By: Monica Torres, LE, LFD, LC, Reconstruction Specialist and Desairologist
Caring for a deceased infant is no doubt the most difficult undertaking any funeral director or embalmer will undergo in their career. Guiding families sensitively through this uphill journey, filled with complicated grief, is uncomfortable and often seems impossible. Guilt, shame, anger, confusion, and deep personal emotional pain are involved. Times have changed and the antiquated idea that “it’s just a baby service“ is not only stale but it lends the to the belief that a baby’s service holds no valuable or offers little benefit to the family.
Any professional with training in sales and marketing knows that “FREE” often equates to NO VALUE. The last thing we want to display to our families is that their child is not valuable and therefore doesn’t deserve the same level of service and attention that any adult in our care receives.
Memorable Funeral Services for Infants
A whopping 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Studies show that baby families are looking for baby funeral information online and seeking out information on how to create a memorable funeral services at home because they are not getting support from funeral directors (www.tommys.org).
Funeral service history reveals that free baby services were relevant in early American funeral service history and current history is revealing the fact that free preparations of the body and funeral services are not necessarily relevant or what families even want.
Current trends in the birthing industry are more flamboyant that ever. “Gender reveals” have quite literally taken over the internet and are only second to pets. Mistakenly it has been the popular opinion of funeral professionals that baby families don’t have money to spend on funeral services. Sadly it is more common for funeral professionals to offer a direct cremation or closed casket without ever even explaining the values of embalming or worse offering the valuable service options at their funeral homes.
Rarely, if ever, are embalming services offered to families who have suffered the loss of a miscarriage or stillborn infant under the gestational age of 30 weeks. I challenge you to ask yourself, WHY??? Is it because your funeral home has always offered services a certain way or is there a real and certain reason why your firm isn’t guiding families toward viewing options. If you are answering this question in your head with the following statement “It is the way we have always done it”, I urge you to rethink the conversations you are having with bereaved parents across the arrangement table and on the first call. “This is the way we have always done it” is the most dangerous phrase alive and kicking in the death care industry today. It has been blamed as quite possibly the reason why cremation has taken over the way American death practices are being carried out.
I understand change is uncomfortable and some may have opposing opinions, but times have changed and mommies and daddies DO want to see and hold their miscarried babies.
They are seeing them at the hospital and holding them as long as they can until the nurse or dreaded removal team comes to take the child away. They are wanting more and the funeral industry has been asleep at the wheel and not engaging with these families.
For many years infant embalming had only been done by few with antiquated methods of care. Now with the modern advancements in chemical production and tools our chemical companies provide, professionals have modern and advanced methods to treat fetuses and stillborns and restore their delicate skin so the family can have another opportunity to spend time with them.
Some may say its taboo or say they would never want families to have to see their baby like that, but this is where I will challenge your thought process and the way we have always done it mentality.
Many families who have suffered the loss of an unborn or stillborn even at 18 weeks gestation DO want to memorialize their little angels. They not only want to hold them again and host a small funeral service, they may even want a reception too! Don’t make this mistake of not offering mommies and daddies the opportunity to grieve with a final viewing before final disposition.
If you are still uncomfortable with the thought of charging a family for infant care there are resources available for funeral homes and families that offer free funeral funds and pay straight to the funeral home.
The Tears Foundation offers funeral homes funds to help cover the cost of embalming, refrigeration and funeral home and cemetery services. Learn More
Sew Sweet Angel Gowns, and Cherished Ones Angelwear in Phoenix , AZ offer funeral homes beautiful and elegant CUSTOM tailored burial gowns designed with the help of embalmers at no cost to funeral homes to be donated to families.
There is even training for treating these hard cases and guiding families toward viewing for Embalmers and Funeral Directors/Arrangers. NXT Generation Mortuary Support in Phoenix AZ has created a new program with a modern approach that guides professionals toward the future of infant death care.
This new seminar, “Embalming the Infant Death”-Advanced Techniques for Infants, Stillborn and the Unborn also guides the Funeral Director/Arranger on how to present this unique service sensitively and informatively to give families the opportunity to say goodbye with confidence. Not only does this course offer technical training for Embalmers but it also offers new fresh ideas for infant services and family involvement for Arrangers and Funeral Directors looking to create a memorable experience. Learn More
Learn how to talk to families about the values of embalming and institute a relevant and modern approach in your funeral home to serve baby families. Offering relevant and modern service options that keep the focus on the body for a family who has suffered the loss of an unborn or stillborn gives parents and grandparents the opportunity to share their grief and offers family and friends the opportunity to show support in a welcoming environment; ultimately EMPOWERING the family and their guests.
Most importantly, offering this modern approach helps to bury the taboo surrounding miscarriage and lends for an opportunity to validate the pregnancy and the life of the child. It is no secret that grief shared is grief diminished. Offer them your chapel, offer them a baby shower themed reception, offer them EMBALMING and customized preparations! Offer them your VALUABLE services.
As always NXT Generation Mortuary Support is focused on serving funeral homes though technical training education, consulting services, staff support and engages with the public regularly to help bridge the gap between our past and future as funeral service providers.
“Together we are at the forefront!”