Navigating the Loss of a Loved One

Posted on March 5, 2020

woman windowDealing with the loss of a beloved family member or friend is one of the most challenging life experiences many of us will ever face. But knowing what to expect and what must be done immediately following a loved one’s death can provide us with confidence to navigate this sensitive time with grace.

Notifying Others
After a loved one passes away, one of the first things you’ll need to do is notify the deceased’s immediate family members, close friends, acquaintances, and employer. As Marie Curie explains, these conversations are among the more difficult tasks you’ll be faced with, and there’s nothing wrong with asking close friends and family members for help if you’re not feeling up for it.

If you do take on the task of notifying others, however, it may help to put together a script before getting started—as this can reduce some of the emotional distress out of this process.

Additionally, keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way of notifying others after a loved one passes away. Some family members may prefer to receive this news as part of a group, while others may prefer to be alone.

Making Funeral Arrangements
When a loved one passes away, you’ll also need to plan a funeral service and determine how you’re going to pay for it. According to Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Company (LHLIC), these expenses typically range between $7K and $12K and include things like funeral home service fees, embalming, and a casket. However, these totals exclude cemetery-related expenses such as a grave plot and headstone.

To take some of the stress out of funeral planning, find out whether your loved one had a burial insurance policy in place that can be used to cover these expenses. Such policies are especially helpful since they can also be applied to other debts your loved one leaves behind.

If burial insurance wasn’t purchased prior to your loved one’s passing, a life insurance payout may be used toward expenses as well. To access these benefits, however, you’ll need a certified copy of your loved one’s death certificate.

Sorting Through Personal Belongings
Unless you need to clean out your loved one’s home by a specific date, Realtor notes it’s important to give yourself ample time to grieve properly before taking on this difficult task. When you’re ready, however, the following tips will help to make this difficult process more endurable children:

  • Enlist in the help of family members and close friends
  • Work only when you’re feeling strong and up for the task
  • Start by tackling food in the refrigerator or pantry before moving onto sentimental items
  • Tackle one room per visit to reduce your risk of emotional burnout
  • Take plenty of breaks and don’t be afraid to stop for the day if it gets to be too much
  • Photograph the items you can’t keep so you’ll always remember them

As you sort through your loved one’s belongings, place items into three separate piles—one with items you’ll keep, a second for things you’ll toss, and a third for those you’ll donate. If you’re unsure about an item, simply set it aside before making any final decisions. You can always donate or toss an item later, but you may regret it if you dispose of something before you’re ready.

A Final Word
While loss is never easy, it’s important to care for yourself and avoid taking on too many responsibilities as you bring your loved one’s life to a close. There are several things we can do to treat ourselves with kindness during this time. For instance, delegating tasks is crucial to our emotional health as we travel a hard time. If we take on too many responsibilities without asking for help, our own physical and mental well-being may suffer. Delegating tasks between surviving family members won’t lessen the pain you’re experiencing, but it’ll help to take some of the weight off your shoulders. That way, you can grieve properly and adjust to life without your loved one.

More information
For additional information and links to other related resources, please visit End With Care’s After Death Occurs Checklist and our end-of-life topic pages.

By Laura Carlson -


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