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When Someone Dies: A Guide to the First 6 Steps

Losing a family member is a deeply emotional experience that can stir up a whirlwind of emotions.

Losing a family member is a deeply emotional experience that can stir up a whirlwind of emotions. In these challenging times, it's understandable that you may feel unsure about what steps to take. However, by being prepared and having a plan of action in place, you can navigate these difficult moments with greater ease. In this article, we will guide you through six important steps to take when a loved one passes.

Step 1: Reach out to Medical Professionals

Before your loved one can be entrusted into the care of a funeral or cremation provider, it is essential to have them pronounced or declared dead by a medical professional. If your loved one has passed away at home, an adult foster care home, or any place other than a healthcare facility, call 911 for immediate assistance. If your loved one has passed in hospice or at an assisted living facility, reach out to the appropriate medical professionals to ensure appropriate protocols are followed.

Step 2: Notify Family and Close Friends

Informing immediate family and close friends about the passing of your loved one is crucial. However, during this challenging time, remember that you don't have to carry the burden alone. Reach out to your loved one's close connections and request their assistance in notifying more distant family members and friends. It's also important to make arrangements for the care of any children, parents, or pets in the family. Additionally, consider contacting your loved one's employer to communicate the situation and make necessary arrangements.

Step 3: Secure Property

Taking steps to secure your loved one's property can provide you with peace of mind during the grieving process. Ensure that their vehicle is safely parked in a legal and secure area. Take the time to lock their home or living space to protect their belongings. If your loved one had pets, ensure temporary care for them until permanent arrangements can be made.

Step 4: Explore Military Benefits

If your loved one served in the military, they may be eligible for veterans' benefits from the VA to assist with burial or cremation costs. Visiting the VA's website or contacting their office can help you understand the benefits your loved one might be eligible for in the event of a service or non-service related death. These benefits can help alleviate some financial burdens during this challenging time.

Step 5: Locate Important Documents

Having access to your loved one's important documents and personal information is crucial for effective estate management and settling affairs. Before your loved one's passing, have an open conversation about whether they have a will or living trust in place. Offer your assistance in organizing their personal information, such as financial accounts and digital assets. Once your loved one has passed, locate their will or other relevant documents to ensure their final wishes are honored and their affairs are handled properly.

Step 6: Plan a Meaningful Celebration of Life

Before your loved one's passing, engaging in a conversation about how they would like to be celebrated and remembered can be incredibly helpful. Ask them about their preferences for a memorial or celebration of life ceremony. When the time is right, honor their wishes and plan a meaningful and personalized event to celebrate their life and the impact they had on the world.

You Can Do This

Though losing a loved one is undoubtedly a challenging experience, taking these thoughtful steps can provide some comfort and guidance during this difficult time. Remember to be gentle with yourself as you navigate the grieving process, and reach out to supportive individuals or professionals who can provide comfort and assistance along the way. You are not alone, and by following these steps, you can navigate the complexities of loss with empowerment and grace. For assistance from one of our nearby providers, start here.

Things like this are never easy, but there are ways you can avoid last minute confusion and uncertainty. Feel free to take a look at our article 7 Reasons for Preplanning Permanent Memorialization. For answers to our most-often asked questions, we've compiled this guide: Answers to Death’s Frequently Asked Questions.