When we got home from the hospital, my ex-husband went and fell asleep (after having been up all night with me in labor), but I had the post-childbirth hormonal surge going through my body. Sleep was not going to happen for me. So I started doing what I do in any crisis: dealing with all the details and arrangements. I had no idea how to choose a funeral home, though I knew that funeral homes had a reputation of being expensive. Hence, I opened the phone book (in the days before everyone had websites) and started calling various funeral homes and asking prices. The first funeral home I called quoted me a price of $500 for an infant cremation with no service (since we were planning on having a memorial at the church we belonged to then). That was far less than I expected. The second funeral home I called charged $300. The third and final funeral home I called said they handled infant cremations for free. We had a winner!
The funeral home that I selected had only one seeming drawback: It was on the other side of town, 25 minutes away without traffic. In my physically uncomfortable postpartum state, that was a bit of a challenge, but it was doable. My ex-husband and I made the trek down there the next day to fill out all of the paperwork since both our signatures were required; two weeks later I went back alone to pick up my daughter’s ashes (something I definitely should have taken a friend with me to do).
While we were filling out the paperwork, we learned the reason that the funeral home handled infant cremations for free: The funeral director who worked with us had lost his prematurely born infant daughter about 30 years before. He started crying as he talked about her, his child who would have been close to the same age as my ex-husband and me at that point if she had lived. The funeral director apologized for being “unprofessional” with his tears, but we found his tears very consoling. The tears supported the pain and grief we were feeling and let us know how powerful the loss of a child really was. His compassion and empathy toward our grief was incredible, and we were grateful to him for all he did for us. Sixteen years later, it still brings tears to my eyes to think about him.
Despite how positive of an experience it was working with this funeral director, this was still a horrible circumstance. No one wants to have to make cremation and memorial arrangements for their child. Thus, that funeral home became a painful site in my mind. I rapidly became incredibly grateful that it was on the opposite side of town. There was a cemetery and funeral home by our house that we drove past almost every day on our way home from school/work. I was glad that I didn’t know what the inside of that funeral home looked like and that I didn’t have to relive the memories of making my daughter’s cremation arrangements every single day when I drove past.
Thus, that is my one bit of advice for picking a funeral home when making arrangements for a loved one: Consider a funeral home that isn’t on a path you drive by on a regular basis. The memories of your child’s cremation or funeral arrangements are going to be difficult, and having to drive by that building regularly where you felt pain will be difficult for many people. While I wish no one would ever have to make funeral arrangements for a young loved one again, the reality of our world says that they will. Finding ways to make that difficult time easier can be helpful in the healing process.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC