The Second Worst Day of Your Life
How the hell does a parent begin to plan a funeral for their baby? It is the antithesis of what you should be doing now. But if your baby is stillborn after 24 weeks, this is something you are going to have to do. You will also be faced with the equally distressing task of registering your baby’s death which you are legally required to do within five days of their death.
I found both of these things incredibly hard. Watching my husband carry the tiny white coffin to the front of the chapel was such a contrast of emotions. On one hand I was so proud of him for doing this, the funeral director had offered to do it for him but he replied “no my wife carried him for 9 months, now I have to carry him for the last time” but on the other, it is a sight no wife ever wants to witness and it was like a knife through the heart.
I remember waiting for the hearse to pick us up on the day of the funeral like it was yesterday. It was a sunny, crisp September day and I had somehow managed to carefully select the perfect funeral outfit. Part stylish, part grieving mother to perfection. I fit the Soap Opera stereotype of a grieving mother perfectly. Chic black dress, hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail and dark Chanel sunglasses. Maria from Corrie eat your heart out.
Only you should never ever have to make the outfit choice of what to wear to your baby’s funeral and getting dressed that morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Once the hearse arrived, Billy in his tiny coffin was placed on our laps. It was in that moment that I felt like I was having an out of body experience, like I was a spectator watching this poor young (ok middle aged) couple having one of the worst days they will ever have in their lives. I say the funeral is the second worst day of your life, because nothing will ever live up to the agony of being told that your baby has died. That will always carry the prize for the worst day of your life, hands down.
So there we sat, our baby in his coffin travelling to the crematorium to say our final goodbyes. I felt dizzy and sick but also strangely numb. I knew I had to be strong for Billy and for the small number of people around us that day.
I found the whole process of having to arrange a funeral for our baby incredibly difficult and barely managed to do it justice. At first I didn’t even know if we could face attending it ourselves and I knew from the outset I certainly couldn’t handle a big service with lots of people there. I just knew I didn’t want an audience witnessing me and my husband going through the unthinkable day of a funeral for our son. In the end and at the very last minute we extended the invite to our mothers and sisters as I knew I needed mine there that day. I found myself over thinking the guest list and worrying about the toll attending a baby’s funeral would have on certain people and the day becoming even harder than it needed to be. So I made some tough decisions that day but I did what was right for us and Billy at the time. That is the only advice I can give when faced with organising a funeral for you baby – it is something you should never have to do so you need to do what feels right for you at that time. Don’t worry about other people’s feelings if you decide to keep it small, it is not some brilliant party you have failed to invite them to after all and people have no right to feel annoyed for not being invited to a day you should never have to have, a funeral for your child.
This is the last thing you get to give your baby. No first birthday party, no christening instead a bloody funeral. So it is important you do what feels right.
Most funeral providers tend to offer the funeral services completely free of charge for a stillbirth and I believe babies in general – we didn’t have to pay a penny for Billy’s funeral. The funeral home we used were absolutely wonderful, no charge for the coffin, hearse, the urn or the cremation. That touched us hugely and made a very difficult time that little bit easier.
The service itself was very short and sweet, I chose a little poem called ‘forever in our heart’ and I wrote a short verse to say goodbye to Billy that was read out by the minister. I also chose the John Lennon song ‘Beautiful Boy’ as the song to end the service with. I still listen to this song frequently and I know my mom does also. I asked all of my best friends to listen to the song on the day of Billy’s funeral also and I know most of them did at 1pm when the funeral took place.
Other family members set off balloons for Billy at the time of the service and Billy’s cousin sent him a little bunny to the funeral, others lit a candle in church on the day of the service for Billy. Even if you choose to have a very small funeral, there are still ways of including your nearest and dearest in the day and people will understand if you only want a private service. On the other hand, you might want the biggest service you can muster up. There are no rights or wrongs here; well other than it is so so wrong that you have to arrange a funeral for your baby at all.
Love Hannah x