Losing a family member can be enormously stressful. Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself and those around you for the loss.
1. Arrange funeral plans in advance
Funerals are complicated and often expensive (more than $10,000 in many cases), and many of the options require payment in advance. Life insurance policies take time to pay out, so there are usually only two options: save the money in advance or pay with credit. Some banks may temporarily extend a credit line in this situation. Figuring out these plans in advance is easier when it feels farther away.
2. Arrange for organ donation
If the deceased wants to offer organs for donation, arrangements need to be made almost immediately at death so the organs can be harvested promptly. If you’re not sure, check the driver’s license and an advance health care directive, such as a living will or health care proxy.
If the answer is “yes,” the hospital where the person died will have a coordinator to guide you through the process. If your loved one died outside of a hospital — that includes in hospice or a nursing home — contact the nearest hospital. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about what’s next. There is no cost.
3. Ask for help before you need it
If circumstances permit, figure out who you want by your side when the time comes. Virtually everyone will want to help, but only some will give the emotional support you need. Asking far in advance gives the people you want time to prepare.
Make sure to tell your boss as well — you obviously won’t know dates, but if you are anticipating a loss, they’ll be more likely to help if they know what to expect.
4. Get the obituary thoughts in order
There is a lot of paperwork involved with death. If you’re publishing an obituary in a newspaper, for example, find out the process from the paper before you have to submit so the task can be handled easily. Funeral homes will generally help with this for a fee. The obit will usually go online as well as in print, so be sure to post links to Facebook so people can get relevant service details without bothering you.
5. Split up the tasks
If you can, be prepared to delegate tasks. For example, have someone you trust talk with the funeral home and/or the cemetery, so they can bring you the minimum number of questions you need to answer. Rely on family members to help organize food for a memorial service.
Do not try and do it all yourself – you’ll end up even more emotionally exhausted.
6. Be good to yourself
Yes, survivors are always told this, but if you are able to sleep, eat well, exercise, and/or find a place to vent, you will be in better shape to cope. Support groups, meditation, yoga, and short breaks, like a sneak-away pedicure or blow dry, coffee with a friend, a movie or a walk are also good ways to think about you.
7. Organize the paperwork
If you’re responsible for notifying the government of your family member’s death, acquire those documents ahead of time. You may also need to close bank, investment, and other financial accounts.
Additionally, if you’re in charge of the will, you should obtain a copy early. If a lawyer or other family member is handling the reading and dispensation of property, just find out what they need from you so you’re prepared.
8. Configure your phone
People are going to want to extend their condolences – and they may well decide that you are the conduit for sending their sympathies. This can lead to added stress and emotional trauma as you rehash details again and again. You definitely won’t want calls from businesses trying to capitalize on your loss – or worse, on your inheritance.
If you have an iPhone, you can just use the Do Not Disturb feature. On Android, try Mr. Number or DroidBlock.
9. Remember that grief doesn’t have an expiration date
You’ll stop crying every day and routines will return to normal. You’ll laugh again. But grief doesn’t really ever end.
If you or your partner are going through a loss, you have to be there for them and them for you. Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays will be heartbreaking, but together, you two will learn how to get through it.