What to Do at the Death of a Loved One

This is probably the most trying circumstance anyone will ever face, save being informed that you yourself are suffering from a terminal illness. You feel as if you have just been given a body blow, and that is quickly followed by a sense of disconnect from the world around you. Sit down, take a deep breath and try telling yourself that this is not unique to you alone. It will not stem the flood of emotions that you will be deluged with, but it might ease somewhat.

If the death was sudden and unexpected, the medical authorities might become involved to establish the manner and means of the death. This is normal and is mandated by most states. If the loved one has been ill for some time, or under the care of a licensed physician or in a nursing home, this step is generally precluded. If you have already had prearrangements made with a funeral home, and the deceased was at a nursing facility with that information already on record, it will contact the funeral facility and you need not concern yourself with that phase. In fact, with a pre-arranged funeral at hand, you will find that the vast majority of things have already resolved themselves. The major responsibility remaining will be the notification of the remaining family members.

If there have not been any plans made ahead of time, then you will have to select a funeral home, advise your local clergy, if any, and start to set in motion all the details of arranging for any type of memorialization that you may require:

  • Determining if burial or cremation will be the means of final disposition. This will include finding a cemetery and purchasing a lot or niche.
  • Getting all pertinent facts together for the obituary and getting it to the proper sources in a timely fashion, according to their deadlines for publication.
  • Locating the Social Security number and filing the proper forms for those benefits.
    Locating veteran's discharge documents for recognition and benefits.
  • Having the death certificate properly filled and registered and certified copies made for all parties that may require one, such as financial institutions, insurance policies, transfer of titles of real and vehicular properties.
  • Visiting the florists for any floral decorations, such as the casket spray or flowers at the altar of the church or other house of worship.
  • Select appropriate clothing from what is on hand or purchase new, if so desired.
    Go to the print shop to select memorial folders and guest register book, and Thank You notes.
  • Arrange for any after service gathering with friends and family, the location for such a gathering and any refreshments to be offered.
  • Selection of meaningful music for the visitation and services, along with a personal reflection upon the deceased's life and influence.
  • Notification of any and all fraternal organizations of the death of their member.
    And while all this is happening, expect to be interrupted by well-meaning friends and neighbors offering their sympathy and support, bringing food stuffs to the house and having distant relatives start to arrive.

In short, you will be pulled in a thousand different directions simultaneously, while your own emotional state will be assaulted as never before. Now of course, this does not mean that you can't handle the stress, but why put yourself into such a situation when it may be if not avoided, at least substantially reduced? Preplanning is not giving up hope, nor is it fatalism in resigning oneself to one's fate. Rather, it is preparation for the inevitable, establishing a safety net for all concerned.