What to Expect
If your infant or young child died unexpectedly, most likely an autopsy will be required. This is done in almost all cases in Massachusetts. We recognize the difficulty of this situation, but autopsies are important to understand if there were any underlying causes for your child's death. Please know that your child will be treated respectfully and the process will not prevent you from having a memorial service of your choosing.
Due to the post-autopsy process, it may take more than one year for you to receive the results from the autopsy. It is also important to note that the results and death certificate are typically not sent automatically and you will not be notified when they are done. A written request must be completed to obtain this information. Here at the Center, we can help you navigate this process. If you would like to discuss this process further, please contact us.
The sudden death of an infant or young child automatically triggers several investigations in Massachusetts, including those conducted by local and/or state police, the Department of Children and Families, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Each investigation is independent of one another, and you may be asked the same questions repeatedly. At this most difficult time, it can be an extraordinary challenge to participate in these required protocols. You have the right to ask questions and learn more, including whether you are entitled to receive any associated written reports. The Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner can be contacted at (617) 267-6767.
There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to commemorating your child. Commemoration can happen at any time and in any way. Planning what feels right for you and your family should be done at your pace, and at the right time for you. If you choose to work with a funeral home, allow their compassionate staff to guide you in understanding your many options.
Some families commemorate a loved one by having a special place where they may go each year. Others choose to integrate art, music, tattoos, jewelry, etc. as one form of expression.
If a decision is made not to hold a funeral service, as is the case with many stillbirths, a later memorial service can happen to facilitate both parents’ grief process and illustrate to relatives and friends the significance of the baby’s death.
The funeral does not need to take place in a funeral home. It is possible for it to occur in a church, your home, or another locational that may be comfortable for your family.
Depending on the age of the child, some parents are left with few memories or mementos. A service in which friends, relatives, teachers, or classmates are given an opportunity to express fond thoughts about the child may become a meaningful tribute.
Helping other family members
Surviving children are often considered the “forgotten mourners.” Suggest ways to include them in the planning of the service, as well as the service itself. Young children might want to place a drawing or a toy in the casket. Older children may have suggestions for music or poetry that would make the service more personal and meaningful for them; or they may want to say a few words in remembrance of a special sibling.
Grandparents not only feel the painful impact of the death of their grandchild, but also experience an immense feeling of helplessness at not being able to take the pain away from their own child. Remember to include them as well.