Burial After a Miscarriage: How It Works

Updated

When someone experiences a miscarriage, their world often gets turned upside down. Not only are they left with the grief and emptiness that a miscarriage can bring, but they have to carry on with daily life and explain to the world what they’re going through.

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Miscarriages occur in about 26 percent of all pregnancies. Despite them being somewhat common, most people don’t know what comes next. People may have questions like, “What happens to the body?" "Is it normal to have a miscarriage burial?” and “How do I honor my baby?”

The answers to these questions aren’t common knowledge. This often leaves people lacking support, and without the answers that they need to questions like this.

What Happens Typically Happens to the Body Immediately After a Miscarriage?

When you’re coping with a miscarriage, it can be difficult to think about logistical questions like what to do with the baby’s body. 

Depending on when in pregnancy the miscarriage occurs, the fetus’s body may be considered “medical waste,” and healthcare facilities dispose of them appropriately. While there aren’t specific laws around this in most states, different state agencies or healthcare facilities might enact policies around it. 

Some providers may recommend having the fetus undergo a pathology exam to see if they can help get some answers around the cause of the miscarriage, although it’s often difficult to determine or get a clear answer.

If the miscarriage occurs at home or outside of the hospital, it is up to the parents to decide what they want to do with the body. This may mean having a burial or taking it to the hospital for disposal or testing. 

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Can You Bury or Have a Funeral for a Miscarried Baby?

Technically a miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that occurs before twenty weeks gestation, after that it is considered a stillbirth. Legislation in the United States varies from state to state, but most states do not require any sort of burial or funeral.

Just because it’s not required, doesn’t mean you can’t have one.

Common Miscarriage Burial Options

Having a burial or funeral for your miscarried baby can be a meaningful way to honor their short life and help give you and your family some sort of closure. 

Home burial

Home burial is always an option if you own your home, or have a loved one who has land and would let you have the burial there. Having a home burial can give you the ease of having whatever ceremony makes sense to you from the comfort of your home. It also allows you to pay your respects and visit your baby whenever you’d like, and have them be a part of your home life in some way.

Choosing to have a home burial cuts out the middleman and allows you to make the process entirely your own, which can be incredibly empowering for some. 

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Cemetery burial

A cemetery burial allows you to relax while someone else takes care of the details for you.

When you have a miscarriage burial at a cemetery, you would typically coordinate with a funeral home that may or may not have its own cemetery. For those who would like a more traditional funeral, the funeral home will help organize details like invitations, flowers, and coordinate a clergy or someone who will facilitate services if you choose to have them. 

A cemetery burial gives you the option to have the burial at a religious cemetery if that applies to you. You may want to have a burial at a specific cemetery if you have other family members buried there or a family estate.

Many funeral homes offer complementary services for families who have experienced miscarriage, infant, or child loss. You can call around to your local cemeteries or ask your healthcare provider for more information.

Green burial

A green burial is a great option for earth lovers and those who are environmentally inclined. 

These types of burials have become more popular, and green burials can be done for miscarriages as well. Also known as “natural burials,” these types of burials can be a way of caring for your dead loves ones with minimal environmental impact. 

A green burial usually involves burying the remains without preserving them without chemicals that are toxic to the environment, and in a casket or material that is naturally biodegradable.

The remains may be wrapped in cloth, or buried in a casket made of wood, one that is woven with natural materials, or cardboard.

Another green burial option is tree pod burial, which involves burying your baby under the base of a tree. You can plant flowers around the tree, and revisit the tree to find peace and visit your baby.

You can still have traditional services or another ceremony that feels right for you. 

Common Alternatives to Burial After a Miscarriage

It’s not always possible or desired to have a burial after a miscarriage. There are still so many other ways to honor your baby in a way that feels meaningful to you.

Create a miscarriage keepsake box

Creating a miscarriage memory box gives you the chance to honor the memory of your baby without a burial or funeral. A miscarriage keepsake box is a container that’s filled with sentimental objects that remind you of your baby.

What do people put in these boxes? Here are some miscarriage keepsakes you can include in yours:

  • Baby clothes, blankets, or shoes
  • Pregnancy photos
  • Pregnancy announcements
  • Hospital bracelets
  • Ultrasounds or images from other scans
  • Dried flowers
  • Stuffed animals
  • Sentimental items collected from loved ones

There’s no right or wrong way to create a miscarriage keepsake box, what matters is that it’s meaningful to you. This can be done in addition to or instead of having a funeral or burial.

You may want to display this keepsake box on a sort of altar or keep it tucked away in a closet. You can even bury the keepsake box in your yard as your own sort of burial.

Hold a memorial

A memorial is a ceremony that celebrates and honors the death of your baby without having the remains present. 

Memorials give you a chance to gather with your friends and family so you can get the support you need and create meaning out of the experience. This is a way of owning what you have experienced, and still showing up to celebrate life.

This can be held at your home or the home of a loved one, at a restaurant, at a park, beach, or wherever feels like the right setting for you.

A miscarriage memorial won’t look the same as a memorial for someone else who has died.

Here are some ideas of what to do at one:

  • Simply spend time in a community
  • Create a mural in dedication to your baby
  • Hold a fundraiser for a charitable cause close to your heart
  • Have a potluck with nourishing comfort foods
  • Ask people to recite meaningful poems or sing songs
  • Create a living memorial

Create a living memorial

A living memorial is a way of honoring a loved one’s memory in a way that feels alive, grows, and gives back to the earth. Building this connection with the earth offers its own sort of healing, as well as a peaceful place to visit whenever you need comfort.

You can create this living memorial in your yard, garden, or somewhere else you have access to land.

Here are some examples of a living memorial:

  • Planting an herb and vegetable garden
  • Planting a flower garden
  • Planting any kind of tree
  • Making a butterfly garden
  • Naming a star after your baby
  • Set up a bird feeder

You can even have a living memorial with a small indoor plant if you don’t have any outdoor space, or by donating a tree somewhere in your baby’s memory.

Living memorials that involve edible goods keep giving back to you as you give to the earth. 

Miscarriage Burials: Things to Keep in Mind

As you try to figure out the best way to honor your baby’s memory and handle the body, you may want to try starting a grief journal. This can help you sort through your thoughts and emotions, and make the best choice for you and your family.

If you didn’t experience a miscarriage yourself but are here gathering advice for a loved one, you might be looking for the right words to say to them. Condolences for miscarriage can be short and sweet. What’s most important is you let them know that you’re there for them and that they are loved and supported. 

How you choose to handle your baby’s remains is totally up to you. You get to decide what feels the most meaningful to you while causing the least amount of stress.


Sources:

1. Dube, Nicole, and Orlando, James. “Miscarriage Burial Laws,” Office of Legislative Research, 11 January 2018, Cga.ct.gov.

2. Dugas, Carla, and Valori, H Slane. “Miscarriage,” Stat Pearls Publishing, 29 January 2021, Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

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