A Loving Goodbye
Planning the Service
There are several options regarding a service for you baby. The
information gathered here is not to steer you toward one type of
service or another, but rather to give you the information you need
to make an informed decision.
When it comes to planning a service for you baby, the only person
whose opinion matters is you. The following is simply a brief explanation
of the most common options and some practical tips for planning
whichever type of service you choose.
Types of Services
People often precede burial with some kind of graveside service
usually conducted by a clergyman. These range from the very brief
reading of some scripture and a prayer to longer services including
songs, etc. Generally speaking, if there was an earlier funeral,
the graveside service is fairly short.
In planning a graveside service, one should consider whether to
have a tent erected in case of inclement weather. Some cemeteries
and/or funeral homes provide tents and chairs free of charge; others
do not. The longer the service, the more advisable it is to have
a tent and chairs.
Also in planning a graveside service, one should consider whom
to invite. Some people choose to have private family-only services;
others are open to all who wish to pay their last respects.
Some people choose to have a private burial followed by a public
memorial service. Or, in cases of cremation, memorial services are
Memorial services can be held either in churches or funeral homes
depending upon how many people are expected to attend, costs and
the family's own preferences. Some families do not want a service
held in their church for fear that every time they go there they
will be reminded of the loss of their child. Other families want
the service held in their church because that is where they shared
happy memories with their child.
Depending on one's general style, memorial services can range from
the very formal to the very informal. Formal services can involve
scripture readings, eulogies, special songs, and/or hymns, and are
very similar to a funeral except that the deceased's body is not
present. Informal ones can involve all of the preceding as well
as poetry readings and messages from friends and family members.
One family even set up an open microphone for anyone who wanted
to make a brief statement in memory of the child.
As opposed to memorial services which take place after burial or
cremation, funeral services precede burial and involve the presence
of the body.
Also like memorial services, funerals can take place at a church
or a funeral home. These services, too, range from the formal to
One decision you must make is whether to have the service open
or closed casket. Generally, three choices are available. Some people
have a pre-funeral open casket viewing for those who wish to pay
their last respects, and then have a closed casket service. Others
have an open casket service followed by a brief period for people
to pay their last respects before closing the casket. Finally, some
people choose to have a closed casket service.
Another decision relevant to funerals involves whether to have
pall-bearers. Long ago pall-bearers were needed to actually carry
the casket from the church, load it into the hearse and unload it
at the cemetery. These days, funeral homes have wheeled carts for
transporting coffins, so the real need for pallbearers has been
Many people, though, still choose to have pallbearers and can even
request that a wheeled cart not be used. An infant's casket is very
small and relatively light, so at most two pallbearers are actually
needed for the task. Some people choose "honorary" pallbearers
as a way of paying special honor to friends or family members who
were close to the infant.
The following is a summary of just some of the most common arrangements
Graveside only (private or public)
Private graveside, followed by public memorial service.
Funeral, followed by graveside (private or public)
Memorial service only (usually following cremation).
General Tips Clear things in advance with your clergyman. It is not uncommon
for people to choose a date and time for a funeral and expect a
clergyman to perform it, only to learn that the church is unavailable
at that time or that the clergyman has other plans.
Ask whether people you want to participate in the service
feel comfortable doing so. Often friends and family members are
overwhelmed with grief as well and simply feel uneasy about participating
in a certain capacity.
Plan the service and share your plans with the clergyman
who will be presiding. While different religious persuasions have
different types of services, almost all clergymen will work with
you to make your service special. Remember, though, that some parents
are so shocked by the death that they cannot plan a service. If
that has happened to you, it is perfectly okay to ask friends or
family members to plan the service.
You may be asked whether you want flowers present at any
service. People often send flowers to show their support for the
family, and the presence of many beautiful flowers can be comforting.
Other families choose to ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations
be made in the baby's name to a worthy charity.
Some people have little bulletins printed and made available
to those attending the service. Some funeral homes charge for this
service. Some churches provide it free of charge.
Some people like to incorporate framed pictures of their baby
or other personal items into the service to make it more personal.
Please remember that
whatever arrangements you make, if they are what YOU want, they