This guide is also available as an online e-book. Or, navigate the full content of the booklet in this section of the website.
First, we want to extend our condolences. If this guide is in your hands, a child’s death has touched your heart. Facing a world in which your child is no longer living carries unimaginable heartache and grief. We want to assure you that you are not alone.
Planning a funeral in those first few days following your child’s death may seem unbearable. No words or actions can ease your sorrow or prepare you for such an important task. Knowing that others are here to support you may help you feel less overwhelmed and alone.
While every story is unique, your decision-making pathways may be similar to those who have also experienced the heartbreaking loss of a child. We hope the wisdom and experience of parents who have walked a similar path can offer you guidance and support. Our goal is to help you say goodbye in a way that is special, comforting, and meaningful. The bond you have with your child is not broken by death. You continue to be—and will always be—your child’s parent. You can show your love even after your child has died, and as you begin to plan their funeral.
Give yourself permission to take your time. The thought of planning your child’s funeral can be overwhelming. Pause. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel all your emotions so you can work toward understanding what your child’s death means to you and your family.
In an effort to ease your grief, you may feel tempted to rush through the funeral planning process or allow others to make all the decisions for you. However, trust yourself to know what is best for you and your family. The choices you make for your child are important now, and for your future healing.
Please remember that there is no “correct” way to plan a funeral or celebration of life. The goal is to honor your child’s unique life in a way that reflects your beliefs, allows you and others to express your love, and brings you peace and comfort. When you’re ready, know that others are here to support you and answer your questions.
“We had never planned a funeral. In fact, we had never even been to a funeral. Looking back, we are so grateful for the support and guidance that helped make Taylor’s funeral a meaningful experience for our family.”
—Taylor’s Mom & Dad
The Funeral Service Foundation funded this guide and created it in collaboration with the Greater Illinois Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition and the Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition. A special thank you to the dozens of bereaved parents, and healthcare and bereavement professionals who offered words of wisdom and support.
Additional thanks to Todd Hochberg who provided select photos, and to Kristin James, Betsy Hawley, Melissa Posey Loose, and Kelly Manion for their commitment to bringing this guide to grieving families and to those who walk alongside them.
The content in this guide is intended to complement, but not substitute for, the care and opinions of your funeral service professionals, healthcare providers, and grief and bereavement experts.
Funeral Service Foundation
Since 1945, the Funeral Service Foundation has served as the philanthropic voice of the funeral profession and has identified as the charitable arm of the National Funeral Directors Association since 1997. Donors and volunteer leaders profession-wide support the Foundation in its mission of investing in people and programs to strengthen funeral service and lift up grieving communities.
Copyright © 2022. Permission is granted for educational and nonprofit use of the publication and content, with acknowledgment. All other rights reserved. Published by the Funeral Service Foundation, 13625 Bishop’s Drive, Brookfield, WI 53005.