When Death Occurs

No matter if a death is sudden, or if it something that was a long time coming, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem staggering.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within the first 24 hours after death.

When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the person was not under hospice care, the police will have to be notified immediately.  The police will be dispatched to the home and place the call to the medical examiner's office and a medical examiner investigator will determine if decedent will need to be taken into the custody of the medical examiner.  The medical examiner must release the body before a funeral home can do anything.   If the person was under hospice care, contact the hospice representative if they were not present and they will notify family members what the proper procedures are to follow.

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home/hospice facility

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you and the necessary authorities immediately after a death has occurred.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If family is present at the facility when the funeral home staff arrives, they will ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and set up a time to come into the funeral home to make arrangements. If you are not present a funeral director will contact you by telephone to discuss these arrangements.

Informing a Funeral Director

Once everything has been cleared with the proper authorities, the next call you place should be to a licensed funeral director.  Funeral directors are here to help you obtain a death certificate, transport the body, and in the event pre-planning was not done, select a casket/urn and arrange the funeral, memorial service or direct disposition of the body.  Funeral directors are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in planning a funeral, memorial service or direct disposition of the decedent.

Meeting a Funeral Director

Many families meet with a funeral director within 24 hours of a death to begin to make final arrangements for their loved one.   However some families prefer to wait a longer time for family to arrive from out of town to assist in making arrangements. If necessary, arrangements can be made with no one present at the funeral home by emailing or faxing documents to the family.  Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when you are in heightened emotional state, but, funeral home staff have years of experience dealing with these issues, and strive to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Making Arrangements

First the Funeral Director will gather information required for the death certificate.  This includes:

  • Full Name and Address
  • Marital Status
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Date and City of Birth
  • Highest Level of Education
  • Father’s Name, Mother’s Name (including maiden name)
  • Name of Spouse (if married or widowed)
  • Occupation and Industry of Employment
  • Legal address
  • If the decedent had served in the U.S. Military
  • Final Place of Disposition (Cemetery Name, Crematory Name or Place of Donation)

The following documents are helpful when making arrangements:

  • Birth and Marriage Certificates
  • Life Insurance Policies with Beneficiary Designation
  • Last Will
  • Military Discharge Documents

If no pre-planning has been done, necessary arrangements need to be made for the funeral, memorial service or direct disposition of the dececedent.  These include:

  • Deciding and scheduling the location, date and time of the visitation, funeral service, memorial service or if only direct disposition (direct burial, cremation or donation)
  • Selecting burial or cremation
  • Choosing Funeral Products
  • Arranging a cemetery plot
  • Preparing an obituary notice
  • Scheduling transportation arrangements

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to arrange the services desired by the family.  A funeral or memorial can be personalized. Recalling fond memories assists with the grieving process and will in planning a personalized service for your loved one.