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What to Do When a Loved One Dies: Difficult Questions Answered.

First, don't panic. Cry, and then cry some more if you need to. During this period, when our souls struggle to find an equilibrium somewhere between shock and sorrow, we are also called upon to make some practical but necessary decisions. No worries. There are concrete steps you can take which will help to alleviate some of the anxiety for the days ahead.

Who to contact when a loved one dies

No one likes to be the bearer or recipient of sad news; however, we all have significant people in our lives with which we have formed relationships, so it’s crucial to inform them of your loved one's passing. Because these contacts are personal, they should be informed by phone.

There are also agencies and other non-personal affiliations that need to be contacted as well. Many of these impersonal contacts can be notified via email.

Some prefer another close family member or friend help perform some of these tasks simply because repeatedly expressing sorrow can be emotionally exhausting and feel overwhelming. On the other hand, you may find it healing. So, give yourself time to gauge your emotions, and don’t be concerned about enlisting help with this if you need it:

  • Family members – this includes immediate family members and those who are living far away. It’s important they are contacted in case they need to make transportation arrangements.

  • Friends – this includes your friends as well as those of your loved one.

  • Coworkers or employer – most of us spend half our life at work and this is reflected in the relationships we cultivate while there.

  • Social groups – clubs, chapters of fraternities and sororities,

  • Church group – church they are a member.

  • If they were a member of the military, the unit to which they were assigned

Disposition of the deceased

Where a person dies will dictate specific protocols. And those protocols are usually developed to support specific local laws. Here are three scenarios:

  1. Hospitals and care homes - will arrange transportation for the deceased to a funeral home, along with the legal pronouncement of death.

  2. At home with hospice - call hospice and they will send a medical professional to legally pronounce death. Then call the funeral home to collect the deceased.

  3. At home with no medical affiliations - call your local emergency services and they will have the deceased transported to the morgue or funeral home.

In each of the above scenarios, a legal pronouncement of death will be completed. This pronouncement is essential and required before funeral arrangements can be made. It is also necessary before the following courses of action can be initiated:

  • Filing a life insurance claim

  • Beginning legal proceedings such as executing the terms of the will

  • Accessing bank and other financial accounts

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