If you’re reading this post because you’re having to go through the unthinkable process of planning your baby’s funeral, let me start by saying how incredibly sorry I am. Planning Beatrice’s funeral was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to, because I wanted it to be heartfelt and special but at the same time I had no idea where to start and I found that there was nothing specific enough on the internet that helped me. So I’ve written this post as more of a guide, so hopefully it will provide a few suggestions for anyone who is also lost and confused, but desperate to ensure their baby’s service is special. Beatrice was 25 weeks when she was born, so legally she had to be buried or cremated, so I’m writing this from our personal experience, but I do believe you are able to organise a service yourself if baby was born before 24 weeks.
The first thing we had to decide was whether we wanted to be involved in Beatrice’s funeral. The hospital I gave birth at gave us the following options;
- Not being involved in any way and not attending a service – hospital organise and pay for everything
- Personalising service and attending service, but hospital organise legalities and pay for everything
- We organise and pay for everything ourselves.
We chose option B, with the hospital organising all the legalities with the funeral director and paying for the service, but with our input to personalise the service to how we wanted. We chose this option because neither of us wanted the added stress of navigating a minefield of paperwork whilst we were so upset and also because we had no idea how much a funeral would actually cost – this was not something either of us had put money away for. Having the hospital organise the logistics also meant that we didn’t have to search for a funeral directors we liked and trusted as the hospital had a contract with one particular local funeral directors and their services. It’s also worth mentioning that we could have changed our minds to option a) or c) at any point.
Burial or cremation
The second thing we needed to decide was if we wanted a cremation or burial. Sands and Tommys (link at bottom of page) have lots of advice on how to decide which option is best for you if you’re unsure, but we both knew from the start that we wanted Beatrice cremated. For me personally I really wanted to keep some of the ashes for jewellery, so that I can always have her with me. I also like the idea of being able to spread her ashes somewhere special for us and a burial really limits your options in this respect.
Invites and dress code
Once you’ve decided what type of funeral you are going to have you need to consider who you will invite. This was something we changed our mind on every day, but in the end we settled on immediate family, parents and siblings only. Which for those who know my family, know this is still a crowd! Although I thought I would have liked to have friends there for support and to share Beatrice with (as this is what we would have wanted had she survived), we just didn’t think we would be able to cope with having lots of people around on the day. Again this is entirely personal preference, you don’t in fact need to invite anyone at all if you feel that’s what is right for you.
For those that were invited we asked people to just come in whatever they felt comfortable in. We didn’t want everyone in black, and we didn’t want everyone really formal. We just wanted ourselves and family in attendance to be comfortable in what we were wearing. In the end some wore suits, some jeans, some wore flats and some were in heels.
Music for the ceremony is quite a common thing that people like to choose. We did it so that Jamie picked one and I picked one. I wanted something that was upbeat so that in years to come we can put the song on think about Beatrice and not feel so sad. I actually knew the song I wanted quite early on, but for Jamie it took a bit longer. In the end he picked one from his favourite band who we listen to every weekend whilst we’re having breakfast, something which again has relevance and meaning in our lives. It actually has quite a loud, rocky section in and we weren’t sure if we should fade this part out to make it more suitable for a funeral. In the end we thought **** it, she’s our daughter and it’s our song choice, so let’s just go with it!
Casket and transport
I’ve mentioned it earlier but having the hospital and funeral directors take care of everything definitely took a lot of stress out of planning the service. They gave Beatrice a small, white wooden casket with silver handles and a silver plaque engraved with her name. (Important side note, if you’re not married you need to think about what you would like baby’s surname to be as there are strict rules on this when registering baby). They also organised for her to be taken to the crematorium in a limousine as part of their standard service for babies. No expense was spared, they would also have organised the flowers, however because we wanted a specific flower, we ended up going to the florists and picking a tribute ourselves.
If you are opting for flowers for the service most florists offer an array of flowers for any budget and you can have them made into any shape, with almost any flower you want. Our florist offered posies, teddy bears, stars, wreathes and letters, all available in different colours. We just wanted something simple, but beautiful, three David Austin Beatrice roses with a few green leaves behind them. The style we chose usually came with some gypsophilia, but we wanted the roses to be the only focus. Because the roses had to be ordered in by the dozen we then paid for the additional roses to be made into a bouquet for us to take home. I really liked this as it felt like we had something to keep her a little closer to us for longer, and I used some of the roses to dry and press. One thing to consider with flowers is if you want people to bring and send them. For us this wasn’t important, so instead we asked people not to buy flowers, but instead to give a donation to a charity of our choice on the day of the funeral.
Order of service – design
For me one of the most important steps was a tailor made order of service. I wanted to have something physical for us and our family to hold and look back at when we thought of her, much the same as you keep orders of service for other family members and friends who have passed.
There are so many different options for printing an order of service (literally hundreds of websites, I know I’ve viewed them all). There are options online to suit all budgets, ranging from free templates to download and fill in the text yourself at home and print to more fancy templates which require a fee to use, you add in the text and the owner of the website prints and sends in the post to you. You don’t even need to use a template, you could simply write up the text at home add a drawing and/ or photo and print completely for free. If you wanted something a bit more personal and handmade you could look into the option of using rubber stamps. Hobbycraft have loads of these that you could use, a teddy, angel, star, butterfly etc and the The English Stamp company actually give you the option of sending in your own design and then they make you a stamp with that image.
In the end I went for the option of designing the order of service myself. I wanted something personal to us and Beatrice, something that was a bit special and included a bit of colour. I ended up hand drawing the design, which is actually the logo of this website, to include objects with special meanings for us and also to include a little bit of colour. I really wanted the order of service to be colourful on the outside and also the inside. Typically orders of service are plain inside with text only, but I included a little doodle to break up sections and also a doodle for the footer. This might not be for everyone, but to me it was important to have something colourful, feminine and pretty for my baby.
Order of service – structure
Once I finally had the designs I liked, the really hard part was knowing what to include in the service. Now here you really do have free rein, not very helpful I know, but it’s true. Again Sands (link at bottom of page) include lots of examples as to what you could include, such as prayers, poems, lighting of candles, music etc. But for me what I really struggled with was knowing the sequence of events and the time it took to run through these. I was really panicking that we would walk in, hear a poem and walk back out again and there would be nothing to include in the order of service to remember it by, but equally I didn’t want to just pad out the service for the sake of it.
In the end we included these details, in this order:
- In loving memory and celebration of
- Hand drawn design
- Date and time of the funeral
- Location of the funeral
- Opening music
- Celebrants name and title
- Poem written by a friend
- “Thoughts about Beatrice”, here we had spoken to our celebrant about what Beatrice meant to us, how she was special to us and how she had changed our outlook on the world. Neither of us thought we would be able to talk ourselves on the day, but equally you could do this yourself or ask a family member or friend to do so on your behalf.
- Wave of light information. Beatrice’s funeral fell on the final day of baby loss awareness week and so we gave everyone a tea light with their order of service and asked them to light this on the evening to remember Beatrice and all other babies lost to soon. Whilst this was obviously specific to that date, you could do something similar and ask family and friends to light it at sunset. We also included the hashtag #rememberingbeatrice, which is something I previously would have thought distasteful, but I wanted to be able to see photos of everyones candles in one space, and the hashtag has allowed us to do this.
- Closing music
- Invite for tea and cake at our home
- Appreciation – charity details
- I stapled a packet of forget-me-not seeds to this page. My mum actually ordered these, I think from etsy or notonthehighstreet. If you do like the idea of this, have a shop around online as the prices vary quite a lot, for essentially the same product!
- Simple drawing so it wasn’t blank
I also tied a pale pink organza ribbon around the orders of service to make it a bit more pretty and girly.
Although this looks like a lot of information, our celebrant ended up adding in a few extra bits which he thought was suitable. Luckily the words, poem and music he shared were heartfelt and fit into the service perfectly. So if you felt you wanted to include more personal touches, such as a reading, another song, a prayer, a minutes silence, lighting of candles etc based on the order of service above you would definitely have time to do this and it wouldn’t feel rushed.
Is it even called a wake for a baby? I don’t know. But you know what I mean. This again was something we weren’t sure about doing, however asking family to travel 250 miles for a 40 minute service, it kind of felt selfish not to! We didn’t go for anything over the top, just invited everyone back for a brew and some cake before they hit the road. For those that wanted to stay longer we also invited them for a dog walk. It might seem like a strange invite, but it made sense to us as Maggie and Arthur are, after all, our little fur babies and we didn’t want them to be neglected on the day. Plus a bit of exercise and fresh air does wonders for clearing your mind! I had also planned on baking cakes the day before (why I feel the need to try and do everything I don’t know), but in the end Jamie’s mum convinced me to give myself a break and just buy the cake. So we had shop bought the cake, home made savoury pies which my mum made and people made themselves cups of tea! Zero effort required.
As I mentioned earlier one of the things we did do was to give out seed packets and tea lights for everyone to take home and light on the evening, but some other things you could do to personalise the service could be to include any photos of baby/family in the service. You could write a letter for baby to be put in the casket with them, and some people like to give baby a photo of themselves. We gave Beatrice some teddies to be cremated with, one from us, one hand-made one from the SiMBA memory box and a tiny one that our midwife gave her (we have a matching one). One thing that is increasing in popularity is a photographer or the service itself. We didn’t do go for this, but for many families who do it’s about creating more memories and not wanting to forget the small details. I think if you wanted to do this the most important thing would be to have the right photographer for you, I would imagine they woud need to be discreet in the service and the photos should be tasteful.
So that sums up how we went about planning Beatrice’s service. I hope that this has maybe helped to alleviate some of the worries and stresses that come with having to plan a funeral for your baby, but if there is anything which I haven’t mentioned or you’d like to ask please do! In the end it really does come down to personal preference and it’s about making sure what is right for you as the parents, don’t feel like you have to conform to what is “normal” as there really is nothing normal about losing a child.
Websites which might help with planning a funeral, and also with any support you may need: