The practicalities of death: what needs to be done immediately following the death of a loved oneThe time immediately following a loved one's passing is always difficult. Not only must you cope with your grief, but with the "business" details of their death as well. To relieve the additional stress of the unknown, it is crucial to be informed regarding what is expected after a death.
If a loved one dies at home, the county coroner's office needs to be notified. The official pronouncement of death has to be made by a medical professional. This can be achieved through the coroner's office or by contacting the deceased's physician. If death occurred in a hospital or nursing home, an attending physician or other qualified medical personnel will provide the official pronouncement of death.
What if the death occurred abroad?
If a U.S. citizen dies abroad, the death must be reported to the United States embassy in the country where death occurred. A United States consular officer will report the death to the next of kin or legal representative. Private funds are required to have the loved one buried locally or his body returned to the states. A Report of the Death of an American Citizen will be prepared to provide information concerning the death and custody of the deceased's belongings.
Don't try to do everything yourself
It is difficult to think clearly and single-handedly perform all the tasks at hand after a loved one dies. Friends and other family members can be a means of emotional and practical support. As soon as possible, time should be taken to contact others close to the deceased. Not only would they want to be notified, but they can also aid in dealing with the business affairs that must be accomplished after a loss.
Once the coroner's office has been notified and an official pronouncement of death decreed, arrangements must be made to have the body removed. This can be performed by:
- a mortuary that will be performing the funeral
- a crematory if the body is to be cremated, or
- according to instructions from a hospital if you have decided to donate the deceased's organs to help others
If you will be making the funeral arrangements, it is imperative to take a friend or family member to advise and support you during this difficult task. Before going to the funeral home, take time to look through the deceased's papers to see if she had a prepaid burial plan or left instructions regarding her desired funeral arrangements.
Financial assistance may be available
The passing of a loved one is often unexpected. The deceased may not have put forethought into the eventuality of his death. If the family has difficulty securing funds for a burial or cremation, there are various places that can be contacted for possible aid. Financial assistance is often available for those who were receiving public assistance. Help with burial expenses may be obtained by calling the local Department of Health and Human Resources immediately following the death of a loved one. If the deceased qualifies for assistance, the total expenses allowed for the burial will be limited.
If the deceased was in the military, or was the spouse or dependent child of someone in the military, financial aid may be available through the Veterans' Administration. Religious and fraternal organizations of which the deceased was a member are other possible means of financial assistance if the funds for a funeral, burial or cremation are otherwise unavailable.
Obtaining copies of the death certificate
Once the funeral arrangements have been made, a death certificate will be needed to settle the deceased's affairs. A certified copy of the death certificate can be obtained from the funeral director. If you need additional copies at a later date, they can be ordered through the Office of Vital Statistics in the county where death occurred.
A loss is both emotionally and physically overwhelming. To ease the additional stress of dealing with the business aspects, it is crucial to know what needs to be done immediately following bereavement.
If you are based in the UK:
click here for information about what to do after a death
Further sources of information
You may find our other articles in the Practical matters following a death section helpful too.
Visit our Amazon store to find books to help you through bereavement.