When a Loved One Dies
Dealing with the emotions that follow the death of a loved one can make any task difficult. Planning the funeral and facilitating the process of getting matters in order can add stress to an already challenging situation. Having some direction can help to make sure that the proper steps are taken, and that nothing important is overlooked.
After a loved one dies, first reactions can vary from depression to anger to shock, and anything in between. While you might feel lost, confused, or helpless, there are some important steps that need to be taken as soon as possible following the death of your loved one. The sooner these actions can be carried out, the sooner you can guarantee that communication is moving forward that will work to honor the life of the deceased, and protect assets and other wishes through legal and administrative matters.
- Arrange Transportation: Your loved one might have died at a hospital or other facility. If so, ask about the procedure for storage and delivery of the body to a funeral home or other location. If the death occurred elsewhere, calling 911 is the best place to start. Selecting a funeral home as soon as possible, and notifying them, will also be helpful as they can help with transporting the body of the deceased to the right locations. If the deceased was an organ donor, notifying medical staff as soon as possible can make sure that this wish can be carried out to save other lives.
- Make Contact: Call close family and friends of the deceased. This can help to identify who knew what funeral arrangements the deceased might have specified, and can help to locate these details to help with the next steps. It is also a thoughtful step to take, and could be helpful to designate certain people to do this job.
- Secure Valuables: To prevent any further difficulties, ask someone to check on the property of the deceased. Make sure the car, home, and other valuables are locked or taken care of. If the deceased had pets, arrange for care.
- Plan the Funeral: Having written instructions from the deceased can be helpful with this step. If there are no written directions, consider involving those closest to the deceased and facilitate a conversation to organize the arrangements. This will include details such as if a religious tradition should be involved, choosing cremation or burial, contributions to a charity, and if there will be a meal after any services.
- Prepare the Obituary: Consider what information you may want to include and to look into newspaper rates and other guidelines.
- Take Care of Matters: Having a few certified copies of the Death Certificate will help to complete taking care of financial, administrative, and other estate issues. A few places to consider contacting include
- Secretary of State to cancel the Driver’s License and prevent identity theft
- Insurance Companies to cancel payment and tie up loose ends
- Credit Card companies to cancel cards and check about interest rates and payments that need to be made
- Banks and other financial institutions
- Probate attorney, lawyer, or whoever has knowledge of executing a will that was left by the deceased
- Utility companies to cancel and pay bills
- Other social media, technology, or email accounts may need to be shut down.
- Self-Care: With all of the necessary responsibilities and heightened emotions, it can be tough to take time to grieve and to speak with your loved ones. Remember to ask for help and to take care of your basic needs, including food, hygiene, and relationships.
Some people might have prepared for funeral expenses by paying early on. If you are not familiar with funeral costs, familiarize yourself with the Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, so you know what funeral homes are obligated to do to ensure that prices are fair.
If you find yourself in need of assistance in paying for a funeral, consider these options:
- Ask for Help: Friends and family might be willing to pitch in, so don’t think that finances are only left to you. Some people have used crowdfunding or fundraising to make this a reality. Other sources of help could include the employer of the deceased, or leadership of any groups that the deceased was involved with; sometimes they have programs to help with funeral costs. Another option could include donating the body to science.
- Organizations: Some non-profit organizations have programs to help the community cover funeral costs. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are two examples, and Angel names and The SIDS Foundation offer assistance for infants. There are also state or federal assistance programs available, and can be reached by contacting your county’s Coroner. Keep in mind, that some qualification might be required for these.
- Veteran Benefits: Keep in mind that if your loved one was a veteran, there might be extra assistance or options for the funeral to consider.
For more guidance, consider engaging counseling resources for guidance on next steps.
Click here to access our brochure on Coping with Grief and Loss.