A Guide to Navigating the Loss of a Child

Bereavement

Posted on March 08, 2016 by Mica Matlack

If you were recently notified of a possible life-threatening complication in your pregnancy or your baby did not survive its first birthday due to a miscarriage, neonatal death, stillbirth or premature birth, you may be asked to make lasting decisions regarding the autopsy, delivery of the child, and method of eternal care during one of the most devastating times in your life. When making these difficult choices you may have the assistance of your physician, and while it is best to keep in mind the information given by your doctor, there may be other options available you were not offered. Funerals 360 would like to suggest that you make a list of any questions, concerns, desires and plans you may have pertaining to you and your child’s care. Here are a few suggestions and guidelines Funerals 360 would like to offer:

1: Make a birth plan.

Make a birth plan for the hospital and state your guidelines carefully. Share it with your physician. While the list is not set in stone, it is a good idea to write down your thoughts in case you forget them.

2: Make Decisions RegardingYour Own Care.

Decide whether or not you would like to be medicated during the birth. The medication may affect your memory or decision making abilities. Any concerns you may have, write down and consult with your physician.

3: Know Your Rights.

Inquire with your hospital or physician to see if they have a program in place that would allow you to interact with your child. Some hospitals allow the mother and father to hold, bathe, and sometimes change their baby. It may even be possible to bring your child home for a time, though some states do have restrictions on home death care. While these options are based on a case-by-case basis, it does not hurt to ask. Many parents have said the time spent with their child allowed them to build lasting memories that helped them through their grief process.

4: Set Boundaries.

Do not be afraid to say what you want for the child and set boundaries. Everyone reacts to the loss of a child differently and setting clear standards will help those around you and ease the grieving process.

5: Decide on Death Care Preference.

You will need to decide on death care preferences including burial or cremation, the use of a funeral home or providing home-death-care (i.e. a home funeral), as well as final resting place. Even when cremation is preferred, you have many options including keeping your infants cremated remains at home, interring them in private property, interring them in a family plot at a cemetery, or placing them in a niche at a cemetery. You can also have cremated remains added to custom jewelry pieces, art, or a tree planting - the possibilities are near endless.

6: Seek Funeral Professionals Who Will Work With Your Families Needs.  

In most states, you have the option of caring for your child at home and without the care of a funeral director. If you choose to use the services of a funeral director, know that some locally-owned funeral homes and cemeteries offer burial and cremation services for babies at a discounted price or free of charge. Do not hesitate to inquire with several local funeral homes to see what accommodations they will make. If you do not feel up to it, you can delegate a friend or family member you trust to look into it. We also recommend you inquire with your physician or hospital who may have local insights.

7: Write Down Questions.

Before calling a funeral home, be sure to write down your questions and take notes while on the phone. This will help you make an informed decision and ease your burden. You can search for and compare funeral homes and cremation services by zip-code or city and state, as well as other important factors at Funerals 360.

8: Don’t Rush.

Depending on you or your loved one’s emotional and mental state following the death of a child, it may be best to postpone a service until all relevant parties are at the capacity to make informed decisions. Broach any concerns to your physician and mortician if you have one in place, and make your feelings in this regard clear.

9: Let them help.

During this time, you will no doubt, be surrounded by all those who love, support, and empathize with you. While being surrounded by people may seem suffocating at times, it will sometimes be too hard for you to wake up and get dressed. Take your time and accept help when ready. It will allow those around you who care to be a part of your healing process, be proactive, and give you much needed time to rest.

10: Seek support.

Keep in mind that grieving is hard work. Your pain may never go away. But with the proper help, it can become more bearable and lessen over time. You and your partner, family, and friends will process the news of loss differently. Patience and understanding is key to maintaining relationships. There are various support groups that exist for newly bereaved families. We strongly suggest each family looks into and takes advantage of the services offered nearest to them to guarantee each person affected gets the help they need.

Some Sugggested Support Groups

Faces Of Loss is a digital platform for storytelling that seeks to put a face on miscarriages, stillbirths and infant loss.

Compassionate Friends provides users with an interactive online support group and community with chapters in nearly every state.

Loss Doulas International is a resource of compassionate navigators trained to support newly bereaved families who have a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, or fatal/ life-limiting diagnosis.

Still Birthday is an international organization whose philanthropic mission is to nurture sources of perinatal bereavement, strengthen skills of healthcare professionals and increase healthy engagement of perinatal related needs among communities. They offer a directory of Doulas trained to work with parents facing the loss of their infant.

In addition to the checklist above, you can learn more about resources available to you when facing the loss of a child in the article: Grieving the Loss of a Child | Resources, Support & Assistance.