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Children Die: Professionals Don’t Even Know How to Respond

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This entry has been a long time coming…

In May, Sharing Solace was blessed to be asked to attend the National Funeral Director Association’s Professional Women’s conference in Miami. I mean, it was an all-expense paid trip to Miami – YES! I didn’t know what I was getting myself into…but I went in with an open mind and an open heart…and I was blown away!

Somebody {thank you Maddie!!} wanted me there that weekend. The entire weekend was about how funeral professionals can better care for the families, the emotions, and the bodies of children. The conference was also the weekend before Mother’s Day {which we ‘all’ know is Bereaved Mother’s Day weekend}.

I was surrounded by 100+ women from all over the continent – the best of the best, the cream of the crop – learning how to better care for and serve families just like me. And the resounding response I heard?

“We don’t know how to care for parents to have to bury their children well. We don’t know about the resources out there and feel like we have to scramble and ‘recreate the wheel’ each time.”

And as much as this ticked me off it also shone a light on something I knew in my heart: how little society is willing to talk about child loss. Let me give you some numbers from the CDC {because I’m a nerd and went to look them up myself}:

  • up to 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in a miscarriage {‘they’ say anywhere between 10-30% because not all pregnancies are documented at the time of miscarriage}
  • 22,300 are born still every year {5-year average 2016-2020}
  • 38,500 children under the age of 18 die each year. 53,500 if you include college-aged kids {under 22 years old – because I still felt like a kid for most of my college years}

So, what does that mean…? It means that every 6-9 minutes someone’s child dies. Probably, while you’re reading this article someone’s mother is being told their baby is dead. Yet, when you’re in the heat of the moment – the depth of that grief – you think you’re the only one ever to go through this pain.

And the professionals we look to to help guide us through the process of burying {or cremating, or whatever your choice is with} our child are almost as clueless as we are at what to do and how to help. When we need and expect the most support we are left at a loss…

Now, I blame no one for this. It goes back to Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better then do better.” That’s what we’re doing now.  Society is understanding that children are no longer ‘seen and not heard’ they are integral to the family – no matter how briefly a part of it – and we are doing better.

The National Funeral Directors Association and the Funeral Service Foundation are doing better. They released the multi-year ‘When a Child Dies‘ study this summer; which is a HUGE leap in the right direction! And also, we can and need to keep going:

The contents of that study – and much, much more – needs to extend from the time of death, through the services, and all the way through ongoing support. Everyone needs to, at least, be aware that there are organizations that ‘specialize’ in child loss and want to help.

Funeral homes, hospitals, chaplains, and hospices should not be scrambling to find additional resources when the time comes. Aunts, Uncles, Friends, and Grandparents should not be making dozens of calls to beg to help to bury a baby. And, Mothers and Fathers should not find out months {sometimes years} after their loss that there are other parents out there that ‘get it’.

All I can really say right now is STAY TUNED and keep Sharing Solace bookmarked 🤫


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