When a Young Child Dies - from a Celebrant's lens
If you clicked to read this page because you are mourning a small one, I am so very sorry for your loss. There are no words I can say which will offer any peacefulness with such devastating sadness, so I hope to offer you a kindness and a gentle guiding hand.
When a young person dies, whether expected or sudden, the sense of injustice can be so permeating. The lack of fairness, the loss of what they were not able to experience, the years of living they weren't allowed.
What can be said to represent a life so shortly lived? When I write services for adults, I ask poignant questions to the family to ascertain moments from their lifetime. Events that add their voice to the ceremony and this is such a beautiful way to honour a life. So, with children, how can you talk about years they haven't lived?
The answer is to take it ever so gently. To kindly address the elephant in the room and to acknowledge the depth of grief that will be present. To use the child's name and speak of them with tenderness. To talk about the experiences they will not have, and to recognise the child and hope-shaped hole that now resides within.
It's also about knowing what NOT to say. In saying that, possibly the worst thing you can do when you know someone who has lost a child is to not mention that child. To not use their name, to act as though they were never here. It's better to say the wrong thing, than to shy away from offering love and support for fear of getting it wrong.
I like to be able to share with our families that when we collect a child, when they enter our care, they are completely cocooned in kindness. They are nurtured and cared for with such honest tenderness. When we dress the child, we hold them lovingly. We wrap them so they aren't cold, and we may place a teddy with them for comfort. I find myself holding their little hands when I'm with them, counting their little fingers and toes just as I did my own sons when they were little. I feel nothing but absolute privilege and honour to be able to tend for these precious little ones.
She's in the sun, the wind, the rain,
She's in the air you breathe
With every breath you take.
She sings a song of hope and cheer,
There's no more pain, no more fear.
You'll see her in the clouds above,
Hear her whisper words of love,
You'll be together before long,
Until then, listen for her song.
- Christy Ann Martine