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What to Do when Someone Dies Part I

What to Do when Someone Dies Part II

What to Do when Someone Dies Part III

Clothes to Be Buried In

What to Do when Someone Dies

Part 1 of What to do when a Loved One Dies:

Knowing what to do when a person dies can be very complicated, particularly if the person is a close loved one and difficult emotions become involved in the process. This article aims to take a little of the guess work out of a very difficult situation in which reliable advice is not always immediately available.

Rely upon Trained, Professional Help:

If your loved one has died in a hospital it is best to simply follow the staff's lead and allow them to follow the procedures as they have been trained. Their training includes an emphasis on compassion toward and communication with family members of the deceased, so relying upon the staff's advice and support is always a safe thing to do.

Get the Death Verified:

Most deaths in the United States occur in a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility so this step is often taken for granted because the professionals who staff those facilities are well trained and experienced in what to do upon a death. Professionals know the precise protocol for formally verifying a death and can do so with efficiency and compassion. So, if your loved one should pass on while a patient in a health care facility, this important step will be simple, perhaps even comforting.

This step is especially crucial for deaths occurring outside of a nursing home or hospital. But love ones should rest comfortably with the understanding that, in many cases, such deaths are attended by a hospice nurse who has the same training and experience as a worker at a health care facility. The verification process in such cases will usually be relatively easy.

For all other deaths (which, admittedly, amount to only a small percentage) the most important rule of thumb that a family member can keep in mind about what to do is to simply call police. When a nurse or other health care worker is not immediately available to arrange professional verification of a death, a police officer is a suitable stand-in. It is important to it is rarely necessary for police to be called to a death that occurs in the midst of health care professionals.

Gather all other Family Members as quickly as Possible:

After a loved one's death has been formally verified the next thing that a family member should do is to gather all other close relatives as quickly as possible. Phone calls should be made to immediate family and friends of the deceased, and all should be encouraged to gather at a family home relatively quickly, within a day or two if possible. This meeting should be a comfortable, informal affair. Attendees should be encouraged to share openly of their feelings toward the deceased and supportive thoughts and prayers should abound. While much business will need to be discussed and important decisions will have to be made during this meeting, the main purpose of the gathering should be to encourage one another in their time of grief. Rushing (and arguing!) should be dispensed with as soon as it become apparent.

Appoint a Leader or Spokesperson for the Family:

An eventual goal of this initial family gathering is to appoint a leader and a spokesperson for the family. All present should be willing to grant this person tacit authority to speak for the family in its negotiations with the many people and entities who will be requiring communication about the deceased, but this person should also agree that his or her work will not be done unilaterally. The leader should agree to make every attempt to seek input and keep communication lines open amongst all family members as he or she makes decisions. All family members should be encouraged to promise to accept this leader's final decisions, even if they are not exactly in accordance with their own opinions and tastes. Family members should be encouraged to make this pledge in accordance with the peace and loving spirit that any death of a loved one will tend to bring about in a family. It should be the goal of this initial gathering of family member that this spirit will become permanent, not fade away within a few days or weeks after a memorial service. The family leader should realize that it will be his or her chief function to keep this spirit alive for months, and maybe even decades, to come.

Assign Duties for the Funeral Procedures:

After a family leader has been selected, a checklist of business matters that must be considered must be developed, and all family members present should agree to take on their share of this work under the direction of the leader. It should be noted that, though there are many examples of such checklists available from various sources such as hospices and funeral homes, each family's list will vary greatly, so these examples should be viewed as simply tools. The leader should take great care to assure that nothing important is left off this list, and other family members should be sure to share their thoughts and ideas for what must be on the list.

It is very important that family members not expect the leader to conduct all of this business by his or her self – especially if he or she has many other commitments. Rather, all family members should be willing to adopt the spirit of faithful, humble servants as they agree to tasks on the list and as they carry out those jobs.

Find Trustworthy, Wise Help from Non Family Sources:

A final goal of the initial meeting should be to find at least one or two people not emotionally connected to the deceased who can help the leader in the various business negotiations that will, in nearly every case, be necessary. Talks with funeral directors and lawyers, for example, can sometimes involve strong emotional issues that can cloud a person's business reasoning causing unwise decisions to be made. These non-family resources should be empowered by the leader to speak on the family's behalf in such cases or, at the very least, to be present for consultation purposes when important decisions are made. It's very important that an objective, unemotional voice be heard throughout

Importance of Planning:

All of these steps of what to do when a loved one dies can be made simpler by planning. Many families and individuals make it a practice – especially late in life – to carefully plan their final arrangements so that loved ones are not left with a significant burden of carrying out difficult transactions amidst the grief (and bustle) of the days immediately following a death. While some people find this an uncomfortable or inconvenient practice, it can be very important. And the families of those who do it will usually report that they are very grateful. 

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