings or small hand and feet prints.
Burial Clothing – Unless there are religious requirements, you can choose what clothing you want your baby to wear and what additional items you’d like to have buried with them. Parents often find comfort in burying their child with a stuffed animal, blanket or any small memento that they enjoyed.
During the Service
An experienced and knowledgeable funeral director will help relieve families of some responsibilities related to planning and executing the flow of the service so they are able to focus on mourning the loss of their loved one.
While there is a common structure that is typically followed when organizing funerals and memorial services, the flow of the service will be dependent on several factors including the type and location of the service. If a family is religious, there may be a set structure to follow based on their faith. However, most services are organized according to a family’s preferences and the capabilities of the funeral home or facility where the service will be held.
Music – Though musical selections are not always the first items checked off of a funeral planning list, finding the right music for a ceremony is an important part of making arrangements. When planning the service, keep in mind the music you choose will influence the tone of the ceremony. Playing popular music in addition to traditional hymns and instrumental songs, is perfectly acceptable at a funeral or memorial service. However, it’s important to thoroughly examine the lyrics before making your selections, and if the ceremony is religious, you should speak with your religious leader beforehand to determine if the song choice is appropriate.
Readings – Most funeral or memorial services will include readings even when they are not religious. If you are having a religious service, scriptures and other excerpts from religious text are often used. In non-religious services, many families choose to read story passages, poems or quotes. Some non-religious readings that can be used specifically in a service for a baby or young child include, “Too Soon” by Mary Yarnall, “Silent Child” by Kelly Lancor, “Light” by Hugh O’Donnell, and excerpts from “I’ll Love You Forever,” by Robert Munsch.
Photos and Videos – In today’s technological age, more funeral homes and places of worship are equipped with technology that allows families to share a photo and video slideshow of their lost loved ones during a service. While this type of display is more typical of a viewing, some families may choose to include the montage in a memorial or non-traditional funeral service.
Coping and Grief Support
Coping with the death of a child tends to present a unique set of challenges for families and can be particularly impactful on a family’s dynamic. It is important that families take the time to grieve.
Though healing from a loss can be a long and difficult process, you don’t have to face it alone. There are a variety of support groups and other resources available for families who are mourning loss, and specifically the loss of a child.
Bereaved Parents of the U.S.A. – A self-help group that offers support, understanding, compassion and hope to bereaved parents.
Compassionate Friends – An organization for bereaved parents, assisting families following the death of a child.
MISS Foundation – A volunteer-based organization providing counseling, advocacy, research and education services to families coping with the death of a child.
In addition to joining support groups, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy also recommends families adopt other coping strategies including journaling, establishing new family rituals, and when necessary, seeking a professional marital or family therapist.
If you, or someone you love, is experiencing the loss of a baby or child and needs assistance in making arrangements, call Bevis Funeral Home today at 850-385-2193. For additional grief support options, review our Grief Support Resources online.