Funerals help you carry forward when it seems that you don’t know what to do next. Funerals promote healing and offer comfort even amid your grief. A funeral is rarely defined by a singular event. Rather, your funeral director will lead you through an arc of events and moments that will give your family the opportunity to tell your child’s story, share your legacy of love, and receive comfort in the days following your child’s death.
Your funeral director will schedule a formal meeting, often called an arrangement conference. You might find it difficult or overwhelming to remember all that needs to be done during the planning process. Use this guide as a tool to take notes, record ideas, and recall questions to ask your funeral director.
During the planning process, your funeral director most likely will:
Asking a trusted family member to join in planning may bring you peace of mind and provide added comfort. You may also want to include your pastor, faith leader, chaplain, or lay celebrant in arrangement planning. Give yourself permission to delegate tasks that feel overwhelming but remain mindful of well-meaning family and friends who may want to protect you by taking arrangements out of your hands. Remember that any final decisions are yours and your choices should be respected.
Writing down what feels most important to you can help guide you as you make arrangements.
“As a grandmother, I was tempted to shield my daughter from the pain. But as a mother, I knew she deserved the right to do what she wanted, as this was her last time to do anything for her child. I guess I knew I had the future to help my child. My child had only this time to do anything for her daughter.”
Share stories and memories, faith and cultural traditions, and hopes and dreams, to offer glimpses into your child’s life, and the life you envisioned for them. Your funeral care team truly wants to know about your child—every detail is meaningful and important.
One of the first decisions your funeral director will discuss with you is the care and preparation of your child’s body, including the option to embalm. Your discussion with your funeral director will take into account:
In most circumstances, your preparation decisions will not affect your ability to privately view your child. You may find solace and comfort knowing that your funeral care team will carry out acts of love that are important to your family when it is not possible for you to be with your child. Sharing your child’s preferences will further acquaint your funeral director with your child and offer ways to care for your child’s body with love and tenderness.
Your funeral director will use a variety of techniques (such as embalming) and light cosmetics when caring for your child’s body. Your guidance and suggestions will help your funeral director to prepare your child’s body for viewing:
Some families find comfort in helping the funeral staff care for their child’s body. Guided by your comfort level, ask your funeral director if you can help bathe, dress, or assist with hair, nail, and makeup preparations.
Offer your funeral director special comfort items:
Your funeral director will want to know if you would like these special items returned to you or kept with your child for burial or cremation. You may not immediately know your preference or you may find that you will change your mind throughout the planning process. Take your time before making a final, permanent decision. Rest assured that whatever is best for you, your child, and your family is the right answer.
“I always read stories to the children who are in my care.”
—Tonya, Funeral Director
Scent and touch can provide meaningful connections to our loved ones. Ask your funeral director to place your child’s clothing in a container to preserve your child’s unique and familiar scent. You may also want to request a lock of hair, thumb print, handprint, or hand molding, which are unique to your child, and can serve as powerful and lasting keepsakes.
Your funeral director will request that you provide the clothing in which you wish to have your child dressed for their final place of rest. You might select something formal, sentimental, or traditional. Perhaps casual or whimsical attire feels like the right choice. Some families select something brand new, and others opt for their child’s favorite outfit. No one knows your child better than you do. Whatever you select is perfectly appropriate. Also consider any footwear, undergarments, diapers, jewelry, or hair accessories. (Remember to clarify if you would like any items returned to you.) Encourage siblings to help select this special outfit.
When you think of your child at one of their happiest moments, what are they wearing?
What are they doing? This memory might provide inspiration.
“We dressed Sophie as a fairy with a little tiara and wand. We put a number of things with her in the casket, including her fairy doll and teddy, a favorite blanket, a book, and letters from her brothers.”
Many charitable organizations offer complimentary knitted booties, gowns, blankets, and caps for infants, or specially tailored clothing to fit infants and children.
“I took out her blanket before Lannie was cremated so I could keep something from these moments.”
“The wording on Andrew’s grave is very important to all our family— when we visit the cemetery, we always read it aloud.”
– Andrew’s Mom