Children's Hospital Colorado

Making Arrangements After Losing a Child

When it comes to saying goodbye and finding a resting place for your child, you have many choices and considerations. Your funeral director or religious advisor can help you make decisions about the service, holding a viewing, having a gathering, your child’s final resting place and can help answer any other questions. They are experienced in guiding people through this process; however, if you feel they are not addressing your concerns, call your social worker or Children’s Colorado’s Bereavement Coordinator.

Considerations when making arrangements for your child:

  • Take your time. There are few reasons to hurry when making final arrangements for your child.
  • Bring along a trusted relative or friend when making arrangements.
  • Consider talking to a religious leader and/or a local funeral director, even if you plan to go out of state.
  • Ask funeral directors about their costs, and how the funeral home approaches care for a child. It is important that the funeral home is sensitive to your wishes.
  • In the case of a baby or child death, many funeral homes and cemeteries will provide reduced rates.
  • Ask funeral homes and cemeteries about unique services they may offer to families who have had a child die (e.g. balloon release or dove release).
  • Some mortuaries promote family involvement, like parents and family members seeing their child at the funeral home, and perhaps even dressing and holding their child.

What to do if you live far away

  • If you are comfortable with a funeral director in your hometown, contact them. It may still be a good idea to contact a local funeral director for assistance even if you plan to take your child to your hometown or out of state.
  • If you choose burial in another state, a local funeral home will need to embalm your child’s body (in most cases). Embalming is a process that helps preserve the body. The funeral director in your home state can make those arrangements for you with a local funeral director.
  • If you choose cremation, and you do not wish to have a viewing in your home state, choosing local cremation makes transportation easier.

Financial resources

The funeral director can help file paperwork for payment source(s) if/when applicable. Possible payment sources, if your child qualifies:

  • Medicaid: If the child received Medicaid, contact the county’s Department of Human Services where the child resided. You may need to meet with a department representative who will furnish you with a letter authorizing funding.
  • Veteran’s benefits: If at least one parent served in the military, there may be financial assistance available and the child may be permitted to be buried in a military cemetery. Visit cem.va.gov.
  • Victims assistance: If the child was the victim of a crime, contact the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund in the District Attorney’s Office of the county where the incident occurred. Usually a local funeral home can do this for you.

Autopsy information

  • In certain situations, a coroner is involved and they must have an autopsy; there is no choice. Some families choose to have an autopsy.
  • An autopsy is a procedure in which a trained specialist will carefully examine your child’s body to help determine the cause of death. There may be important information to learn about your child’s death that may be helpful to you, or to other children who, in the future, have the same illness or condition.
  • The laws of the State of Colorado require that any patient who dies in a hospital within 24 hours of admission must have an autopsy. This is referred to as a “coroner’s case” or “medical examiner’s case.” There may also be other reasons why the county coroner/medical examiner requires an autopsy. However, many times permission for an autopsy is yours to give.
  • There is no charge to the family if the coroner or medical examiner or Children’s Colorado performs the autopsy.
  • Having an autopsy should not delay arrangements for your child, although it may be a day or two, depending on the circumstances.
  • It generally takes three months to complete the autopsy report. Your child’s attending physician will receive the report; when you are ready, ask the physician to review those results with you, if you’d like.

Download/print our bereavement brochure for parents and guardians (.pdf).

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