Friday, July 12, 2013

July's Grief Project: Ways to Remember--Planning Nora's Memorial Service

For the month of July I will be exploring Ways to Remember our precious children gone too soon.  There will be posts highlighting this important process in healing and grieving, ranging from ideas to continually remember your child, to my own experiences of trying to honor her memory, and of course the first initial ways of commemorating our child's life through funerals and ceremonies.

If you want to follow my own experiences of remembering that are not listed here, I will be using Instagram to highlight ways we remember this month.  If you are on Instagram, I encourage you to share your ways of remembering with me by using the hashtag #waysweremember. You can follow me on IG by clicking here.

Now for today's post:

My Experiences of Planning my Child's Memorial Service & Resources for Planning a Baby's Goodbye 

The  Christmas lights twinkled and shined against the white winter snow as I stared at the barren trees in the dark night, in a trance like state outside the funeral parlor window.  My body was numb and my brain stuck, like a broken record, "How did we get here? How did we get here? How did we get here?" playing over and over in my head as I laid my hand on the outside of my purple snug dress on top of my bulging but deflated belly.  I wasn't going to wear black as others had done to my daughter's funeral.  This was the only event of hers I could ever dress up for. There would be no school plays, no graduations, no weddings.  I was going to make my daughter proud.  

I turned away from the window and from the secret hiding place of solitude I had gone to in my head while the world of others surrounded me, eating food, chatting, consoling each other with words of, "I don't know what to say."  Neither did I, I thought in my head. We were all doing what we all only knew how.  Attend a funeral for my daughter.  For my baby.  

I thought to myself, "Life's not supposed to work this way."  "It's against the laws of nature."  But I know now that nature didn't care as she is the one who stole my baby with her venomous beast she sent to me of what we humans call " e-coli and bacteria."  

Now that I was here, I had to do the job of a parent.  So I planned and executed my daughter's only celebration of life, her funeral.    

The Plan 

Planning your child's funeral SUCKS!  There is no better way for me to put it.  But, it can also be a bittersweet chance to share the love you hold for your child with others publicly as well as starting the process of letting your loved ones know how you want to move forward in the grieving of your child.

We were totally confused in the hospital room as Nora laid dead in my belly as to if we wanted a funeral for her or not.  I mean, I was planning for life not death.  The LAST thing, I mean the very LAST thing, a mother and father should have to think about in the delivery room is caskets and cremation.

But that is where Nick and I found ourselves the day after her delivery, rummaging through pamphlets about funeral costs and burial services. Somewhere in the process I realized I wanted to invite everyone we knew, even though that was completely opposite to my original thought.

But being so public about our grief over losing Nora, and having a very public and inclusive funeral, has helped give us permission to grieve opening about the taboo subject of child death and let others know "what we are actually grieving." The loss of our physical child and the loss of our dreams of parenthood and the ones we had for her.

I decided to write  Nora's service myself.  I gave it to the officiant to read and he did word for word.  During a part of the ceremony I guided my loved ones to how I wanted to grieve and what I was grieving with the following words I took from Sherokee Ilse Book, Empty Arms:

“Realize that the parents are sad because they miss this baby, this special person: he or she never can be replaced by anyone else. They had pictured their child in their minds, learning to walk, starting school, making friends, graduating, getting married, and having their own children. This was not “just” a baby but a real person and a whole future that has been lost.” 

Letting our friends and family know how we wanted to grieve and what we were grieving, I believe, has helped us start the healing process and grieving process on good footing.  And that is what I believe funerals and ceremonies are for.  Not to create closure on a life, but to start the process of grieving openly, which I hope for you can go on longer than just at the funeral. 

So here's what I have to say about the process of planning a child's funeralMake it your own!  Do what you want!  And honor your child in every way you would like.  This is your chance to start to parent your dead child.  There are no rules, you just follow your maternal or paternal instinct. 

And don't let anyone tell you how it should be!

Resources for Planning Your Child's Funeral  

Planning A Precious Goodbye - By Sherokee Ilse and Susan Erling Martinez. This book was my go to for planning Nora's funeral and ceremony. It has wonderful ideas and suggestions from everything to How Do I Announce The Death of My Baby to service poems and readings.  

Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support - Has a page on their website dedicated to funeral and memorial planning here.  

A Place to Remember - Also has urns, memory boxes, and resources on how to plan a baby's funeral.  

Saying - Might not be the best resource for planning a ceremony, but if you live in the UK and want a continued way to honor your child, they offer a unique memorial service in beautiful cathedrals to those who have lost children.  
Bittersweet...HelloGoodbye - Is a book for funeral directors, chaplains, and anyone in the social service agency wishing to help families plan a goodbye service for their children.  

Grief Watch - Is a fabulous resource all around but they also sell baby/child urns and other memorial products. 

Sample Service, Death Announcements, and Facebook Message - On Monday I will post my ceremony I created for Nora's funeral using some of the resources above along with the announcements we used on Facebook and the newspaper for you to look at for ideas of your own.

If you know of any other great resources for planning a child's funeral I would love to hear about them.  Leave a link to them in a comment below. 

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