When a loved one passes, we think of the standard protocol: arrange the services, notify loved ones, and perhaps reserve a banquet facility.

What if your loved one passes at home or unexpectedly? One of my students recently mentioned that his grandfather had chosen to stop his medications and pass at home surrounded by loved ones. It made me wonder about the first steps to take after the death of a family member.

5 Things To Do Immediately Following A Death

5 Things To Do Immediately Following A Death

1. Get An Official Pronouncement Of Death

If your loved one passes at home, call the police. If there is a do-not-resuscitate document, present it to the authorities. This will prevent paramedics from starting emergency procedures and transporting the body to a local hospital for a declaration of death. If hospice is involved, they will take care of the arrangements. The same pertains to a nursing home or hospital where healthcare personnel can officially declare the time of death. After the pronouncement is official, notify the county coroner to obtain a death certificate.

2. Arrange For Transportation Of The Body

If the death was expected, this may be rolled into a package with the funeral home. If not, contact the mortuary or crematorium to have the body picked up. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the mortuary must disclose the price of transportation over the phone.

Suggested Read: A Funeral Home’s Purpose

3. Follow Wishes for Organ Donation

If applicable, follow wishes for organ donation. Make sure to check your loved one’s license or advanced directive as time is of the essence. If a loved one dies in the hospital, the family will be contacted by a procurement specialist who will ask questions about tissue and organ donation. The family will have a very short time to decide whether or not they want to donate.

4. Arrange for Care of Pets and/or Dependents

In the chaos and confusion that often accompany a death, it can be especially easy to forget about the short-term care of pets. If there are children involved, and there is no provision for care in a will, then Child Protective Services may need to get involved.

Suggested Read: Supporting Children At Each Stage Of Development and Parenting Through Grief

5. Notify Important People and Locate Necessary Documents

Designate several friends and/or family to help with the notification process.

If the person was employed inquire about:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Benefits
  • Retirement plans
  • Outstanding paychecks

Important papers will be crucial to have in the days ahead. Look for information about:

  • Assets
  • Estate plans
  • Bills
  • Utilities
  • Business documents
  • Tax returns
  • Contracts
  • Military discharge papers

5 Things To Do Immediately Following A Death

Have Important Conversations

Don’t be afraid to talk to a loved one about important topics such as wills, organ donation, burial wishes, and the location of important papers before their death. This will provide the people who matter most with the time they need to plan a beautiful end-of-life ceremony and begin the healing process.

Finally, remember to stop and take a breath.

The tasks confronting family members after a death can seem overwhelming and never-ending; therefore, it is critical to exercise self-care.

Suggested Read: Why We Need End of Life Celebrations and
Is Self-Care Selfish Or Selfless?

Everdays Funeral Planning Guide

Remember that Everdays can assist with the death notification process and provide other valuable resources, including the Everdays Funeral Planning Guide to help you during this difficult time. To learn more, visit our website or download our app, available on both iOS and Android.