Planning the funeral and memorial is your final act of caring for your child in this world.
You will likely have many options in front of you for celebrating your child’s life. Preparing each part of the ceremonies will give you a sense of control in a time of deep loss and confusion.
Preparing together as a family can be very therapeutic, especially for siblings, who will value active involvement in the midst of their trauma.
Gifts in Memoriam
Many families ask people to make donations to a charity close to their heart, rather than sending flowers. Talk to the funeral director about your wishes. They will usually handle donations and liaise with the charity on your behalf.
Many charities have “In Memory” programs for occasions such as this. They will send you a special card several months later, telling you how much has been donated in your child’s memory, and thanking you for the gift.
Burial or Cremation
Often the most difficult decision to make is whether to have a burial or cremation. This is very personal, and there is no right or wrong choice.
In many countries, a child can be buried somewhere other than a cemetery or churchyard. Ask your funeral director about local regulations. You do not have to hold the burial at the same time as the funeral. You may wish the service to be open to all, and the burial private, or vice versa.
After cremation, ashes can be scattered in a special place such as your child’s favourite play area or a place of natural beauty. An urn containing the ashes can also be buried or taken home.
Preparing Your Child
You may wish to choose your child’s clothes and hairstyle. Some funeral directors will allow you to do this yourself if you wish. Consider giving the funeral home a photograph so they can style hair as you wish it.
You may wish to place special items or keepsakes with your child in the casket. A favourite toy, letters or photographs. Inviting your other children, relatives and your child’s friends to do this can be very therapeutic.
The funeral director can usually help you create memories of these last times you share with your child. For example, taking photos or a hand print. Some funeral directors allow families to have the casket at home until the funeral, helping parents feel the child is in their care to the very end.
You may wish to see our child at the funeral home, and invite others to do so. This can be helpful in accepting reality and saying goodbye, but it is very normal also to not want to see your child. If family and friends visit your child, let them know of any significant change in her appearance.
Planning the Service
The funeral director and religious leader (minister, priest, rabbi etc) will help you prepare the service. You can choose music, readings, order of service layouts and memorial acts that reflect our child’s interests and personality.
Discussing these options can ease your feelings of helplessness and loss of control. Painful as this process is, your involvement in it will ultimately help you and your family mourn and celebrate the life of your much loved child.