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 to 48 hours after death.

When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the person was not under hospice care, the police need to be notified immediately.  The police will be dispatched to the home or place of death.  The medical examiner will be contacted by the police and will determine what further action is necessary.  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 you are present at the hospital when the funeral director 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, however, 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 transport the body, obtain a funeral director's statement of death, and in the event pre-planning was not done, arrange the funeral/memorial service and assist in selecting a casket or urn.  Funeral directors are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in funeral planning.

Meeting a Funeral Director

You should meet with a funeral director within 24 hours of a death to begin to make final arrangements for your loved one.  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

The Funeral Director will gather information required for registering the death.  This includes:

  • Full Name and Usual Residence (Physical Address)
  • Name at birth
  • Marital Status
  • Date Birth and Place of Birth
  • Father’s Name and Father's Place of Birth 
  • Mother’s Name (including maiden name) and Mother's Place of Birth
  • Name of Spouse (including Maiden Name) (if married or widowed)
  • Occupation and Type of Business Occupation was in
  • Name, address and telephone number of the person taking responsibility of these arrangements.

The funeral director may also need to see the Last Will and Testament of the deceased to confirm who has authorization to make funeral arrangements.

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

  • Scheduling the location, date and time of the visitation and funeral service
  • Selecting burial or cremation
  • Will the deceased be present at the service
  • Will burial or cremation take place before of after the service
  • Choosing funeral products
  • Arranging a cemetery plot and coordinating opening and closing of grave
  • Preparing obituary notice(s)
  • Ordering flowers
  • Scheduling transportation arrangements

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a meaningful and memorable funeral for your loved one. From here the funeral services can be personalized.  Did your loved one have a favorite sports team?  What was their favorite type of music?  What activity was your loved one known best for?  Recalling fond memories assists with the grieving process and will help honor the life of your loved one.