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In 2013 in the UK, one in every 137 babies was either stillborn or died in the first 4 weeks of life

Here in N. Ireland, over 3 babies a week are stillborn or die in the first 4 weeks of life.

Funerals / Cremations

 

Arranging a funeral for your baby is the last thing you expected to be doing when looking forward to and planning the future. It can be a daunting task, and you probably don't know quite where to start. We hope that this section of the website will give you some pointers and ease the pressure you may be feeling.

Firstly don't panic, there is no rush, you don't have to bury your baby within the "normal" two or three day period - take time to decide what you want to do.

Don't be put off by cost, most funeral directors will not charge for a baby's funeral. There will however be unavoidable costs such as the purchase and opening of a grave. These costs increase yearly and vary from area to area, for example at the time of writing (June 2007)the cost of purchase outside Belfast is around £170 and £70 to open. In the Belfast City council area it is £213(type b),£441(type a) with a £312 charge for first opening. These costs are for City residents (non residents would pay £1,323 with a £624 charge for opening).

Many parents have found comfort in knowing that they may be buried with their baby, when the time comes. For this reason you may consider purchasing your own grave, as family plots may not necessarily be able to accommodate you and your partner/spouse.

If you are in receipt of benefits there may be a funeral grant available.(See Maternity Rights page).

There is no 'right' or 'wrong' funeral. Some parents have chosen to have a large service either in church or other venue (eg. Chapel of rest), with hymns, bible readings etc. However others have opted for a private service either at home or just at the graveside. It is not essential to hire limousines as it is perfectly acceptable to use your own car. (Most funeral directors will charge for the hire of a limousine).

Music and readings for the funeral are important. They can be anything you like from traditional hymns and Bible readings to a special song or poem. If you feel strong enough you may like to read something that you have written for your baby, it doesn't matter if at the time all you can do is cry, tears are good, they help with the grieving process.

Do not be afraid to talk to your local funeral director, their advice is free and they are very understanding, they will not be surprised by any ideas you may have, even if you yourself think they are "not normal". For example, if you would like to write a letter to your baby, to be placed in the coffin with him/her then do please tell the funeral director.

We hope that you have been helped by reading the information on this page but if you need further help please call the Sands N.I. Helpline.

 

Cremations

The Crematorium

The City of Belfast Crematorium is the only crematorium in N Ireland and is located in the grounds of Roselawn Cemetery, 129 Ballygowan Road, Crossnacreevy, Belfast BT5 7TZ. Tel: 028 90448342. Further information and current charges can be found at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfastcrematorium or e-mail: crematorium@belfastcity.gov.uk.

The City of Belfast Crematorium is owned and operated by Belfast City Council and is therefore a community service. It can offer free help and advice to anyone wishing to know more about cremation. A tour of the facilities can also be arranged by contacting the Cemeteries & Crematorium Manager - Mrs Sharon McCloy.

Documentation

The documentation needed before a cremation can be carried out is more complicated and detailed than for a burial. However the hospital or your Funeral Director will carry out the majority of the administration for you. A body cannot be cremated until after the cause of death is known, which means it may be have to be delayed until after a post mortem is completed. If your baby was less than 24 week gestation at time of death, the doctor or midwife present at the birth will fill out the necessary paperwork. The family complete a green disposal form.

If your baby was Stillborn i.e. more than 24 weeks gestation, the doctor or midwife present at the birth or who examined the body after birth must complete Forms H&I. Form H is filled out by the family and Form I by the doctor or midwife present at the birth. The family complete the green disposal form. The death must be registered.

If your baby breathed i.e. even for only a few minutes this is a live birth and therefore Forms A, B&C must be completed. Form A is completed by the family, Form B by the doctor attending the birth and Form C by an independent doctor qualified for at least 5 years in the UK. Again the disposal form is filled out by the family. The death must be registered.

The cremation cannot proceed until the Medical Referee for the Crematorium signs the appropriate part of the above forms.

The Funeral Service

The City of Belfast Crematorium has a non-denominational Church on site which can be used for both religious and secular services. Thirty minutes are allowed for each service, but if families require longer they can request a double slot at no extra cost.

If the hospital is arranging your baby's cremation please consult with them as to what type of service they offer at the crematorium as many of the hospitals in N Ireland have different formats. If you have appointed a funeral director to carry out the arrangements please liase with them as to what service arrangement you would like to make. If you are carrying out your baby's cremation arrangements yourselves please speak to the crematorium for personal advice and guidance. Clergy can be arranged or alternatively a family member or friend can take the service. There are facilities for playing CDs' and you can hire an organist to play music as well.

You are not obliged to hold a funeral service at the crematorium. You may wish to hold a funeral service at your church, home or elsewhere. This then can be followed by a short committal service at the crematorium - the committal is the name given to the moment when the coffin is 'committed' to be cremated; the coffin descends from view. Again families can decide whether they wish to watch the coffin descend from view or they can leave the funeral church with the coffin remaining there.

Placing items inside the coffin.

If you would like to place personal items inside your baby's coffin please be aware that strict environmental regulations mean that there are restrictions on the items that can be included and therefore it is best to ask the advice of your funeral director or the crematorium staff. Plastic and metal items are not allowed but other things including photos, letters, and soft toys can be placed with your baby. If fresh flowers on left on top of the coffin please let the crematorium staff know in advance if you wish them to be cremated with your baby, otherwise the staff will remove them. Please be assured that once the act of committal takes place the coffin is cremated immediately. It is not opened at all and the baby is not removed out of it.

Cremated Remains

In some cases depending on the gestation/age of the baby there will be no cremated remains. It is important that you are aware of this.

Prior to the cremation you will have filled out a green disposal form on which there are a number of options as to what can be done with the cremated remains if there are any. These include scattering in the babies Garden of Remembrance and burial at a memorial tree. There is a charge for the memorial tree and the tree is specific to the family that purchase it. A plaque with the wording of your choice is provided and this is placed at the base of the tree. There is no limit to the number of cremated remains that can go around a family tree. There are guidelines as to what items can be placed at the memorial tree, so please check with the crematorium. Some families may like to collect the cremated remains and take them home as they find comfort in keeping them. A selection of suitable baby/keepsake urns are available at the crematorium for purchase. For cremated remains being collected the crematorium automatically issues a Certificate of Cremation as documentary evidence that the cremation has taken place.

If the cremated remains are being taken out of N Ireland it is important to be aware that there are strict security checks at airports and the cremated remains will be scanned. It is strongly recommended that the cremated remains are carried as hand luggage. The Certificate of Cremation issued by the crematorium will be checked by the security officials so it is vital that this is not mislaid.

Sands NI is very grateful to Sharon McCloy, the Cemeteries and Crematorium Manager for her assistance in providing this information.