Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Saying goodbye to the baby - services & funerals

When faced with the decision about whether or not they wanted to have a funeral for the baby, many people felt unsure and unprepared. Most were still coming to terms with ending the pregnancy and found it difficult to think about the baby's burial. Some people decided not to have a funeral, cremation or any kind of service for the baby because they felt it would not be helpful, or because it seemed inappropriate to them. 

Most people we talked to had never arranged a funeral service before. Looking back on the experience however, most people felt the service had helped relieve their sadness as well as giving them something to remember the baby by. Many people talked about how helpful it was in the weeks following the funeral service to visit the baby's grave or the special place where they had put the baby's ashes. 

Many parents found that once they had time to think, they instinctively knew what they wanted. One or two parents had been given the chance of taking the baby home and arranged their own funeral, others decided to ask a local priest to hold a funeral or cremation. Several people decided to leave all the arrangements to the hospital chaplain and said how helpful it had been to share a special memorial service with other families who had lost babies or young children.

A Muslim woman explained that it was traditional in her faith for the husband to organise the funeral. 

Many parents saw a funeral or burial service as a way of commemorating the baby's life and wanted to treat him/her with as much respect and dignity as any other child or family member. 

Naming the baby was an important part of the funeral service for some parents, because it helped establish that the baby was part of the family and an important part of their lives. (See also 'Deciding whether to see, hold and name the baby').

Choosing readings, poems, music and songs also gave parents the chance to make the service more personal. Several women talked about the special mementoes - soft toys, photographs, letters - they had buried with the baby. 

Many parents were appreciative of the support they got from hospital chaplains and bereavement counsellors. (See also 'Treatment, care and communication'.) Some were particularly grateful for the sensitive way that funeral directors handled everything about the baby's funeral and were surprised not to have been charged for the service. 

Seeing the baby's small coffin for the first time was often distressing - some people found they just couldn't carry the baby's coffin into the church or crematorium, whereas others had willingly done so. 

Some parents had found it difficult to make arrangements for burying or cremating babies who had been sent for post-mortems or who had been delivered surgically. People didn't know what the 'rules' were about the disposal of a baby's remains, and several wondered whether a baby of less than 24 weeks' gestation could be buried in a churchyard. 

Some women who had experienced surgical terminations at a relatively early stage of their pregnancies and who had wanted to bury the baby's remains talked about how upset they had been when planned arrangements went wrong. (See also 'Ending the pregnancy surgically'.)

Parents who gave permission for doctors to conduct a post mortem on the baby, did not realise that the procedure could delay the burial arrangements. When arrangements went wrong, several people had been very distressed. (See 'Deciding whether to have a post-mortem'). 

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated June 2014.


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