At last we can mark where our children lie at peace

JC’s investigation has led to massive change of direction on stillbirths

By Jennifer Lipman, September 13, 2012
Many more parents have found out from the United Synagogue where their babies were and have put up stones

Many more parents have found out from the United Synagogue where their babies were and have put up stones

The father of a stillborn baby who revealed the shocking advice given to him and his wife by officials over the Jewish burial procedure has described how a historic wrong has been righted over the last year.

Forty years after he lost his son Edward, Allen Bergson said attitudes to the burial of stillborn babies had shifted, with parents no longer kept in the dark and leaflets published to advise parents who found themselves in that tragic situation. “It’s all known now, it’s 100 per cent changed,” he said.

The Bergsons were told that Edward had been buried in Bushey Cemetery with the body of an unnamed newly-deceased mother and that they could not be told of the location of the grave.

In reality their son, and dozens of others, was laid to rest in a plot marked only with rusty metal spikes.

After discovering the truth Allen and his wife Susan joined a number of couples in erecting headstones on their babies’ graves. On a recent visit to the grounds, he was pleased to see that the old spikes have been replaced by clean white ones, numbered so that mourners can easily find them.

Now the areas for stillborn or miscarried babies are well-maintained, and each grave is clearly identified. Fifty-one families have found out where their babies were buried, and last January the US held a service for parents of stillborns. Rabbis have also been issued with a guide to give parents regarding burial arrangements for miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths.

“The whole thing looks like it’s meant to,” said Mr Bergson. “Before, nobody knew it was there and we were told, don’t ask any questions. Now it’s right, a memorial place where you can go, it’s respectful.

“When I came out from seeing his grave there was another couple waiting to go down to a grave, which would never have happened before.

“The other good thing is that the US and the others have got up to date and realised it’s something they need to deal with. It’s not being pushed under the carpet,” he said. “If you want a funeral you can have a funeral, if you want a rabbi you can have a rabbi. And if you don’t want anything, that’s your choice.”

Last updated: 10:55am, September 13 2012