There are few events in life as devastating as giving birth to a stillborn child. At a time when you are confused and seeking ways to grieve, you are confronted with organising a funeral. In Australia, the law states that a baby of at least 20 weeks in gestation or weighing more than 400 grams must be buried or cremated. Ask your hospital to help you access support services so that you are not overwhelmed with the added burdens of obtaining paperwork such as birth and medical certificates. This allows you to concentrate on creating a memorable service for your baby.
Take Time To Make Memories
Funerals are usually focussed on celebrating a person's life. Photographs and other memorabilia are part of the tradition. If you wish, these can also be part of your baby's commemoration. The hospital will allow you and your family to spend time with your baby. This gives you an opportunity to take photographs, collect locks of hair and make hand and footprints. Not only will these items prove comforting in future, but they can be displayed at the funeral service.
Hold A Unique Service
Liaise closely with your funeral director to ensure that this is a unique service which allows all family members to play an appropriate role. If you have other children, depending on their ages, you may wish to have them directly involved in dressing your child and placing items such as toys in the coffin.
Your funeral director can help you decide whether to hold a church or graveside service with a pastor or a civil celebrant. Many cemeteries have special gravesites, memorial gardens and wall plaques for child burials. Ask about these options if you do not have a family plot.
A child's funeral always carries a special sadness, but you may wish to use this occasion to express hope for the future as well. You might like to:
- Read poems or sing children's songs
- Release balloons with special messages written inside them
- Release butterflies
- Light candles
- Place rose petals in the coffin
You may be entitled to bereavement payments from the Australian government to help with the funeral and ongoing costs. Check with your local Centrelink branch for information.
Ask family and friends to take photographs or record your child's service. You might choose to press some of the flowers that were used or keep one of the candles in your home. Your ability to organise a wonderful funeral and small collection of memorabilia will continue to provide a simple, but important, validation of your child's short existence.