On Thursday last I was lucky enough to get a last minute place on a seminar put on by the Child Funeral Charity at which was discussed all sorts of aspects to consider after the death of a child. It was really educational and interesting, heightening awareness and giving advice on how to best help those in such circumstances. We heard from the Child Funeral Charity, the ICCM and Bereavement Training International as well as a funeral celebrant, a Church of England minister and a Funeral Director and representatives from Tyler’s Friends and gateway Publishing. In the morning the key discussion was around the Children’s Funeral Fund and how this has been rolling out since July 2019 – more details below, and in the afternoon we looked at ways to help grieving families – parents, grandparents and siblings.
Some key things I brought away from the day.
- The importance of letting everyone know of the existence of the Children’s Funereal Fund as well as the Child Funeral Charity. In particular the feeling was that at the very least all Funeral Directors should be able to advise families and offer help to fill things out.
- Thoughts about why celebrant and minister fees are not included – surely this is a key role in the funeral process and potentially more important than a hearse which is covered.
- There are lots of wonderful initiatives out there to help at this awful time – and many born from people who have suffered a similar loss and may have a greater understanding of where the bereaved family is. Funeral Directors should be aware of these organisations to offer support to their customers.
- The loss of a baby or child is like no other loss and cannot be compared to anything else, and it doesn’t ever stop. Therefore there are some guidelines for us to follow such as referring to the child by its name, giving the parents and family time and space to grieve, being honest and avoiding euphemisms and platitudes – they don’t help.
- No one knows how someone else is feeling this is purely personal grief.
- Little things matter – memory boxes, an intimate seating plan at the funeral, hugs, getting the name right, allowing them to carry the coffin. This is a significant point in the whole family’s lives and nothing will ever be the same again.
I know this is not the most up beat post, but the fact is that children and babies do die and this cannot be ignored. If you know of anyone who is struggling in this situation,please point them towards this post as well as child bereavement charities such as Child Bereavement UK and the Rainbow Trust or Winston’s Wish for those supporting a child who is coping with the death of a parent or sibling. Footsteps (Worcester) and Touchstones Child Bereavement Support are ones local to us.
To end some key things to remember around anyone whose child has died
- The child has died, not gone to sleep or passed. It is best to be honest and clear unless of course that is the way the parents are expressing themselves. Going to sleep or upstairs in heaven or passed can be very confusing terms for siblings who may become afraid of going to sleep as they may never wake up, or they may use a ladder to try and climb to heaven, or if they are told their sibling has passed they may very well go and look for them.
- Ask how the grieving parent is, but qualify that by saying this morning, or this afternoon as they may be experiencing different moods and feelings throughout they day.
- Don’t be afraid to give a hug if asked, or alternatively ask if they would like a hug – sometimes this helps people to feel held, comforted and safe.
- Avoid such statements as’ well at least you still have your other child(ren)’, ‘time is a great healer’, ‘you’re young enough to try for another child’, at least they’re no longer suffering’, ‘they’re out of their misery’. All of these will certainly not soothe a grieving parent.
- We are all human and do sometimes say things or do without thinking or realising the effect they may have on others until afterwards. If this is the case, acknowledge that you have been insensitive, apologise and explain things in a different way.
- At a child’s funeral the parents are relying on everyone else to ensure that the whole thing goes as smoothly as possible and it is the responsibility of all the professionals there to look after the deceased and the family with potentially a different level of care than would be usually expected.