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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

Graveside Service
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.

Memorial Service
Some people choose to have a private burial followed by a public memorial service. Or, in cases of cremation, memorial services are often held.

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.

Funeral Service
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 the informal.

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 largely eliminated.

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 regarding services:

  • 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.

    In Closing…

    Please remember that whatever arrangements you make, if they are what YOU want, they are good.


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