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STILLBIRTH SUPPORT

Autopsy/Burial/Cremation options

Postmortem testing considerations

Prior to discharge, your care team should discuss options for postmortem testing that they believe can help in determining a cause for your loss and its impact on your future family building journey. This can include an autopsy, pathology, genetic testing or specific diagnostic tests for you as the parent to complete. Each bit of detail that can be discovered and tested has the potential to provide a cause of death. The specific tests, their process and your personal thoughts and feelings need to be discussed. Ultimately, it is up to you if you have these tests completed. Often, they come at an expense not covered by insurance or there are not laboratories or providers nearby that can complete these tests. Additionally, these tests can delay laying your baby to rest and regrettably, the results may not offer any answers or insight as to a cause.

Autopsy process - If you live in the Philadelphia/New Jersey region, there are limited options for autopsies. Please speak with your medical provider or social worker to learn more about your hospital's procedures for autopsies and post-mortem testing. Our organization is constantly monitoring the changing options for perinatal autopsies and will routinely update our findings here.

 

Burial vs. Cremation options/considerations

Upon discharge from the hospital, the next step is to find a funeral service provider that can handle their final preparations. Obviously, most parents having to contact a funeral provider do not have experience with it, let alone what to ask or expect. The information below serves as an overview for what you can expect and what the best options are based on your personal, cultural or religious needs.

 

  • Angel gowns – Many hospitals offer “angel gowns” to families as a burial or keepsake garment. They are hand sewn by volunteers out of donated wedding gowns. Ask your care provider if they have a gown for you.

  • Cremation - This is the most financially friendly option, however, may not be considerable for certain ethnic or religious groups. The raw cost of cremation should not be more than $200 (including transportation, cremation, legal certificate and urn).

  • Burial –  This cost of this option varies based on your specific wants and needs and could include burial plots or vaults (+/- $1,000), grave openings (+/- $1,000), burial costs (+/- $1,500) and headstone (+/- $1,500). This does not include the cost of the actual funeral ceremony/memorial service. We suggest postponing a memorial service until around the baby’s 1st birthday.

  • Green burial – This option only requires refrigeration/dry ice (instead of embalming) to preserve the body. The body is placed in a casket made of renewable/biodegradable materials and placed directly into the earth where they gradually return to the earth in natural progression. Note – access to this option may vary by State.

 

Finding a provider - No one ever imagines having to find a funeral home provider for their baby. There are many funeral homes that support families routinely and do so at little to no cost. There are other providers that do not support perinatal loss often and charge exorbitant amounts for their services leaving vulnerable families less likely to “shop around”.  Some providers have been known to pressure families in having full blown funerals shortly after their baby’s passing, leaving overwhelmed grieving parents unable to be present mentally during these milestone events.

 

We recommend starting with a provider located closest to the hospital or their desired resting place. If you are cremating, finding a provider located closest to the hospital will help avoid transportation charges. It is ok to ask to see your baby at the home prior to burial/cremation as many providers will allow for a visitation with extended family and friends if that was something you were unable to do in the hospital prior to discharge.

 

Below is a listing of funeral home providers local to the Philadelphia/South Jersey region that work to support families at little to no cost. Please note - Three Little Birds is not affiliated with these businesses. Please contact them directly for pricing based on your specific needs.

  • Atlantic County - Adams-Perfect Funeral Home, Northfield, NJ,  (609) 641-0065 - minimal charges for cremation; call for burial options/prices

  • Atlantic County - Wimburg Funeral Home, Galloway, NJ, (609) 641-0001  - minimal charges for cremation; call for burial options/prices

  • Burlington County - Page Funeral Home, Burlington, NJ 609) 386-3700 - cremation starting at $150; call for burial options/prices

  • Camden County - Foster-Warne Funeral Home, Collingswood, NJ - (856) 854-0152; cremation starting at $100; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Edwards & Son Funeral Home, Bridgeton, NJ - (856) 453-1960; cremation starting at $100; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Freitag Funeral Home, Bridgeton, NJ - (856) 455-2600; cremation starting at $75; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Christy Funeral Home, Millville, NJ - (856) 825-0314; cremation starting at $80; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Rocap Shannon Funeral Home, Millville, NJ - (856) 825-0781; cremation starting at $100; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Pancoast Funeral Home, Vineland, NJ - (856) 696-0931; cremation starting at $100; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Rone Funeral Home, Vineland, NJ (856) 691-4222; cremation starting at $25; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - DeMarco-Luisi Funeral Home, Vineland, NJ - (856) 691-0929; cremation starting at $70; call for burial options/prices

  • Cumberland County - Wainwright Bearnhardt Funeral Home, Vineland, NJ - (856) 691-0781; cremation starting at $100; call for burial options/prices

  • Gloucester County - McGinnis Funeral Home, Woodbury, NJ - (856) 210-3100; cremation starting at $150; call for burial options/prices

  • Gloucester County - Budd Funeral Home, Woodbury, NJ - (856) 845-1310; possibly no charge for cremation; call for burial options/prices

  • Gloucester County - Farnelli Funeral Home, Williamstown, NJ - (856) 629-5291; cremation starting at $215

Financial resources to offset disposition costs/medical bills/disposition expenses

  • The TEARS Foundation – This organization compassionately lifts a financial burden from families who have lost a child by providing funds to assist with the cost of burial or cremation services. Funds are paid directly to the service provider to approved applicants.

  • NJ Funeral Assistance - If you receive financial assistance from the state of NJ, they may cover these costs for you. 

  • PA Funeral Assistance - If you receive financial assistance from the state of PA, they may cover these costs for you. 

  • Walk in Sunshine Foundation – Provides financial assistance to NJ families for burial.

  • Trappist Caskets – Handcrafted by Catholic monks, these caskets are donated to families who have lost a child. You can find their contact information online, however, you or your funeral service provider will need to call to order as they do not accept online orders. https://trappistcaskets.com /child-fund/ Toll-free: (888) 433-6934

  • Aubrey's Advocate - Financial aid grants for families who experienced a stillbirth at 20 weeks gestation or later in the last 6 months. This grant money will be paid directly to the insurance company to be used as payment towards the labor and delivery cost of your hospital stay.

  • Collette Louise Foundation - This foundation provides financial assistance to families who find themselves in situations with pregnancy complications and/or NICU stays. Financial assistance can include, but is not limited to childcare for other children, travel and transportation, phone bills, and car insurance payments. Additionally, they provide financial assistance to families who lose a child due to miscarriage, stillborn, or as an infant. Financial assistance can include but is not limited to the funeral and burial expenses.

  • Hayden's Helping Hands - This foundation provides $1,000 for delivery medical costs of a stillborn baby.  Funeral expenses, prior doctor visits, check ups, aftercare, or any past due/collections medical bills are excluded/not applicable. Payments issued are paid directly to the institution issuing the invoice for the medical delivery bill(s).

  • The Fletcher Foundation - The Fletcher Foundation provides up to $500 of financial assistance to families after miscarriage or stillbirth, towards a hospital bill. 

  • Noelle's Light - Need-based financial assistance grants, up to $5,000, to families receiving treatment or after-life services following a fetal or congenital condition. All applications are required to be completed in tandem with a social worker.  If eligible, funding is directed to the vendor whose bill will be paid on behalf of the family.

  • Emma's Footprints - When the unthinkable happens, the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, Emma’s Footprints walks families through their grief journey. They provide PA families financial support for funeral costs, as well as emotional support through group meetings and one-on-one connections with their Care Team.

Planning a memorial service...

Many families host a funeral or memorial service for their baby at the time of laying them to rest. Other families choose to postpone a memorial or funeral service for their babies.  First, this could be to offset costs of hosting a formal service. Families experience unexpected financial burdens and expenses associated with their loss. The cost of an actual service as part of the funeral is an additional expense that can feel rushed as you go through the motions.

 

Why wait? The fog of grief for perinatal loss parents can be thick and heavy for many months. Once some of that fog lifts, families often wish they had waited since they are more mentally and emotionally sound. Additionally, families are so spread out and not everyone may have been able to attend. Usually around the anticipated first milestones of due dates, birth and/or death dates, families feel more empowered by their grief and love for their baby and have found ways to connect with their sacred love. They want to do something, but they aren’t sure what! There are so many ways that you can host an affordable and meaningful service you will remember.

 

Meaningful options for memorial services

There are several ways you can plan a memorial service that honors your baby, raises awareness for perinatal loss and shatters the stigmas surrounding it. These include:

 

  • Birthday party -  Host a small gathering to celebrate your baby’s birthday with cake. Guests can bring a gift for the age your baby would be, and you can donate it to a charity that supports kids in need.

  • Butterfly release – Invite your loved ones to your home or a park where you can recite a poem and release butterflies in their memory

  • Spread their love and light – Host an environmentally friendly spreading of the ashes and/or have a lantern send off

  • Host a day of service – Donate your time, money or energy to a local organizational supporting perinatal health and wellness or raises funds for perinatal bereavement.

  • Join a memorial walk – There are so many groups that do walks for bereavement, perinatal health and research. Start a team in your baby’s name and spread their love around while celebrating others walking similar journeys.

 

Think outside the box - there is no "right" way to memorialize your baby

For many families, the need to parent and memorialize their baby year after year has lead them to developing legacy projects or events to support other perinatal loss families. Big or small these projects and events have a tremendous impact in helping raise awareness for perinatal loss throughout the community as well as raise funds to support various projects and programs. There is no right or wrong way to honor your baby!

 

  • Light a candle on special days and holidays

  • Say a prayer or write a poem

  • Create a journal and talk to your baby and express your feelings

  • Print photos of you and your family with the baby or paint a picture for your home

  • Plant a tree or a small garden

  • Get a memorial tattoo

  • Have a piece of jewelry made, perhaps with the baby's birthstone

  • Donate to a charity or give something to a needy child who is about the same age as your baby would be

  • Do a random act of kindness in their memory

  • Participate in a community event like a memorial walk or remembrance ceremony

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