Choosing a way to say goodbye can be stressful, but it’s important. Many parents find that saying goodbye in a meaningful way helped them in their grief. Take your time and think about what’s best for you and your family. You may want to find a personal way to honour your baby like a ceremony, memorial, burial, or a private moment of remembering.
Things to consider for a loss under 20 weeks
- Do you want the hospital to care for the remains or do you want to make private arrangements?
- Do you want a funeral or a memorial service? If so, where and who do you want to invite?
- Do you want a burial or cremation?
- How do you want to recognize your baby’s life?
- Do you want poems, readings, and/or music at the service?
- Do you want to videotape the event (for example: the burial, cremation, or memorial)?
Private burial arrangements
You may choose to make private arrangements for your baby. Ask your healthcare provider for information about how you or your funeral service provider can pick up the remains. If you’re taking the remains home with you, ask your funeral service provider or your nurse about safe handling.
Handling your baby’s remains
Generally, you can decide how you want to bury your baby (remains). You’ll need to be sure it that you follow any bylaws in your area about this. Where a baby has completed 20 weeks gestation or weighs 500 grams or more, a burial permit is needed.
If you decide to bury your baby on your own, you should get legal advice to make sure you don’t go against any laws, even if the burial is on your own property. Some things to know may not have been thought about. For example, how close you are to a water source and other considerations. If you’re taking your baby yourself or are storing or creating a memento with the remains instead of burying them, there are some public health and infection control measures that must be followed.
If you have questions, please contact your healthcare provider so that they can provide you with further health and safety information.
Funerals or memorial services
You don’t need to have a body or remains to have a funeral or memorial service, or to attend a hospital service. Many hospitals and programs offer memorial services for pregnancy loss at least once each year for no cost. Some parents choose to have their own private gathering.
Cremation is when remains are placed in a special chamber and exposed to heat and flames. Ashes are then returned to the family for scattering, burial, or keeping in an urn.
- Usually costs less than burial.
- You can bury, keep, or scatter the ashes. You need permission from most public lands before you scatter ashes.
- You may take remains with you if you move.
- No casket is needed, just a small container.
- You can have the ashes included into memorial jewelry or artwork.
Talk to your funeral service provider for more information.
Burial can be in the earth (interred), or above-ground (in a crypt within a mausoleum).
If you chose to have a private burial in a cemetery, there will be costs because you’ll need to buy a plot of land and pay maintenance costs. If you can’t afford a burial or cremation, talk to your funeral service provider about organizations that may be able to help.
Choosing a funeral service provider
The Alberta Service Regulatory Board provides a directory of licensed funeral businesses.