Miscarriage, which affects about 26% of all pregnancies, can bring up so many emotions, confusion, and questions. Outside of the physical and emotional healing, you may be going through, you also have logistical questions you may want answered. One of the questions might be what to do with the remains of the baby you’ve lost.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Who Offers Cremation After a Miscarriage?
- Steps for Cremation After a Miscarriage
- Options for Ashes After a Miscarriage
- Common Alternatives to Cremation After a Miscarriage
In the United States, a miscarriage is technically a pregnancy loss that occurs before twenty weeks gestation. After that, it is considered a stillbirth. Requirements for what happens to the remains vary from state to state.
In many cases, if it occurs at a hospital, the remains will be considered “biomedical waste” and disposed of accordingly. Some people may choose to handle the remains more traditionally, like with a cremation. Miscarriage cremation is one way of coping with a miscarriage, and honoring the baby who passed.
Who Offers Cremation After a Miscarriage?
Cremation is often less expensive than a traditional burial because of how cremation works, and it gives people the option of keeping the remains in an urn or memorial jewelry as a miscarriage keepsake.
When you choose to make arrangements for the remains of your baby, you typically go through a funeral home or directly through a cremation service. Some hospitals offer these services, as well.
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Steps for Cremation After a Miscarriage
So you’re choosing to have your miscarried baby cremated, or are curious about your options. These are the steps for cremation after a miscarriage:
Contact a provider
What you do first depends on where the miscarriage occurs. If you miscarry at home and don’t feel like it’s necessary to go to a hospital, you can contact a funeral home or cremation provider directly and see what your options are.
One of the benefits of cremation is that it is usually significantly more affordable than a burial. Transferring the remains from the hospital to the crematory is usually part of their fees. Many funeral homes offer free or half-price services for people who have lost an infant or child.
If the funeral home that you initially contact doesn’t offer miscarriage cremation, they should be able to refer you to someone locally who can do it for you.
Miscarrying at a hospital
When you miscarry at a hospital, you might have to go about things a bit differently.
In some cases, your provider may want to perform a pathology exam on the fetus before releasing the remains to you. This is to see if they can determine or get some insights as to why the miscarriage occurred.
For pregnancy losses that occur before twenty weeks, many hospitals won’t ask you what you want to do with the remains, so you may have to go out of your way to ask. When you miscarry at a hospital, they will usually contact the funeral home or cremation provider for you at your request, or give you a list of providers who can support you.
The cremation process
Once your baby’s remains are transferred to a crematorium, you may have the option to watch the cremation take place if there is a viewing suite at their facility.
Just like with a burial or funeral, you may decide to have some sort of ceremony before, during, or after the cremation. After the cremation is done, you’ll be able to decide what to do with the ashes.
Keeping the remains
As with any sort of cremation, one of the benefits of it is that it gives family members the option to keep the ashes close to them. In the next section, we’ll discuss what your options for the ashes are after a miscarriage.
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Options for Ashes After a Miscarriage
Although your baby has passed, you still can keep them close to you or dispose of their remains in a way that feels meaningful to you and your family.
Many people who have their loved ones cremated create a ceremony out of scattering their ashes. Usually, this is in places that were significant to the person during their life or a place they felt most at home, or somewhere that they always wanted to go.
In the case of a miscarriage, the parents may want to scatter the ashes in a place that was meaningful to them during pregnancy. They may also scatter them in a place where they had dreams and hopes about taking their baby.
You can have other friends and family around when you scatter the ashes, keep it small and intimate, or have no one else around.
When people think of cremation, they often think of urns. An urn is a vase used for holding the ashes of someone who has been cremated. Urns are a way of keeping your loved one close, even after they have passed. They are often displayed in the home.
Another option for urns is to display them in a columbarium or bury them at a cemetery, or at home. If you decide to keep it at a cemetery, it can be one where you have other family members buried or one that is culturally significant to you.
Cremation jewelry is jewelry made with your loved one’s ashes. This may have a container where the ashes are kept, or some people have the ashes transformed into a gemstone, and then have that set into jewelry.
You can choose a locket to keep your baby close to your heart, a ring, or another kind of jewelry. Most funeral homes offer some sort of keepsake jewelry, or you may wish to find your own jewelry after the cremation.
Common Alternatives to Cremation After a Miscarriage
Cremation after a miscarriage is not for everyone. There are plenty of other ways you can honor your baby and yourself.
Here are some ideas:
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A popular alternative to cremation is having a burial. Burials can be held at a cemetery or at your own home or land if you own property.
You can bury the remains in a traditional casket designed for infants. Another option is a green burial where the remains are wrapped in a sheet, or buried in an environmentally friendly casket that may be made from wood, or buried without a casket.
Burying your baby under a tree or in a natural setting gives you a peaceful environment to come back to and visit them. You may have loved ones present during the burial to offer their support to you.
A memorial service for a miscarried baby is a way of honoring the life that could have been, and acknowledging your experience as the parent. The beauty of a memorial service is that there’s no one right way to do it.
You can have one at your house, at a park, a beach, a restaurant, or anywhere that feels comfortable for you. Memorial services give friends and family space to gather together and celebrate the life that was lived. In the case of a miscarriage, this will look more like supporting and honoring the parents and their loss.
You may choose to display pregnancy photos, ultrasounds, baby clothes, swaddling blankets, or any other keepsakes that are meaningful to you.
A living memorial is a way of connecting with nature while honoring a loved one who has passed. Living memorials help bring life to death by giving back to nature and creating something that grows and changes over time.
One of the most common types of living memorials people have is planting a tree, but there are plenty of other options.
Here are some living memorial ideas:
- Planting a flower garden
- Planting a vegetable garden
- Planting an herb garden
- Making a butterfly garden
- Passing out eco-confetti to guests (this is made from plantable paper that grows into wildflowers when scattered)
- Set up a bird feeder
- Give seed packets to loved ones in honor of your baby
You can gather loved ones together to create the living memorial and have a memorial service during the process. One of the most healing experiences someone can have is gardening with their nearest and dearest.
Choosing Cremation After a Miscarriage
Deciding what to do with your baby’s remains is something that no one ever wants to do, but it’s often a part of life.
Whether or not you choose to cremate your baby does not mean you loved them anymore or less. Choose an option that feels right for you, and will cause the least amount of stress.
If you have a loved one who recently experienced a pregnancy loss and are wondering how to support them, the first step you can take is offering condolences for miscarriage and letting them know that you’re there for them.
- Dugas, Carla, and Valori H Slane. “Miscarriage.” Stat Pearls Publishing, 29 January 2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.