When a death occurs
Several things need to be considered when death occurs. The order in which things need to be done usually depends on whether the death occurred at a residence, public place, a care center or in a hospital.
Today, a large number of people choose to be at home with Hospice or with a Home Health Care provider assisting the family until death occurs. Usually the family will notify Hospice that a death has occurred and Hospice will notify the proper people in the correct order. They will contact the physician and law enforcement officials and they will also call the funeral home.
If Hospice or a Home Health Care provider is not involved, but the person is under physicians’ care and family or friends are present, the family may want to call the funeral home directly. If 911 is called and an ambulance responds, the ambulance crew needs to notify the police, who will then need to come to the residence. The police will then have their normal investigation that they will need to follow through with before calling the funeral home. However, if the family calls the funeral home first, the funeral home will notify the proper authorities.
If the death occurs in a hospital or care center, the name of the funeral home may be left with them, and the institution will notify the funeral home at the time of the death. The funeral home will respond and at the next practical time, review matters with the family. If in any case the death should occur and you are not sure of who to notify or what to do, you may call your funeral home and they will assist you in notifying the proper agencies. There are several other questions that you may have in regards to the death of your loved one, such as, “Do I have to have embalming;” “do I need to purchase a casket;” “what about cemetery arrangements;” “does the family have a minister;” “do we want cremation, visitation…?” When you contact Horner, Lieske, McBride & Kuhl Funeral and Cremation Services, we will help answer your questions and assist in making the appropriate plans.
However, one of the best ways to make sure that all your questions and desires are taken care of is to make pre-arrangements. This is as simple as outlining your wishes to having all of the details written down and the financial arrangements prepaid. Please contact one of our staff to learn more or simply complete the form on the Funeral Pre-Planning page.
At some point after the death occurs, the funeral home will want to schedule a time to visit with family concerning the vital information and service details.
During the arrangement conference at the funeral home, the family will be asked for vital statistic information, which will aid us in completing the death certificate, as well as the obituary. The following questions, among others, will be asked about the deceased:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Military Information
- Surviving Relatives
- Parents’ Names (Mother’s Maiden Name)
- Level of Education
- Place of Birth
Many times, your funeral director will ask for the following items to be brought with you to the arrangement conference:
Suggestions for friends and relatives
- Photograph, preferably a color photograph– this will be used in the newspaper and also in the memorial merchandise you may select
- Clothing for the viewing – usually we dress with a full set of undergarments
- Vital statistic information
- Any special information for the obituary
- Military discharge papers – if availableList of pallbearers
- Get in touch - Telephone. Speak either to the mourner or someone close and ask when you can visit and how you might help. Even if much time has passed, it’s never too late to express concern.
- Say little on an early visit - In the initial period (before burial), your brief embrace, your press of the hand, your few words of affection and feeling may be all that is needed.
- Avoid clichés and easy answers - “He is out of pain” and “Aren’t you lucky that ...“ are not likely to help. A simple “I’m sorry” is better.
- Be yourself - Show your natural concern and sorrow in your own way and in your words.
- Keep in touch - Be available. Be there. If you are a close friend or relative, your presence might be needed from the beginning. Later, when close family may be less available, anyone’s visit and phone call can be very helpful.
- Attend to practical matters - Find out if you are needed to answer the phone, usher in callers, prepare meals, clean the house, care for children, etc.
- Encourage others to visit or help - Usually one visit will overcome friend’s discomfort and allow him or her to contribute further support. You might even be able to schedule some visitors so that everyone does not come at once in the beginning and fail to come later on.
- Accept silence - If the mourner doesn’t feel like talking, don’t force conversation. Silence is better than aimless chatter. The mourner should be allowed to lead.
- Be a good listener - When suffering spills over into words, you can do the one thing the bereaved needs above all else at that time – you can listen. If she is emotional? Accept that. Does he cry? Accept that too. Is she angry at God? God will manage without your defending him. Accept whatever feelings are expressed. Do not rebuke. Do not change the subject. Be as understanding as you can be.
- Do not attempt to tell the bereaved how he or she feels - You can ask (without probing), but you cannot know, except as you are told. Everyone, bereaved or not, resents an attempt to describe feelings. To say, for example, “You must be relieved that he is out of pain” is presumptuous. Even to say, “I know just how you feel” is questionable. Learn from the mourner; do not instruct.
- Do not probe for details about the death - If the survivor offers information, listen with understanding.
- Comfort children in the family - Do not assume that a seemingly calm child is not sorrowing. If you can, be a friend to whom feelings can be confided and with whom tears can be shed. In most cases, incidentally, children should be left in the home and not shielded from the grieving of others.
- Avoid talking to others about trivia in the presence of the recently bereaved - Prolonged discussion of sports, weather or stock market, for example, is resented, even if done purposely to distract the mourner.
- Allow the “working through” of grief - Do not whisk away clothing or hide pictures. Do not criticize seemingly morbid behavior. Some people may repeatedly visit the site of a fatal accident. A widow may sleep with her husband’s pajamas as a pillow. A young child may wear his dead sibling’s clothing.
- Write a letter - A sympathy card is a poor substitute for your own expression. If you take time to write of your love for and memories of the one who died, your letter might be read many times and cherished, possibly into the next generation.
- Encourage the postponement of major decisions - What can wait should wait until after the period of intense grief.
- In time, gently draw the mourner into quiet outside activity - He may lack the initiative to go out on his own.
- When the mourner returns to normal social activity, treat him or her as a normal person - Avoid pity – it destroys self-respect. Simple understanding is enough. Acknowledge the loss, the change in the mourner’s life, but don’t dwell on it.
- Be aware of needed progress through grief - If the mourner seems unable to resolve anger or guilt, for example, you might suggest a consultation with a clergyman or other trained counselor.
Helping must be more than following a few rules. Especially if the bereavement is devastating and you are close to the bereaved, you may have to give more time, more care, more of yourself than you imagined. You will have to perceive the special needs of your friend and creatively attempt to meet those needs. Such commitment and effort may even save a life. At the least, you will know the satisfaction of being truly and deeply helpful.