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Mike Hayes Answers:
First of all, please accept my condolences on the death of your child.
Indeed, you can and should have a funeral for your child and any miscarried baby can have a Catholic funeral. Quite often hospitals and obstetricians give parents who don’t carry a child to term a hard time when they ask for the remains of their child. Catholic teaching professes that life begins at conception and that the child has a soul at that juncture as well. Often the healing that comes along with grief is not offered to the parents of a miscarried child, thinking that “they’ll get over it and have another child.”
A second common misconception is that a baby that dies needs immediate baptism. While it almost sounds cruel to say, the sacrament of baptism is for the living and not for those who are dead. Therefore, baptism is not available in these instances. The church also teaches in this instance that we believe in the sure and certain hope of God’s mercy for these children and therefore there is no need to worry about the child’s eternal salvation. Pope Benedict has been very vocal on this point going to the point of proclaiming that Limbo is not a state of being in Catholic theology anymore.
Many psychologists, grief specialists and mental health professionals talk about the need to grieve a miscarried child. So some suggestions for parents who lose a child are the following:
1) Have a funeral and name your child. The rite of funerals for infants can be used in this instance. Giving your child a name helps to say good-bye.
2) Request a blessing: In the Book of Blessings there is a “blessing of parents after a miscarriage” listed. Requesting this can bring much healing and perhaps can even be done while you hold your child in the hospital as a couple I know had done.
3) Find a burial place for your child. A local funeral director, pastor or pastoral counselor can make some suggestions.
4) Pray to your child and offer a mass or an hour of prayer for your child from time to time. Praying in community with others for your baby is a great way to feel the support of others during this tough time.
5) Lastly, seek mental health treatment or grief counseling. Pastors can make a recommendation for an expert who is properly trained in this case.
Know of our prayers here at Busted Halo® for your child. Know of this site online at the Church of the Holy Innocents where you can pray for your child and enter their name to be prayed for at the shrine.