You just experienced one of the worst events in your life: losing your baby. You honestly can’t think how things could get any worse. Then, the doctor starts talking about your baby’s funeral, and your stomach sinks.
The mere thought of picking up the phone and explaining your situation to a dozen strangers sends hot tears to your eyes and a tremor in your voice.
“How should I know the best place?” you think. You haven’t exactly needed to research funeral homes before.
At this point, I encourage you to find someone else to do the dirty work for you. Your mommy heart can only take so much. I did my own research, and I hated every moment of it.
I do understand that some of you will be forced to research it yourself. Maybe you have many special plans that you want to add to the ceremony, or you can’t go too pricey on the service.
For us, I was just the most readily available to call during business hours (I was on bed rest), and I was constantly thinking about it anyway. As I researched, though, I noticed a few things about this process that I hope will help you.
Just like car insurance or even groceries, shopping around local funeral homes a little will help you see your options. Maybe price weighs in a lot on your decisions. Don’t feel guilty about this: you likely weren’t expecting the cost.
Or maybe you prefer certain locations or services. Funeral homes offer different services or packages that you’ll need to research to find the best option.
Also, when you or your friend calls, ask about small fees up front. Funeral homes might charge you for things like the hearse, casket, chapel, graveside ceremony, memorial flowers, gravestone, gravestone installation, burial, or a memorial meal.
I originally thought that funeral homes lumped all of these items under one giant cost. Unfortunately, many times these costs are separate and expensive. If you shop around enough, you may be blessed with a funeral home that will you give you many of these services for free.
If cost truly does concern you, remember that graveside services are almost always cheaper than chapel services. You could try finding your own memorial flowers, and you could research gravestones from online companies.
Sometimes, you can avoid a hearse fee if the funeral home rests on the burial location, and you can always plan a memorial dinner at a church or a friend’s home.
Bring a friend.
You already know the benefits of having a friend make plans with the funeral home. But only you or your husband can actually sign the paperwork to finalize everything.
My husband tied all the loose ends on the planning for me. My heart was too heavy to follow through with the research I had done.
Because I had done all the initial work, though, Kenny was thankful that our pastor offered to go with him. Our pastor was the one who could pipe up when something sounded too pricey or not in line with our plans. According to my husband, the process went smoothly, but he appreciated the support.
If nothing else, you may need emotional support as you sign all the papers. Definitely choose a friend that would understand if you needed a moment alone. If you know he would offer a shoulder to cry on, you probably chose the right person.
Make it personal.
Your baby’s funeral should bring you closure: this is the purpose of all funerals. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to feel that closure if you use the cold outline of a ceremony the funeral home suggests.
Many people add personal touches to a funeral; so funeral homes are used to filling special requests. You don’t have to silently accept all their “usual” ceremonial events.
You could bury special items with your baby like a Bible or display a collage of ultrasounds if you like. You can wrap the baby in a favorite blanket or read a children’s book at the service.
After the ceremony, you could release balloons or doves. As you plan and talk with your funeral home, you should strive to include whatever helps you find comfort.
Don’t underestimate a memorial meal.
This idea didn’t really appeal to me when I planned Hadassah’s funeral. I thought I would just want to come back home and cry. But when our church offered to provide a memorial meal, Kenny urged me to reconsider.
The meal that the church gave us blessed us much more than we expected. We had spent so much heartache and many tears over our baby’s funeral that the meal turned into the emotional release that we needed.
We even joked and laughed at the meal. No need for it to continue the intense heartache the funeral offered. The meal became the sunshine after the rain.
You don’t have to invite the whole world to come. They might not fully appreciate why you’re smiling one minute and crying the next. Just stick with your closest friends and family, and you might find yourself just as surprised as I was at how much you actually need the release.
For your sake, I’ll explain the process we went through to plan Hadassah’s ceremony. I knew I wanted something fairly simple, but it needed to properly honor my sweet baby.
For us, we left cremation out of the equation. Most of the funeral homes in our area offered cremation free of charge, but we needed a spot where we knew we had placed her body. I also really wanted a viewing so that at least Kenny and I could see her one last time before we buried her.
As I researched the Internet, I noticed different charges like gravestone installation that I hadn’t thought about. I then called three or four funeral homes in our area. I asked questions about fees and weighed my options with their various services.
I took notes as I talked with them. One funeral home would provide all their services for free except a small burial fee. Another would charge a few hundred to transport our baby to the burial site since they didn’t own it.
I liked the compassionate director I spoke with in my first option. Still, I wasn’t fond of their facilities since I wanted a scenic location. I needed the viewing in a spot that would do my beautiful daughter justice.
The perfect spot
Finally, Kenny and I agreed on a location. It was open and quite close to the ocean. A boardwalk roamed through the trees and skirted a beach. We could spend a good half hour ambling down the boardwalk, reflecting and holding each other close.
Nearby, we could spend a morning at a local coffee shop or have lunch at a diner. Kenny and I had actually come to that area several times on a date; so the spot held sentimental value for us. The area just made sense.
Unfortunately, as I called this funeral home, the man I spoke with avoided answering my questions directly. I spoke with him three different times. Each time, I ended the call with little more knowledge about costs than I had already known.
I don’t regret where we buried our baby. I do wish that this funeral home would have thought about us a little more throughout the process, though. Every step of the way I was reminded that this place was a business trying to rack up their fees.
Our baby’s funeral
For Hadassah’s funeral, we kept things small. We invited only our closest friends and family.
“There are only certain people I’m comfortable grieving in front of,” Kenny said.
We arrived early for the viewing and spent a while caressing our baby and crying. Family came next, followed by our friends.
Once everyone arrived, we moved to the graveside where we would have the ceremony. Kenny’s father and my father carried the tiny casket to the tent. Then, our pastor gave a few short but touching thoughts.
We sang no songs and listened to no beautiful poems or letters. We just grieved silently, lifting our hearts to the Lord. When the brief ceremony ended, we all drove to the church where we ate a wonderfully nourishing meal and left our sorrows behind.
We knew that somehow God would get us through this tragedy just as He wants to help you. All He needs to complete His work is your surrender to His cause.
What lessons have you learned during your funeral planning? Someone may benefit greatly from your experience.
by Sarah George