I carried my son inside me for 9 months, I carried him in my arms when he was a baby and all through his life, I carried him upstairs every night to bed and on this very day four years ago, I carried my own son to his funeral and to his grave.
Although I knew that a woman carrying a coffin isn’t the “done thing”, I had carried my son his entire life and there was no way that was going to change at his funeral. Along with his dad, his grandads and uncle, I made the decision to carry Jacks coffin with them in the church and at the graveside. I was understandably advised by several people not to carry Jacks coffin but I wanted Jack to know that he was ok and that his mummy was at his shoulder right till the very last minute, there was no way that I was going to leave him on his last hours on this earth. Again, it’s not always the "done thing" but I decided to talk about Jack at his funeral because there was no way that I could sit and listen to someone else talk about my son. Nobody knew Jack as well as I did and I felt that was the very last thing that I could ever do for him.
There are so many traditions, rituals and "done things" for funerals but a child’s funeral is something that should never happen so who says that we have to abide by these "done things". My advice to any bereaved parent would be to have your child’s funeral the way that you want it to be, not the way people say or think it should be. Our priest was amazing and supported everything that we asked for and I will be forever thankful for service that he gave our beautiful boy.
My advice to family and friends would be to let the parents have the funeral the way they see fit. If they want a burial or cremation, religious or not, that is their own choice. If the child is at home the morning/night before the funeral or at a funeral parlour, give the parents time with their child. As harsh at it sounds, that is the parents last hours their child so their time together is what’s most important, not yours. As a parent, that is time you never ever get back. From my own experience and from talking to so many bereaved families over the years I have learnt that after the funeral is the time when the reality of the death of their child death really hits. Before the funeral, the door and phone never stop, the house is full, the funeral is full but where do all these people go after the funeral? Sadly, that is also the time that most people go back to their own normal life and for many parents, that’s the time they need you most.
If you have made it to here, I know many of you will have been reading this and thinking “I can’t read anymore”, “this makes me too upset” “this make me uncomfortable” “this is morbid” but I am talking about it for that very reason. Children dying, children's funerals and the grief their parent suffer is such a taboo subject but sadly mums and dads like me go through this tragedy every day. If you know someone who has lost a child, reach out to them. Help Brightest Star to stop these taboo subjects.
Never did I imagine that I would see the day that I buried my own son, now know there is no greater saying than “a parent should never live to see the day that they have to bury their child”
Sending love and thoughts to every family that has had to go through this heartache.
Arlene, Jack’s Mummy x