They’re not meant to be good or happy occasions. My baby’s funeral was the only time we spent time with her away from the hospital; it was the only point in her existence that she was with her grandparents, god-parents, and friends all at the same time. During her time in the neonatal unit, visiting was very limited — and quite rightly so!
When making the steps to start sorting any arrangements, you can’t imagine anything worse than the day of the funeral, when actually you have already done the worse part. Walking out of the hospital lost and confused, barely thinking of the next five minutes, let alone a funeral for a baby or child who had their whole future ahead of them.
There are so many things I wish we had known, things like cemeteries for children, different coffins, or that we could have taken our daughter home for a night. Tiny things missed that could have made just a few more lasting memories. It is, after all, the very last thing you get to do for your child.
I remember feeling numb and heavy all at the same time, almost sleepwalking through life. Ordering flowers, discussing music with the funeral directors when as little as a year before we had been picking music for our wedding. Every single moment was surreal, nothing felt right; it all felt out of control, and there was nothing we could do to stop or slow down the process. There was to be no second chance at it.
Leading to the day itself, I had nightmares of my heart stopping as we said goodbye or breaking down in front of our family and friends. I had no idea what to expect. I had taken to the online forum I come to rely on to ask, but in all honesty, it was their experience of their loss. It soon made me realise just how individual all of our losses are.
From that very first day, all of the run-ups to dates are worse than the dates themselves, and looking back it is the same for the days before the funeral.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. I certainly wasn’t sure if I wanted my children to go (who were 7 and 4 at the time). But I did. We all did. I am glad. It gave my children an opportunity to say goodbyes and do what they needed to help them cope with the loss of their sister. My daughter (7) read out a story she had written—I think that helped her a lot.
I can safely say that the day was something I could never have imagined getting through. As I mentioned before, I imagined all sorts, all the worst possible scenarios crept into my mind. But when we woke that morning to get ready for the day ahead, there was this overwhelming calm. There were no tears, no stress. Of course, there was a strange silence; neither of us knew what to say to each other, we tried to keep the routine of breakfast and getting dressed as normal as we could.
It felt like all eyes were on us but in reality, nobody was there to judge how we behaved; they were there to say goodbye, too. Funerals are never easy, even more so when it is that of a child; it shakes you to the core with the tiniest of coffins standing before you. And somehow you get through it — not over it. But the day passes new life, the different person shows through. You do breathe again, you do find the strength. Maybe not straight away, but somehow it comes.
One small moment at a time.
Photo Credit: Author