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Rain Check Magazine

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What to Do When a Loved One Dies

  • Written by Diana Smith


Losing a loved one can be numbingly painful, confusing and unspeakably difficult to cope with. In fact, according to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, it’s the most stressful life event. It’s traumatic and it may seem like you’ll never smile and feel anything joyful ever again. In addition to all of this, there are things that need sorting out and they simply can’t wait for you to grieve properly. While you may be in a whirlpool of sadness and complete emotional discomfort, you need to stay as composed as possible in order to deal with the legal and logistic part of the situation. Here are some of the things you should do immediately after losing somebody close to you.

Start Calling People

Letting people know what’s happened could be mentally and even physically exhausting, but it’s something you have to do. Calling your closest family members and friends is something you should do first. Not only will they want to know and have a right to, but they’ll be your best support throughout the hardest part. They are the ones who are most likely to understand you best and who’ll be the most eager to help you. After calling them, don’t forget to call the deceased’s doctors, employers or co-workers. If they offer to help you by calling others who need to know the sad news, accept it. It will save you a lot of time and effort, allowing you to do other important things.

Honor Their Last Wishes

Before they go, many people have an idea of how they want the end of their life to be marked, which could also be the case with the person you lost. Perhaps they communicated these wishes to you or somebody else who was present in their life, or they might have left a last will or another document with some type of instructions you can follow. If there’s a will, find it or contact its executor, so that you can learn what to do with your loved one’s belongings, property or money. Remember, if you feel that you should have been treated more justly in the will and that you’ve been denied something you think should belong to you, there is always the option of reasonable will disputes to protect you. Make sure you find good lawyers, with plenty of experience and expertise in the matter. That way you’ll know you have proper legal support and lawyers you can trust, who will have your best interest in mind.

Organize the Funeral and a Memorial Service

Unless there has to be an autopsy, you should contact a mortuary or a crematorium soon after death is pronounced, so that they can take the body. Before you do anything further, go through your loved one’s documents, to see if they had any kind of prepaid burial plan. After that, talk to the people at the funeral home to find out what your options regarding the burial or cremation, as well as the memorial service are. If you’re having the memorial service at your own or at the deceased’s home, make sure it’s clean. If you can’t do it yourself for physical or emotional reasons, turn to your family and friends or consider paying for help.

Secure Their Home

If the person you lost lived in their own home, don’t forget to go there and see if everything is in order. Throw out any perishables, check if there is any mail or bills that need to be paid, water the flowers and, most importantly, take care of the pets, if there are any. If they rented the place, notify their landlord of the situation. In case you know of any valuables in their home that need to be kept safe, maybe put them in a safe deposit box. Perhaps you can drive their car and park it closer to your home, so that you can keep an eye on it. In the weeks after their passing, return to their home occasionally, to open the windows and keep the place tidy and clean.

These are some of the essential actions you should take after the death of a close family member or a friend. However, the one thing you have to think about, above all others, is your own and the health of those remaining behind the deceased. If you find the pain too unbearable, you notice that you’re slipping towards anxiety or depression, or you simply need to have a conversation about what you’re going through, don’t hesitate in finding a professional to help you move on.

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