Practical matters following the death of a baby or young child.
The days after your child has died will seem like a blur to you, but there are some things that you will need to do. If you find it too difficult or painful to make decisions, consider asking family and friends to support you. The Scottish Cot Death Trust can also support you through this difficult time.
Registering the death
The death must be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within 8 days. This may be done at the Registrar’s office in the registration district where you live or where the death occurred. You may wish to register the death yourself or ask a relative to do it for you. The funeral director, your doctor or the police will give you the address or you can search for your local Registrar’s office.
You should take your baby’s birth certificate along with the death certificate to the Registrar. The Registrar will give you a certificate of registration of death (free of charge) which is needed before the funeral can go ahead. You may wish to ask for a copy of the entry in the Register of Deaths; there is a charge for this.
Planning a funeral
You cannot make the final funeral arrangements until you have a death certificate but you can make the preliminary arrangements before this. The decision whether to have a cremation or a burial and the type of service you want is your own, although you can ask for advice from your minister of religion or the funeral director. If you choose a cremation an extra form (E1) must be obtained from the Procurator Fiscal’s office. In some areas the funeral director will arrange this for you. In others, you may be asked to collect it yourself, taking with you your baby/child’s death certificate.
Your child’s father or mother should still be informed of the death and of the time and place of the funeral even if you are separated or divorced. You may make your own arrangements for the funeral but most people go to a funeral director who will arrange everything for you. They are professionals who are the experts in this area and will sympathetic and helpful. The funeral is the last thing you will do for your baby or child, so do not let other people rush you into decisions. The funeral director will guide you to help you make the right decisions
Here are some of the ideas from bereaved parents of the choices they made:
- You may wish a lock of your baby or child’s hair or hand and footprints. If this has not happened already at the hospital through bereavement services or when your baby was at the mortuary having their post-mortem, let the funeral director know. The funeral director can arrange this for you.
- You can either allow the funeral director to dress your baby/child in the clothes of your choice or, if you prefer, you may dress him or her yourself. If you want to do this, discuss your wishes with the funeral director.
- You may wish to place a favourite toy beside your baby or child in the coffin and older children may like to put in a little drawing or a letter. Being present at the funeral may help them to work through their own grief. It may be a good idea to ask a friend or relative to look after them during the service.
- You may wish to take photographs of your baby or child or ask someone else to do this for you.
- You may want to arrange with the funeral director to see your baby or child in the funeral parlour or to have them brought in the coffin to your home.
- If you choose a cremation for your baby/child, it should be possible for the Crematorium to provide the ashes. You can either place these in the Crematorium Garden of Remembrance or in a favourite place of your own choice.
- Funerals can be expensive. Funeral directors’ charges vary and you should ask for estimates. Some funeral directors will not charge for their services when a baby is involved and will provide a simple service free of charge.
- A cash grant may be available to help with essential funeral expenses if you are receiving Income Support, Housing Benefit or Working Families Tax Credit. Ask at the Benefits Agency before making any arrangements, or contact Citizens Advice Bureau for further information.
Informing the Child Benefit Office
You will need to inform the Child Benefit Office that your child has died. They generally carry on paying your Child Benefit for eight weeks from the date that your child died. If you don’t tell the Child Benefit Office that they’ve died until after the eight weeks, they might end up paying you too much and you may be required to pay some money back. For further information you can visit the HMRC website or by calling the Child Benefit Helpline on Tel 0845 302 1444
Closing bank accounts or child trust funds
If you had opened a bank account or Child Trust Fund for your child, you will need to inform the bank and/or fund provider about your child’s death. Any money within the fund will be paid to the next of kin – usually a parent.
For further information about the child trust fund please visit www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds/overview
If you have a postnatal or other clinic appointments ask your health visitor to make sure that the hospital or clinic knows about your child’s death.
If your child had any appointments, for example, at the hospital or dentist, make sure you contact them to let them know your child has died and ask them to cancel any future appointments.
If you have signed up for any memberships – such as supermarket baby clubs, you will need to advise them that you no longer wish to receive mailings, otherwise you will probably continue to receive emails, letters or newsletters referring to your baby or child’s expected stages of progress. You can visit the mail preference service who can do this on your behalf.
Other things to consider
If you were still breastfeeding ask your health visitor or doctor for advice about dealing with your milk supply.
If you have other children who attend school or nursery it is helpful to let the teacher know what has happened.
Even though your baby has died you continue to be eligible for free dental treatment for a year after the birth.