When my mother died I thought I was prepared. My mother had battled cancer for 10 years and the final nine months we all knew that this was a war she would not win. My mother had gotten “her affairs” in order and I, as her executer, was given instructions. Nevertheless, when 6 am on the morning of February 24 came I found myself dumb with disbelief, assaulted with an array of emotions and a sudden feeling of exhaustion. While I knew a lot of what needed to be done, – “Thank you, Mom”; when the time came I felt ill-equipped, overwhelmed and frightened that I would not do everything that needed to be done correctly. What did I need to do and when? Would I forget to do something? Who did I need to call? Throw in the emotions of losing her juxtaposed with the relief that she was no longer suffering and you have a veritable cocktail waiting to exhibit as an explosion or a meltdown.
So here is a list that details what you should do immediately and in the days and months following the death of a loved one.
In last week’s blog I wrote about how do you get through the first 24 hours after a loved one dies. www.survivingmedicalmayhem.com/blog/Gettingthroughthescarytimes/
I wrote about working hard to keep balance between the “To-Do Lists” and “Time Outs”. Ask trusted friends and family to help and make notes as you go through this process.
What to do immediately
- If the death did not occur in a hospital or with hospice care, call 911 immediately so that the death can be legally recorded.
- Arrange for transportation of your loved one.
- Notify family and close friends of the death. This can be an opportunity to ask some of your friends to inform others.
- Arrange for a caregiver for children, elderly parents and pets. Delegate this to someone you trust.
- Notify your loved one’s employer. Ask about remaining pay, life insurance, benefits or any other work-related details.
- Locate the will and any pre-planned funeral arrangements
- Select a funeral home, mortuary or funeral director to begin the process of planning a funeral, memorial service, cremation or celebration of life.
What to do before meeting with a funeral planner
- Designate a main point of contact, or executor.
- Gather any documents that specify pre-planned or pre-paid funeral arrangements. Obtain personal information you need for an obituary and death certificate.
- Contact religious or military affiliations of your loved one. If your loved one was a veteran visit US Department of Veterans Affairs website at benefits.va.gov/benefits or call 1-800-827-1000.
- Write an obituary. Your funeral director can help you if needed. You might also check out the internet for suggestions and templates. Here is one site of many: https://www.obituaryguide.com/template.php
What to do before the funeral
- Enlist family and friends to be pallbearers, greeters, decorators or food servers.
- Check on the home of your loved one if necessary (another task that can be delegated). Water plants, throw out perishable food, collect mail, and make sure the residence is safely secured.
- Plan a post funeral reception or visitation.
- Share the details of the service with friends and community members. This also can be delegated to a friend or family member.
What to do after the funeral
Get multiple copies of the death certificate. The following agencies will request at least one copy of the death certificate:
- Social Security (800-772-1213; socialsecurity.gov) to discuss stopping benefits, obtaining survivor benefits and Medicare. Veteran Affairs may also be necessary for the discontinuation of benefits (800-827-1000; va.gov
- Health, life homeowner, automobile and other insurance companies to cease or transfer benefits.
- Utility companies to change or stop services.
- Employer for pension plans or employment benefits; each separate claim will require a separate copy of the death certificate.
- Probate attorney for asset, trust and estate inventory.
- Tax preparer to determine if an estate tax return or final income tax returns should be filed.
- State department of motor vehicle service to cancel driver’s license.
- Bank for safe deposits and remaining accounts; you may be advised to open a new account for the estate.
- Deliver the will to the appropriate office for probate.
- Notify the post office of the death and the location to which mail should be forwarded. (Going through your loved one’s mail can help you become aware of bills, subscriptions or other accounts or services that should be canceled.)
- Cancel any social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram along with Television Streaming Apps such as Netflix, Roku, Paramount, etc.
- Notify the police if your loved one left behind a house that will sit vacant, so that they can periodically monitor the home against suspicious activity.
Everyone mourns in their own way, in their own time and the following weeks and months may be extremely difficult.
Personally, I found myself totally wrapped up in the doing which enable me to squash any emotion I was feeling – until that first Mother’s Day. Turned out none of my family could get together and I became totally unglued, drove mindlessly around town until I ended up in my mother’s now empty apartment save for her two clothes closets. And that is where I unloaded three months of emotion sitting on the floor of her master bedroom closet hugging her clothes! Years and months of bottled up feelings poured out with tears and sobs until there was nothing left. It was then I learned that a range of feelings such as anger, guilt, emptiness or hopelessness are natural and normal emotions.
Take time to sort through them. Having someone to listen to you and to have a shoulder to cry on can feel good during this time. Sharing your feelings with someone you can trust can go a long way to providing a sense of relief. Balancing the care for yourself and allowing others to care for you is part of the healing process. Be cognizant of how you are navigating through this time and work towards an emotionally healthy journey. Seek out friends, pastors and rabbis along with mental health counseling to help support you in this time of grief.
No matter how prepared you think you are for the loss of a loved one; you never are. The emotions and the list of To-Do’s overwhelm, frustrate, frighten us and can either propel us forward or blinds us to a standstill. Either way, it is a journey that needs to be shared for all parties concerned.
Thank you for reading my post. If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it. Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!
I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts. To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com
Blessings for Health & Wellness.