Arranging a Funeral
Many, but not all, hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales offer to arrange a funeral for a baby. This may be free of charge or there may be a fee. The choices you can make if you have a hospital funeral may sometimes be more limited than if you arrange the funeral yourself. With a hospital funeral your baby will usually be buried or cremated with other babies. Some parents find comfort in knowing their children will be with others. Generally, in a shared grave it is not possible to have a marker i.e. a headstone or cross.
Some parents arrange and pay for their baby’s funeral themselves. Most funeral directors charge a reduced rate or no offer no charge for a baby’s funeral.
Choices about the funeral
Whichever sort of funeral you decide on, there are always choices that you can make. For example, you may want your baby to be dressed in a particular outfit or wrapped in a special blanket. You may also want to ask the funeral director to put special items into your baby’s coffin, such as a soft toy, a letter or a poem, or photos. Some parents keep an identical outfit, blanket, toy, letter or poem as a keepsake.
You will need to decide whether your baby will be buried or cremated. If you are using a funeral director, he or she will tell you about local crematoria and burial grounds and what each offers.
Your baby can be buried in a cemetery, a green or woodland burial site or, if you belong to a faith group that has a cemetery, in consecrated grounds.
Most crematoria go to great lengths to try to ensure that there are ashes from the cremation of a baby, however few, by adapting the cremation process. They should be able to offer you ashes if your baby was born at or after about 17 weeks of pregnancy. If you want to have ashes, you need to tell the funeral director or the crematorium and ask them to let you know when they are ready for collection.
Which Cemetery or Crematorium
You can choose any cemetery or crematorium you wish but most people will pick one close to where they live to make visiting easier. Your funeral director can give you information on which ones are closest. Some cemeteries or crematoriums have dedicated areas or gardens for babies and children. Some crematorium gardens have memorial plaques you can dedicate to your baby, or you can have a tree planted, for a fee, with a dedication to your baby.
Mortlake, in Kew, is a crematorium local to West London where they have a beautiful babies’ and children’s garden themed around “Water bugs and Dragonflies”. www.mortlakecrematorium.org
Whatever kind of funeral you choose, take your time to think about how you would like to say goodbye to your baby and what would be right for you.
Things to think about include who will perform the ceremony, music, readings, flowers, candles, releasing balloons, doves or butterflies, if you want photographs.
There are many ways to make memories of your baby. Some people chose to get jewellery made, there are companies who can make pendants in miniature versions of your baby’s hand or footprints, these can be used for necklaces or cuff links. Some people get a tattoo to commemorate their baby.
What to do with your baby’s ashes is a very personal choice. You may choose to scatter them in a crematorium memorial garden or somewhere special to your family. Or you can keep the ashes at home. There are many different types of urn you can get including a teddy bear to hold your baby’s ashes.
There is also a company which can take some of your baby’s ashes and make it into glass jewellery; www.ashesintoglass.co.uk
Help with paying for a funeral
Most funeral directors in England and Wales do not charge a fee for their services for the funeral of a baby. You will still need to pay for flowers, funeral cars if you chose to have one and possibly the coffin. The Child Funeral Charity assists families financially in England and Wales who have to arrange a funeral for a baby or child and need some financial assistance. www.childfuneralcharity.org.uk
Sands UK have a leaflet which gives more help and advice on planning a funeral www.uk-sands.org/decidingaboutafuneral