The loss of a loved one can bring on a range of emotions. This is, in part, because different deaths have different effects on loved ones.
A sudden unexpected loss is always the hardest to cope with. Losing someone close to you under any circumstances is a difficult thing, and it can be hard to know what to do, or where to start, when someone dies.
This article seeks to help you in the process of dealing with death emotionally and legally. The legalities of insurance and the like are at the back of your mind when someone dies, but it’s important to handle the person’s affairs in a way that they would appreciate.
- What to Do When Someone Dies
- Practical Things to Handle
- Contact the Life Insurance Provider
- A Checklist of Organizations that may need to be notified of a death.
- Are You Prepared?
What to Do When Someone Dies
The most important issue to address is the grieving process. While there are a lot of formulas and step by step descriptions of grief, everyone handles it differently so it’s hard to give a concrete answer as to how you should handle death.
We’ll split this article into two parts: first, we’ll describe a little bit about how to handle the emotional weight of the situation. Second, we’ll list a few practical things that should be done shortly after the death occurs.
While we know very well that everyone dies, the experience of grief can be particularly traumatic. This is especially true in the case of unexpected deaths such as accidents, suicide, heart attacks or other health-related causes.
When the news hits, a bomb drops. So, even though you may think you’re tough, human beings are wired to deeply grieve the loss of people in their lives. You may not respond to the situation as you would normally respond to tough events.
The point is, there’s no telling how the loss will affect you. Some people deal with things all at once, allowing emotions to flow out and be communicated. Others have a more stoic approach and take long periods of time, often years to appropriately deal with the loss of a loved one.
So, when you hear about the loss, don’t make any rash decisions. Take a few days, even weeks to fully grapple with how the loss has, and will, affect you. There’s not really a way that you could put the feeling on a scale of 1 to 100 or put it into words.
It is likely to be a subjective experience that will have an impact on you for a good deal of time, so make sure you take time to appreciate that feeling and come to an understanding of it.
Spend Time with Others
This typically means spending time with other people who were affected by the loss. Grieving becomes easier when you know that you aren’t doing it alone.
Other people are in a similar emotional state and appreciate having outlets to grieve through. This is especially true for people on the fringe of the social group who others may not think are hurting.
People like roommates, old friends, colleagues, and more. These are people who aren’t likely to have direct outlets to grieve with. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need help, though.
The grief of close family and friends is sort of a sacred thing, it’s an emotional situation that lies so heavy that many people don’t feel justified to enter. This is true for the nuclear family in particular. That said, people on the outskirts might not feel justified in entering the closed circles and expressing their pain. Make sure that you make it known that people can talk to you if they need to and they will do the same for you.
Accept Slowly, Maintain Yourself
As we’ve mentioned, everyone has a different experience with grief. Where some people will move on over a period of weeks, others will take years to deal with the loss of a loved one.
It’s important to remember, though, that life goes on. That means your life goes on.
It doesn’t do any good to lose your job, friends, and relationships in the name of grief. It is a terribly difficult burden to carry, but it is essential that you keep a sense of regularity in your time of grief.
Don’t get us wrong, you should take a week or two and be with family, share memories, and collect your thoughts. At that time, though, you should take slow steps to reenter your normal life. Many people feel as though they are doing an injustice to the deceased when they begin to move on.
How could you just go back to normal after losing someone so special? How come other people aren’t giving the deceased the recognition they deserve?
When you think about it, though, your loved one would want you to move on and have a good life. Of course, you’ll never forget about that person, but you have to do things for yourself that will allow you to keep going in life.
The Unfortunate Truth
While there are some cases where a death provides a great deal of closure, this is not always the case. Deaths that come unexpectedly are often ones that have little in the way of resolution.
This can be difficult to accept. We often think that there’s an answer to everything, a direct one anyway. The answer has to come with time in a lot of cases.
Sure, there’s a hole that can’t be filled in, but we learn to deal with that over time in our own ways. A mother losing her child, for example, has no easy answer. There aren’t really words that can describe her pain, and there aren’t simple answers to those kinds of deep, timeless struggles. So, unfortunately, that’s something we must learn to move on with. That means we have to carry that pain in a lot of cases.
Embrace Their Memory
Relive old memories, look at photos, and talk about experiences that you had with the person. It’s important to shine a light on who a person was, what they did, and how they made you feel.
In the end, that is how we want to remember a person. When we think back, it’s important that our image of them is clear, honest, and an accurate representation of who they were to us.
It would be a shame to have the burden of grief overshadow the memory of a person you loved. That’s another reason that it’s important to move on in an appropriate way. Sometimes the difficulty of grief can cast out whatever we remember about a person, leaving us with more difficulty.
The point is, rejoice in the fact that the person was here. Make sure you make it known to yourself that they were who they were.
Practical Things to Handle
On the other end of things, there are a lot of practical matters that go along with someone dying. These are difficult to handle when you’re in the immediate throes of grief, so call on a friend or loved one who can help you handle all of the following matters.
Right After Death
The first thing to do is have someone make a legal pronouncement of death. This is usually only done by family if there’s no doctor present. It’s likely that you’ll call the police or an ambulance if you come upon a deceased person, and those professionals will make the declaration.
The ambulance should also transport the body and notify the coroner. These are matters that typically unfold naturally by the professionals.
Next, contact the person’s close loved ones and family. We apologize if you’re the one who has to do this, as it can be an extremely difficult thing to do. It’s important that everyone knows, though.
You should ask that the first few people you contact reach out to others. Next, coordinate with close friends and family to handle the immediate care of the person’s dependents or animals.
The insurance policy should have instructions for permanent care. Next, call the person’s employer and let them know. They will also have information for you on final pay, insurance policies and more.
Now comes the process of arranging the funeral. Your loved one’s documents such as a will or trust might signify whether or not they want to be buried or cremated. This is a process that requires more detail than can be discussed here, so make sure to call a funeral home and discuss with the staff.
Contact the Life Insurance Provider
If your loved one had a life insurance policy you should get in contact with the deceased’s insurance provider or original agent who sold the policy to get information on how to move forward with the finances. It can be a difficult process to understand, and you want to make sure that everything is handled appropriately.
Once a death has been reported to the insurance company billing will be stopped immediately and claims paperwork will be mailed to the primary beneficiary of the policy.
The claims paperwork will need to be completed and returned to the life insurance company along with a few other documents such as a certified copy of the death certificate and copy of the obituary.
Once the life insurance company has received all required documents the average time-frame for a life insurance death benefit claim can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days before the beneficiary can expect funds.
It may be wise to have the help of a trust and estate attorney if you don’t feel comfortable dealing with the person’s assets. It’s totally understandable if you don’t feel qualified to handle those matters, but you should be involved in the decision-making process and ensure that things go smoothly.
A Checklist of Organizations that may need to be notified of a death.
The below checklist has been put together to serve as a helpful list of people and/or organizations that you may need to contact to notify them about a loved one passing. Not all of these will apply to everyone and some will not be as urgent as others, but can simply be referenced at later a time.
- Electric & Gas
- Water & Sewer
- Trash & Recycling
- Telephone & Cellphone
- Cable & Internet
- Mortgage Lender
- Bank – Checking & Savings or CD’s
- Investments – Stock & Bonds
- Safety Deposit
- Credit Cards
- Retirement – IRA & 401ks
- CPA / Tax Accountant
- Long Term Care
- Home Owners
Paperwork that may be requested
- Death Certificate
- Obituary or Newspaper Article
- Wills or Trust
- Account & Policy Numbers
- Funeral Home
- Social Security Administration
- Veterans Benefits Administration
- Post Office
- Voter Election Office
- Subscriptions – Amazon, Gym Membership, Netflix, etc.
- Email Accounts
- Social Media Accounts
Are You Prepared?
It’s a hard thing to handle when someone dies. It’s important that you prepare yourself, though, and set up your affairs to be easily dealt with if you were to pass yourself.
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