Riley Children's Grief Team
Burial vs. Cremation: Whether to have your child buried or cremated is a deeply personal choice. Burial involves the body remaining intact, being placed in a casket, and buried in a cemetery. This usually occurs within days to a week after the child dies. Cremation involves the body being heated to high temperatures until all that remains are ashes (cremains). The ashes are then placed in an urn, box or special container and given to the family members. Some individuals choose to keep their child’s cremains at home and some choose to have the cremains buried or placed in a mausoleum.
Regardless of whether your child will be buried or cremated, you may choose to have a memorial service, funeral or celebration of life. If the body is present, the memorial service will need to take place soon after your child’s death, usually within one week. If the body is not present for the service, it can take place days, weeks or even months after your child’s death. Cremains may be present for the service as soon as the cremation is completed. Of note, if you plan to have a service for your child, consider having the funeral home or a trusted friend record the service for you. Not all families watch the recording later, but many take comfort in knowing it is available should they wish to do this.
Financial assistance: The cost of final arrangements (burial and cremation) can be expensive. To help with these expenses consider the following:
- Ask the funeral director if they can assist with the cost or provide a discount.
- If burying your child, reach out to several different headstone companies to see if any would be able to work within your budget.
- Contact your local government (township or county) to see what assistance is available.
- If your child had Medicaid insurance, have the funeral home inquire if there are any benefits available to funeral expenses.
- Consider utilizing a crowd funding platform (online fundraiser) to help raise funds for the final arrangements. Enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend to set this up.
Follow-up appointments: It can be very distressing to receive an appointment reminder for your child. Consider enlisting the help of a trusted family member or friend to call your child’s providers (doctors, pharmacy, dentist, eye doctor, insurance, etc.) to inform them of the death and cancel future appointments.
Thank you cards: Many bereaved parents are overwhelmed by grief. It can be difficult to take on additional tasks. Consider enlisting the help of a trusted family member or friend to create a thank you card template and mailing labels. Those who provided thoughtful gestures will understand if you don’t personally write them a thank you.
Bereavement Leave: Currently, there is no formal bereavement leave policy in the United States. Some employers do offer bereavement leave, though the extent and whether it is paid varies. Most importantly, check with your employer’s human resources department to see what bereavement benefits are available to you. Some individuals are able to utilize short term disability benefits for bereavement. It can be helpful to reach out by email, so you have documentation to refer back to later if you have forgotten or have questions.
Social Security: If your child received Social Security Disability benefits, you will need to notify the Social Security Administration of your child’s death. You can also request the funeral home notify the SSA on your behalf. Typically, benefits will end the month of your child’s death.
Credit Reporting: Unfortunately, some families become victims of their child’s social security number being stolen. Consider placing a freeze on your child’s credit. How to freeze credit is governed by state law, and each three credit reporting agencies have their own requirements.