Losing a child is something that no parent should ever have to face. Unfortunately, it could be a reality for someone you love. When attending a funeral for a baby, remember that emotions are heightened by the loss of someone so small and helpless. Being an understanding friend and respecting the wishes of the parents are your only roles as an attendee to the funeral.
Some parents might need to rehash the details of their child's death, while others will find the topic too painful. It's proper etiquette to express your condolences, but avoid getting into the nitty gritty of the details unless the parent volunteers the information. Chances are, you'll glean the info from another person, so allow the parents to grieve in peace without incessant questions.
A baby's funeral is upsetting for everyone involved. No matter if the child was a stillborn, passed away after a few months, had consistently bad health or any number of other issues, don't compare the situation to anything else. The parents are devastated regardless and it's poor etiquette to tell them how it's quite normal to be sad after the death of a baby. Instead, you're in attendance to offer support only.
Some parents might choose to view their baby privately, especially if the child has physical issues or deformities. Closed-casket funerals are common for babies, so don't pry or ask to see the baby's body. Instead, check out the photos that may be on display and gush over the child's adorable eyes, cute cheeks or chubby knees in life, rather than causing the family to dwell on the death.
The wrong words can seem like daggers to grieving parents, so make sure your words offer comfort. Never say that a child's death was "for the best," or relay the story of a similar situation that happened to another family. To the parents of a deceased baby, their situation is unique and painful no matter what the circumstances. Instead, convey your profound sorrow for their loss or that the family is in your thoughts and prayers.
Although sending flowers is a completely permissible gesture for a baby's funeral, it might be even more appropriate to bring along a stuffed animal or other child item to place on or near the casket. Afterward, the family can take the animals home in remembrance or even donate them to a worthy charity in honor of their child.
When attending a funeral for a baby, it's especially important that you follow and adhere to all the parents' wishes. Whether they reserve the graveside ceremony for immediate family only, choose a closed-casket funeral or even nix a formal funeral completely, know that they're doing their best to cope. Don't question or make suggestions on how they could do better.
After the Funeral
Don't make the mistake of thinking the grieving process for a baby ends once the funeral is over. The parents will receive less and less support over the weeks following the funeral, so it's important to stay in touch and ensure they know you're thinking about them and their loss. Bringing a meal, sending a card or remembering the baby's birthday and other special events extend your support past the actual day of the funeral. Keep in mind that most parents never get over the death of a child.