Frequently Asked Questions for the Recently Bereaved
"I don’t know where to begin when thinking about my child's funeral. What are some things I should be thinking about?"
There isn’t just one way to plan a child’s funeral. Everyone grieves (and plans) differently.
Most families initiate communications about funeral arrangements within a week of the death of their loved one. These arrangements often include:
- Picking a funeral home
- Signing a release for that funeral home to come pick up your child
- Deciding on cremation or burial
- Talking with a social worker regarding cost options, complex logistics, cultural implications and other topics.
How do I pick a funeral home?
It’s important to acknowledge that a funeral home is a business. If this is your first time interacting with a funeral home, it may be helpful to talk through your needs with a social worker first. Location, cost, and religious and cultural preferences are factors to consider in choosing a funeral home. It may be helpful to get a recommendation from someone in your family or church.
Burials are higher cost due to fees associated with casket, plot, transportation, and labor services required. Cremation is significantly lower in price and will be completed by the funeral home you choose or a crematory with whom they partner. Collection and return of the ashes to your family will also be coordinated directly with the funeral home.
How soon do I need to contact a funeral home? Who calls the funeral home?
Most families contact a funeral home within the first week after a loved one’s death. If you will need additional time, it will be important for you to contact your social worker. Your social worker can recommend a trusted funeral home or help facilitate initial conversations if another trusted relative is not able. However, a legal guardian will need to sign the initial consents for the funeral home.
What decisions will a funeral home need from our family?
- After a legal guardian sign consents, who is the best person for the funeral home to contact?
- Cremation or burial
- What is your family’s budget for funeral expenses? (Some families are supported by extended family members, fundraising or local support organizations. If you receive cash benefits through TNF, you are also eligible for a stipend but must use a Medicaid eligible funeral home.)
- If having a service, viewing or visitation is appropriate for your family (additional cost associated)
- How many family members you intend to have at any service
- If you will want programs, prayer cards, flowers etc. (additional cost associated)
- What type of casket or urn you want (additional cost beyond a basic casket)
- Religious/cultural requirements and preferences for timing of burial and services
- How many death certificates you will need
Is there a crematory at CHOP/Does CHOP cremate my child?
No. Only a licensed funeral home can facilitate proper cremation or burial of a child. Social work can assist with helping you find a local funeral home that can facilitate a cremation at low cost.
How much will a funeral cost?
While difficult to think about, the cost of the burial or cremation often has to do with the size and weight of the child. Cremation can often be done under $1,000 but again, may differ depending on the parameters listed above. To bury your loved one, it will be a larger expense. It will be important to discuss with your funeral home what are basic needs or additional negotiable expenses. We often see costs ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. Many funeral homes accept payment arrangements, but it will be important to ask about this option before signing a contract with a funeral home.
How do I plan a service? What is a child's funeral service like?
A service is usually an additional cost and a personal decision. You do not have to have a service if you choose not to. This decision often has much to do with location, timing, cost and religious/cultural protocols. A funeral home can help each family with these decisions once it has the child in its care. Funeral home staff should walk you through the space and the options you will have for the service. Services can also be done at another location outside of a funeral home, for example a church or a celebration of life at a local hall.
Should I allow our other children at the funeral?
This is a personal decision for every family. However, members of our child life team would recommend being honest with other children about the death, with age-appropriate concrete language. For some children, being at a funeral can be extremely healing and beneficial if done with preparation and support. It can also normalize healthy grieving instead of it being unknown or “scary.” However, this is dependent on each individual child, trauma experiences, the nature of the loss and family dynamics. We recommend that a sibling have a point person to support them in addition to their parents in case they also need to step outside. See the “Childhood Grief” section for more details.
My family requested an autopsy at the time of my child's death. How long do we have to wait for a response and who will contact us?
Typically, autopsy results take about six to eight weeks to be finalized by the pathologist or medical examiner. After the report is finalized, someone from your CHOP medical team will reach out to you to go over the results. If your child’s medical care was discussed by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner, their local team will contact you about results. Their contact information can be found here.
For CHOP patients not involved with the Medical Examiner, additional copies of the autopsy can be requested through the Health Information Management Department (contact information below).
I would like to request medical documentation from my physician. Who do I contact?
If in need of medication documentation, a legal guardian should contact:
I need an additional copy of death certificate. Where do I request one from? Timing?
In planning funeral services, the funeral home can obtain multiple copies of the death certificate for your family. Copies are usually received about four to six weeks after the death. If, at a later date, you need additional copies, they can be obtained through the Office of Vital Statistics.
The MYCHOP account for my child has been disabled, what do I do?
As of Spring 2023, when a child dies, their MyCHOP account will remain active with read-only access for one year. If you need additional support or information, please contact the Health Information Management Department or your social worker.
Additional Resources on Funeral Planning
For additional resources on funeral planning and legacy making, please visit https://www.rememberingalife.com/.