Written by Sarah Pridham, for Still Aware.
It is one thing to lose a baby – it is an entirely different situation when you have to organise you own babies funeral and wake. It is just not meant to happen, parents aren’t meant to outlive their children…the natural way of life is that the children give their parents a final farewell – so when it happens the other way around, well it’s safe to say that the world feels like it is completely upside down.
The night after we lost our son I was laying in the hospital bed, unable to sleep, so I decided to start planning and organising the funeral and wake. I realised that I wanted it to be something truly special in his honour and memory –not only because that is what he deserved, but also because I would never be able to give him a birthday party, a family Christmas, an Easter egg hunt, a family holiday (or anything else for that matter). This is all I could give him – a final farewell. To be honest I didn’t know where to start and I remember thinking to myself how can I plan a funeral and wake for a baby that lived for only 30 minutes in this world?! A funeral is meant to be reminiscing about memories of someone’s life and their achievements – so how could I give our son the farewell he deserved after he had such a short life with barely any memories, apart from the fact that it just felt unnatural to be planning a funeral for him when we should have been taking our son home and starting the new chapter of our life together as a family.
I mentioned in my previous blog that there are many parts to the journey of baby loss, many difficult and terrible paths and this is one of those paths – an endless pain in a terrible nightmare. But slowly ideas were forming in my mind and I was starting to work through checking things off my lists – when I look back now I don’t know how I managed to do what I did and I think that it may have been the adrenalin at the time as well as knowing that it was something that I had to do for our son and he deserved me putting as much energy and love into it as possible. So for the rest of the time in hospital this is what I worked on and then of course continued when I got home. A couple of days after we got home a dear friend came over and told me not to worry about what anyone else thought, just to do what I wanted to do for our son and that what anyone else thought wouldn’t matter because unless they had been through it themselves there is no way that they could possibly understand (I still carry this advice with me on a day to day basis a year and 2 months later).
Eventually the day came where we had to visit the funeral home – I can’t even put into words what that felt like, to sit there and fill out paperwork and decide if we wanted room to be buried with our son or if we just wanted it to be him and of course to finalise the funeral service plans. Following this we had to go and organise the headstone and just when you think things can’t possibly get any harder you have to then sit there and decide how you want it set out and what you wanted written on there. At both of these places all I continued to think about was how painful, yet surreal it all felt at the same time and how we should be at home with our son instead of sitting there planning these things and making these decisions. But somehow we plotted through and made the decisions we had been forced to have to make. The days continued to pass and I continued to finalise all of the plans.
Then the day came….the day of the final farewell. I knew it would be not only difficult but also very surreal. Getting ready for the funeral was terrible – but what was worse was the 15 minute drive from home to the funeral home where the service was being held…15 minutes of wondering how I was going to get through the day, of how life could be so terribly upside down. The service itself was beautiful (although, of course short because there wasn’t a lot to be able to add into the service) – a reading was done, a poem was read, a slideshow was watched and then it was all over and I remember hearing someone say that my husband and I must have been all out of tears and that was completely true. The service came to an end, my husband got up, and picked up the little light blue coffin with the silver handles and I followed him down the aisle carrying our little boy to the beautiful song “Forever Young”. We then headed to the cemetery – had another short poem read, a balloon release and then had to just leave him there. Leave him in the place that he would spend the rest of eternity. Walking away was one of the hardest parts of the day – it really was the point of the final farewell, the point that he was no longer physically with us.
The wake followed straight after where I displayed poems, photos, and the first book that I bought him, his memorial teddy bear (of course everything was decorated in white, silver and light blue). Our family and closest friends gathered to honour the life that was cut too short. A wake is meant to be a celebration of life, but it wasn’t that for me – you can’t celebrate a life that was taken too soon, all you can do is remember the precious life lost and think of what could have been.
When I look back on the day I did everything possible to give him the time he deserved – yet it will always and forever seem like it was never enough.
This is what people who haven’t lost a baby don’t understand – it isn’t just the loss itself that is terrible and painful it is the nightmare of all of the ‘after’ parts of the loss of a baby. Like the Final Farewell – for those that have not had to endure this they truly don’t know how lucky they are and to those people I say…imagine having to plan your own babies funeral and wake – imagine having to say a final farewell – to leave them in one place, have to turn your back and walk away. I bet they cannot truly imagine what this would be like because the nightmare of baby loss is too hard to actually imagine.
My advice to anyone that is about to go through something like this is the same advice my dear friend gave me – there are no rules with the loss of a baby as it is something that should never happen – don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, do what you want to do and what you feel comfortable doing for the memory of your baby, because at the end of the day no one else matters, only you, your partner and your beautiful baby.