As a continuation of my story of Infant Loss, I want to share my experience of planning and having the perfect funeral for my baby girl, Gianna. Just a reminder that this is my story which took place 4 years ago, this past May. If you want to read from the beginning, start with my first post: Finding out there is something wrong with my baby. Gianna was born on a Thursday, passed away the following Saturday, and we had her funeral on the Thursday after she was born. I came home from the hospital on Sunday and spent most of the day in bed resting, crying and mourning.
By Monday, it was time to start thinking about funeral arrangements, I had to start thinking if cremation from the cremation services was an option for us. I knew the hospital was going to take care of transferring my little girl to the mortuary (for a fee), so there wasn’t a lot I had to take care of there. We did have to decide on which mortuary we would use, but that was a pretty easy decision since I live in a small town. I still wasn’t quite ready to make my way to the mortuary to make funeral plans. I sent hubby in my place, with my parents, to make sure everything was taken care of. They called me with any important decisions such as the casket, and whether or not we would want a family viewing at the funeral home, before the service. We even choose the headstones and cemetery flat grave markers. I trusted my mom to make good choices, and with little discussion over the phone, the plans were made. I decided that a graveside service would be most appropriate for Gianna’s short-lived life. The weather was perfect and it really seemed most fitting, for some of our closest friends and family.
Having to worry about funeral plans while grieving, is a very difficult thing. I imagine these end-of-life decisions just get more and more difficult to make when the deceased has lived a longer life. I wanted to at least have some say with the very mostimportant things, but let some of the less important things be decided without me. I just couldn’t think about it all.
Tuesday was the day I went to the florist and picked out flowers for the service. I chose the perfect flowers to cover Gianna’s little white casket (which was more of a box), and my parents got an additional arrangement, to sit on a stand at the service. Then my in-laws came over and picked out an arrangement of their own, to be a gift from them, to their first and only granddaughter (at the time). The flowers were all beautiful! Because my little angel was deemed our little butterfly, my sister Megan crocheted a little pink and white butterfly, to sit with the arrangement of flowers on her casket. It was perfect. Then we had a large mylar buttefly balloon, which tied to my parent’s floral arrangement – Another gift from them.
In case you are wondering about the three stuffed animals in front of the casket, those were all gifts to Gianna, from my boys. Each of my three boys picked out a stuffed animal to give to their little sister. Those animals sat on her grave, and headstone, for quite some time. My oldest loves snowmen, so it was fitting for him to give his baby sister a stuffed snowman – even in May. I loved that the boys had their own little way to take part in the service.
Before the actual funeral service, there were a couple of other things that needed to be taken care of. I needed the perfect dress for my angel to be buried in. Because Gianna was so tiny, it was a bit difficult to find the right item – especially in my town. My oldest sister Andrea took it upon herself to find the perfect dress, and she did. It was a big relief to know that my big sister had this taken care of. I have pictures I can show, but I don’t want to startle any of you with pictures of a dead baby. 🙁 It is quite heartbreaking, and difficult to see – even still.
Hopefully this one is mild enough that it doesn’t bother you. I just wanted to show the perfect setup that Gianna had, before she was buried. You will notice the pink stuffed bunny, which barely fit with my little angel. It is the bunny that I held tight to, those first few days after I lost my baby. I wanted her to take a piece of me with her into the earth.
Then there was the matter of a baby blanket. My sister, Megan, crochets all of her nieces and nephews a baby blanket, and they all turn out absolutely beautiful. I don’t recall if she started on the blanket ahead of time or not, but I know she spent her flight that weekend, crocheting away. She made the perfect baby blanket, tiny cap, and booties. The blanket even had butterflies crocheted into it! Unfortunately, Gianna’s feet didn’t fit the booties, because of her turned out feet. I still have the booties in a special keepsake box. My mom also makes each of her grandchildren a baby blanket, and it was no different for Gianna. Gianna got her soft blankie with a satin border, which she was buried with. We laid Gianna on top of the folded up blanket from Grandma, and covered her over with the beautiful blanket my sister made her. It was perfect. Instead of the full size baby quilt my mom makes each of her grand babies, she made an adorable 12×12 square, which resides in a shadow box for Gianna. I will have to post a picture of this box later, because it’s beautiful. On top of the quilt, I have pinned a picture of Gianna, the crocheted butterfly my sister made and one of her itty bitty hospital bracelets.
The last thing to do for the funeral was to create a program. I tried not to agonize over this, but it can be a challenge. I have a dear friend who is a beautiful singer. She has also composed some of her own songs. I called her up fairly early in the week and asked if she might be able to write and sing a song for Gianna. Without hesitation, she said yes. It was absolutely fabulous for her to write a song on such short notice. The song was very fitting to Gianna. I also decided that I wanted my oldest sister, Andrea, and her family to sing at the funeral, accompanied by my friend, on the guitar. They all willingly agreed. The amount of help and ease that I had to plan this funeral was extraordinary! I don’t know if I could have done it any other way.
The service was perfect. The weather was perfect, and I had so many friends and family members show up, which was a comforting surprise to me. 4 out of 5 of my siblings came out to be with me, despite the expense and time out of their busy schedules. I know my brother and his wife would have come, if it had been feasible. They were with me in spirit. Some of them brought their children and some did not. Every so often, throughout the service, the mylar butterfly balloon would blow as if there was a gentle breeze, and I really felt like Gianna was there with us. The music was all beautiful, and my brother Jared and my dad, who both spoke and prayed, shared the most beautiful words. As many tears as I shed, Gianna’s graveside service was the perfect way to say goodbye to her little body.
We decided to have a gathering at my parent’s house, for after the funeral, for people to come and pay their respects. I had nothing to do with planning this get together, but the amount of love and support I received from members of my church, was phenomenal. My mom had to make one phone call and all of the food and everything was taken care of. So many people brought food over to my mom’s house, stayed to help serve the food, and to visit. I felt an extreme amount of love and support from so many. I do want to add that while I appreciated all of the help and support, after the funeral was over, I had a difficult time mingling. I did it because it was what was expected, and I felt it was important, but there were moments when I just wanted everyone to leave, so I could go to my room. I think these are normal feelings to have.
With the funeral over, it was time to figure out how to live my life and be a mother to the three living children that I still had. Most of my family were heading back to their homes and their lives, while I had to figure out what I was to make of my life. The funeral was beautiful, and I would have it any other way, but it also meant that it was time to close this chapter, and try to move forward. While still recovering from a c-section for the baby that I never got to bring home, it was quite a challenge at times. I plan to post more on the grieving process and what got me through it all, and still continues to get me through it.
You can now read my next post: My Journey to Recovery From a C-Section and the Death of a Baby.