When people learn that I’m a Funeral Director there are a few comments that are often made. One comment is “it must be so hard when a child dies” and I can’t deny that, but it can actually be hard when anyone dies. I cried the morning when I was getting ready for a funeral and a Mom stood next to her son’s casket just quietly looking at him and running her fingers through his hair. I cried the afternoon when an elderly gentleman got next to his wife’s casket, lifted himself up from his wheelchair and bent over, kissed her gently on the cheek and said “see you soon”.
It’s different when a child dies though. Old people die with memories and accomplishments; children die with hopes and dreams. When a baby dies, the hopes and dreams of the parents and the bond that they felt the moment they knew they were pregnant create a heartache that nobody else can really understand. If I could make a top ten of things not to say when a baby dies and how I would want to respond, it would include these:
- “It’s a good thing you didn’t get to know your child because it would hurt worse if you did”. And I would say “I loved my child from the moment I knew I was going to be a Dad. We were going to ride bikes together and go camping. I was going to teach him how to skate. It couldn’t hurt any worse.
- “You can have more”. And I would say “Yes I know that, but I wanted this one”.
- “God needed another angel”. And I would say “No he didn’t. God has lots of angels. He wouldn’t take the life of a child because he needed another angel. This just sucks”.
Would I make those replies? Probably not…I would probably accept the fact that people’s intentions are good and they just don’t know how it feels. For many years I made funeral arrangements with parents for their children and I thought that I knew a bit about what they were going through. But when we almost lost our son, I realized that I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know that something could hurt so deep and so quick. And I wanted to go back to all of those parents who I had met with before and apologize.
Yes, it is so hard when a child dies.