Often it is the situations that you unexpectedly find yourself in after loss that really highlight just how surreal that whole thing is. It is these small or large #lifeafterloss moments that I think are often overlooked by society, or not fully appreciated in terms of the weight and impact. Baby loss is not just the moment that they die. It is forever more. And parents and families find themselves navigating experiences that they simply are not expecting or prepared for. Max, Joshua’s mum-my, has shared with us in this post the exhumation and subsequent cremation and second funeral for Joshua. Something that I have rarely seen have to happen.
Please welcome Max and her son, Joshua, to the #DiversityInLoss series
Exhumation means the removal from the ground of the remains of a human being, either in the form of a body or cremated remains.
I have often been asked what is involved in Exhumation and why we had our baby boy exhumed two years after we buried him. The honest answer is because we didn’t have alot of choice. We were backed into a corner after a lengthy battle with the stone masons and Council to get them to repair their mistake.
Joshua’s original headstone was beautiful, but the base cracked. The chance of this occurring to granite were 1 in 10,000! We are that statistic. The stonemasons then broke Joshua’s beautiful headstone taking it off the plinth meaning it had to be replaced completely. The second stone was terrible. Obviously a different cut or granite, not as nice to look at, and everything was wrong about it. The wording, the spacing between the letters & words, the details. It leant back and wasn’t in line with the others in situation, and fixed at an angle.
The third one wasn’t much better. Faced with a potential fourth headstone the stonemasons kicked back. The Council were immensely defensive and essentially accused us of changing our minds with what we wanted, and of course they had been more than accommodating. What we wanted was a headstone we had paid for that we were happy with. The first one we loved. As much as you can love a headstone of your babies.
So with my love of Silent Witness and other crime dramas, I knew exhumation was an option. By now I was just totally over the entire situation and wanted to remove us from the stress of it all. So I contacted our amazing funeral directors, Nicky & Lisa at A H Roger’s. Nicky was simply amazing and sorted it all out for us.
We had to apply for a licence which Joshua’s Dad-dy as the owner of the grave plot had to sign, and return to the Ministry of Justice. Nicky did everything else. It was easy and painless from an administrative perspective. We didn’t want another date to have to face, so we requested we were not told when he would be exhumed. Nicky attended the cemetery at 5am with Council staff and looked after him until his second funeral.
We had Joshua cremated and held a funeral service on the same day as his first two years later with just the two of us and Joshua’s Godparents present. Joshua came home to us a few days later and his cremated remains are now in a much loved memory bear, Joshua Bear.
We were fortunate that Council covered all the associated costs, of a car, cremation and new white coffin. Seeing Joshua’s coffin again after two years was incredible hard. It hit like a freight train. The service was beautiful, incredibly heartbreaking and surreal. To hold one funeral for your child is horrendous. Something no parent should have to experience, but to have to do it twice (through no fault of our own) is unforgivable and unthinkable.
If there is a silver lining to be seen, is that Joshua is now home, in the mix of family life with us. Not the way it should have been but with us.
The entire experience was a rollercoaster of emotions. We wanted it done, then when it was, we questioned our decision, knowing there was absolutely no going back. But once he was home, an enormous weight lifted and life felt slightly lighter. An emotional calm set in. Contentment. The disappointment, stress, anxiety and guilt over not visiting, and getting angry, and upset when we did visit was removed.
It was 100% the right decision for us. It is not an experience I’d recommend or want anyone else to have to experience, but for us it was the right one.
Joshua, our forever 26 weeker, 920g little brother is loved, and involved in life. He gets pushed down the slide, swung on swings, jumped on the trampoline, dragged around the house, bundled and taken on family days out. He completes our unconventional family of 4, and I am immensely proud of Rich and I for having the strength, resilience, guts and bravery to push for what we felt was right, ultimately. It was not a decision we took lightly and are fully appreciative it is not the norm. And extreme event. One that out funeral directors have never undertaken.
Joshua’s Mum-my x
If anyone would like to learn more about the process, or seek advice, help and support from us please do not hesitate to contact us on our Facebook account Joshua and Dragonflies, or our insta handle @joshuaanddgragonflies.