Jan 23 2014 by Georgina Stubbs, Skelmersdale Advertiser
A SHOCKING number of families have come forward to the Advertiser following the story about a mother who was not told her baby’s grave would be shared.
In the Advertiser, on January 9, Katy Quillan, from Skelmersdale, told her heartbreaking account of finding the decorations that she put on her son’s grave at Southport’s Duke Street cemetery, thrown to the side.
The 29-year-old also told of her shock after discovering that another baby was buried in the same plot with her son, David.
Four more families have also said they had not been told that the graves were shared and often find ornaments “dumped” at the side – all of them have said they used Hunter’s Funeral Director’s, in Ormskirk.
April Scully, 21, also from Skelmersdale, tragically gave birth to two stillborn sons, Kyle in 2009 and Logan in 2012. They were also both buried at Duke Street Cemetery.
She said: “I asked the funeral directors if I could bury my sons together or next to each other and they said no, they were not allowed – and that all babies have to have their own individual plot.
“Now I have been told that there is more than one baby in each grave; I was grieving and really upset when I was told that they could not be together and now I know that they could have been at least next to each other. Kyle is on the edge – there was enough space for them to put Logan there, even if my babies were on top of each other it would not have bothered me.
“I want an explanation – it would have meant a hell of a lot to have them together, now when I visit I can’t see them at the same time. I would rather have had them both together – it is not right.”
April also said that she has found a little girl’s things on top of Kyle’s grave, but thought nothing of it at the time.
Katy, from Old Skem, who also has a daughter, Brooke, 5, discovered earlier this month that the stones and Christmas decorations she had put on David’s grave had been replaced with a teddy bear and flowers.
Since then, she has been told that the graves are shared. She added: “I think the whole situation is disgusting.
“All mums should know from the start and not told lies. I want to know why we were not told. I am still looking for the woman whose baby is in with David. I really want to get in touch with her so we can sort it out and maybe share the space on the grave.”
Policy and guidance for baby and infant funerals, issued by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) states that parents should be given “clear and sensitive explanations of all their options.” The guidance has been issued with the assistance of the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (Sands).
Talking to the Advertiser, Judith Schott, an advisor to Sands on improving bereavement care, said it was very important for parents to have a choice on what happened to their babies.
She added: “Parents should be told what their options are. They also need to know that if it is a shared grave, putting anything on there may not be permitted by the cemetery.
“This needs to be up front so that they know about it and then if they want something else they can decide to do that.
“For parents to discover their babies are in a shared grave when they have not been expecting it is unacceptable.
“Taking away informed choice for people when their whole life has spun out of control, it just makes everything a lot worse.
“Nothing can remove the pain of having a baby that dies around the time of birth.
“But certainly things can make it worse and this situation is one of them. Most parents would prefer to know everything from the outset than to go to a lot of trouble to decorate the grave, finding what they have put a lot emotional effort into, cast aside, that must be terrible.
“Funeral directors are providing a service that either the parents or hospital are paying for, the parents should still have a choice – it sounds like the failure of communication in this case.
“Writing everything down so that parents have a copy of everything that has been agreed is a good idea because when you are distraught and upset and shocked and traumatised it is really difficult to remember conversations properly.
“It is in the funeral director’s interests to make sure parents are well informed.”
A spokesman for Sefton Council, who operate the Duke Street cemetery, said that the “onus is on the funeral directors and to offer bereavement guidance to families,” including “explaining how these types of graves operate.”
They said that they follow ICCM guidance, like most authorities, and that a shared grave policy for babies is very common.
A spokesperson for Hunters added: “We understand that this must be a really difficult time for these families and the death of a stillborn baby is always a real tragedy.
“These funerals are arranged by us as part of our contract with Southport & Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust to provide funerals for stillborn babies.
“We will be working with the trust to ensure families understand at the earliest opportunity that the funeral the trust arranges and pays for is a simple service with a communal grave. With the communal grave, six babies are buried in individual caskets in individual compartments within the grave.
“Our staff are very experienced at explaining all the options and alternatives to bereaved families and we would always confirm the details when a family choose the burial option provided by the trust.”