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My younger brother died at birth (breech delivery that should have been a c section). Cuddle cots didn’t exist in the 80s, but my parents were given time with him and they took photos (his photo now lives by my bedside since my mother passed away a couple of years ago). I understand as an adult that this was a kindness given to her that many mothers in the 1980s were not given. She also kept a box of his things - things she had bought for him, his funeral items, and hospital paperwork. There was a secondary box of items for decorating his grave that I remember helping with when I was little. She grieved for him her entire life and being a mother myself, I can’t see how she wouldn’t have.

But I’m not sure if bringing him home before burial would have been helpful, especially for my sister and I, who were between the ages of 1 and 3. It would have been confusing and caring for him for any real length of time wouldn’t have made it any easier imo.

[–] ProxyMusic 5 points Edited

I'm confused by this article; some parts seem to be missing. Can someone help me out?

It seems to be solely about newborn babies who die soon after birth, or who are stillborn, and whose deaths occurred in hospitals. and have never been at home. Is that the impression others get?

It seems NOT to be about babies past the immediate postpartum stage who die at home, or outside hospital settings, as in the case of SIDS, choking, disease, or accidents. Again, is that the impression others get?

Also, it seems not to account for the fact that depending on the religion/culture, the time between death and the funeral varies greatly. Jewish tradition is to bury the deceased ASAP; in the Irish Catholic tradition I grew up in, the lag between death and the funeral is usually many days or a full week.

In most jurisdictions, people who die outside of hospital settings for for unknown health reasons have to be autopsied. Sometimes this is the case if people die in hospital settings too, if the death seems like it might be separate from the reason the person is in hospital in the first place. (Sometimes people being treated in HCFs, or babies recently born in a HCF, die for unknown reasons, accidental drug overdose or unexpected drug reactions, or for other unintentional causes, but it's still important to find out the cause of death. Other times, people in health care settings, including babies, are murdered - and it's important to find out the cause of death in those cases too, and to prosecute.)

The article also seems to assume that the parents whose babies die don't have other children at home.

I come from a background where wakes are the norm, and many of my terminally ill family members were cared for in their final months and died at home, so I definitely see the value for the living family members to have plenty of time to see, touch and tend to our loved ones's bodies after they've died. When my grandparents died when I was a kid in the 1960s, they were waked in their homes too, so I have experience being in a home where a dead body is laid out on view for days after death too.

But still, in the case of a baby or child's death, I worry about the impact on the other kids in a family of what this article recommends. I think it's good for siblings to be able to see, touch, kiss their deceased brother or sister and say goodbye in at home in a relaxed, family setting, no rushing. But returning and/or keeping a deceased baby home for days or a week or so after the death so that the parents can bond with the baby, bathe the baby and care for the baby sort of as if the baby were still alive or as if the baby is still some sort of in-between state - I'm not so sure that this would be good for the other kids in the family. In fact,I think that it might give the still-living kids some very confusing messages that could be harmful to them. Not to mention practical matters such as seeing rigor mortis and experiencing the coldness of the skin.

I say this as someone who experienced the death of a sibling early in life. If my dead brother had been kept home until his funeral so my parents could dote on his dead body, I think it would have confused and messed up me and my other siblings even more... IME, when children die, there is a great focus on the parents's loss and helping the parents deal with their grief, but not much on what the surviving siblings are going through. For kids whose siblings die, there is often a multiple loss because we lose not just our brother or sister to death, but we lose our parents to their all-consuming grief (and often to their guilt, shame, blame, rancor, drunkenness, drug use etc). Surviving children often feel/fear that our parents care more about the sibling who died than those of us still living too. I fear that bringing or keeping a dead baby home for days so the parents can bond with their deceased child in the ways this article recommends would only increase that sense amongst the surviving kids.

It certainly does seem to be primarily geared towards families with babies born still imo.

That's a fascinating contribution, thank you. I am sure there are better and more comprehensive treatments of this problem out there, but this was the first I had come across (it's from 2014). I agree with you that these issues, especially what happens to any other children, have not been dealt with. I expect the age(s) of any child(ren) would make a difference, and also how old the baby was. A newborn not known to them would not need to be grieved over in the same way by them as an older baby would. I will see if I can find a better article on this topic now. Many thanks for your insights.

ETA. A quick search throws up plenty of resources for helping families and some research (and Google Scholar shows a whole lot more, covering different cultures and looking at both parents and other children in the family). I have also found a whole 2003 book on the topic available online, which is far more comprehensive:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK220823/?report=reader

I am grateful to the wonderful, selfless people who feel called to help grieving parents. What a thing to go through.

My little sister died when she was about 2 1/5 weeks old, back in 1969. I don't know how her body and burial were handled, because I was only 4. I don't even remember what she looked like. I never held her. I know she was buried in one of three sections of the cemetery for unbaptized babies and suicides (I don't even know which one, because none of them have markers). My mother was still sad about losing her all the way to her death this year. I'm told my mother had my sister's name added to her tombstone, though I haven't had a chance to see it yet.

I wonder if having Jane at home would have helped. I know my mother and her father were both at home between their deaths and funerals, so my mother wouldn't have been squeamish about it.

Now I'm also wondering how much formaldehyde is in the ground at that cemetery. It's a densely packed cemetery.

According to the article, things have changed since then. It's the same with death generally. People talk about it and about grief more freely, and there is more mental health assistance available. My Mum died was I was young and my family received no help at all. It was not even considered. That was in the 70s.

Posted here because the article refers to possible positive effects for the mother's mental and physical well-being.