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Burkholder says funeral director training focuses on “scientific courses, how to embalm and prepare bodies, with a small chapter on grief. Beyond that, you learn everything on the job.” He often goes into funeral homes to educate their staff and help them feel more comfortable with this situation.

“When we as professionals deal with a couple that has lost an infant or had a pregnancy loss, that’s not a normal day. So there’s a level of discomfort that we experience as funeral professionals. If I can help other funeral directors recognize that this loss is as great as losing a grandparent or a parent or a spouse, then I feel like I’ve done something.”

As for what you can say to someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, he advises avoiding phrases like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “You can have another.” His best suggestion is to show empathy and simply say “I’m a phone call away.”

In a book Health, Illness and Culture: Broken Narratives, University of Calgary sociology professor Arthur W. Frank writes eloquently in a chapter entitled Caring for the Dead about two men who have just lost their newborn sons. One account is factual, the other may or may not be fictional. They have much in common, writes Frank, because each man decides to bury his son himself.

In one case, a story called “Burning Olivier” by George Michelson Foy, the protagonist does this because he cannot bear that “the final send-off of people whose stories you care about should be placed in the hands of those who must manufacture the emotions that connect them to the dead.” He is talking about professional funeral directors.

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