I think the most unfair thing I’ve ever had to do in this life was plan a funeral for an infant, from the maternity recovery ward. Making the phone call to the Funeral Home nearly made me vomit. I don’t know how I got through that phone call without bawling. Maybe it was the shock.
Then came the meetings with the funeral director, answering a lot of weird questions (like the quirky funeral director’s repeated questions: “So she never served in the military or got married?” Dude, she was TWO DAYS OLD!!) and planning the details of the ceremony with our pastor.
We prepared for our family to travel in from around the country. And on December 21, 2011, I woke up knowing that we would officially say goodbye that day.
I felt terrible. My body was not healing well from the emergency c-section. I had developed mild pre-eclampsia post birth and my blood pressure was high enough my doctor had considered re-hospitalizing me. I was desperately trying to pump milk for my surviving twin, from a body that fought against the idea.
I awoke that morning to the sounds of laughter. WHO COULD POSSIBLY be LAUGHING on this day? It made me angry. But, that is what family does when they get together, right? Would I want it any different? Looking back, I am thankful for the laughs that day.
We got in the car, and I turned to my husband. He asked what was wrong. “I don’t want to do this,” I choked out. “The funeral makes it real.” He patted my hand and nodded in understanding.
I made it through the rest of the day. Surprisingly, after the heart breaking ceremony, I actually felt relieved. Yes. I did. No more planning funerals for my baby.
But that relief was short lived. Eventually I received her ashes. I placed them on my dresser, always near me. But I did not feel closure. I wanted a place where I could put her to rest. Where I can visit her on her birthday and make it a special event. Where people will see her name and always, always remember her. Where I can be laid to rest (eventually) next to her for eternity.
It took almost two years, but I decided to place her in our church’s beautiful memorial garden. And I began to plan a second funeral.
This time though, I was no longer in the fog of shock and severe sadness. My pastor and I worked together to make it a ceremony of remembrance and gratitude. I had the opportunity to say things to my friends and family that had been building up over the past 18 months. I shared my feelings.
We placed her in the ground and each of us had the opportunity to place a rose or other flowers in her plot. It was a special moment. I felt like we had given her the ceremony she deserved.
And finally I was able to find some peace. Closure.
I had made it through and out of the darkest days.
And I am happy. We now have happier memories of our goodbye.
So, if you feel the urge to have a “re-do” or if you never had a ceremony or burial, it is never too late. Our friends and family were supportive and understanding.
So in my case, the answer is TWO. It took TWO funerals for me to move beyond the death of my daughter. And that is okay. It is what I needed to do along my grief journey.
What about you?