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Preparing for the Death of a Loved One: 9 Steps to Take

Preparing for the death of a loved one is important and can help make the process easier for both the individual and their family. There are many things to consider when losing someone, impacting both the emotional and logistical sides of things. If you're unsure how to prepare for the death of a parent (or any loved one), here are some steps for you to consider.

1. Spend time with your loved one

Make sure to spend time with your loved one while they are still alive. Take this time to ask any lingering questions and discuss any unfinished business with them. Try your best to keep conversation open to topics you may find uncomfortable. Your loved one may want to discuss death, dying, and their fears. They may want to bring up old arguments or regrets they want to discuss that you may feel strongly about. Giving them space to talk about what's on their mind can lead to many fruitful discussions.

2. Gather family members and discuss plans

Gathering family members to discuss plans is an important part of preparing for the death of a loved one. This is a time to discuss funeral logistics and any other post-death tasks you either need to handle or need assistance handling. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Who will be the primary caregiver?
  • Who will make sure the individual's affairs are in order?
  • Who will be responsible for handling the funeral arrangements?
  • What are the individual's final wishes?
  • How do we want to honor their memory?

By preparing for these conversations ahead of time, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and avoid any conflicts down the road. It’s important to mention that over 40% of families encounter conflict following a death; speaking with your loved ones can help you avoid being part of this statistic.

3. Make sure their affairs are in order

It is important to make sure that your loved one's affairs are in order before they pass. This includes things like making sure they have a will, talking about funeral preferences, and finding out about any open accounts or outstanding debts. This will make the process of dealing with logistics following their death significantly easier for you and other family members, so it's incredibly helpful to go over this information before the individual passes away. Those who are trying to help a dying grandparent, parent, sibling, or other loved should reference Ever Loved's preparing for death checklist that helps you gather information for the logistics you will be responsible for handling.

Gathering family members to discuss plans is an important part of preparing for the death of a loved one. This is a time to discuss funeral logistics and any other post-death tasks you either need to handle or need assistance handling. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Who will be the primary caregiver?
  • Who will make sure the individual's affairs are in order?
  • Who will be responsible for handling the funeral arrangements?
  • What are the individual's final wishes?
  • How do we want to honor their memory?

By preparing for these conversations ahead of time, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and avoid any conflicts down the road. It’s important to mention that over 40% of families encounter conflict following a death; speaking with your loved ones can help you avoid being part of this statistic.

4. Gather important documentation

There are a few important documents that are extremely helpful to have in order to take care of your loved one's affairs before and after their death. Some of these include the following:

  • A will or trust: This document outlines your loved one's final wishes, including how they want their estate to be handled. If your loved one doesn't have a will, you'll need to go through the probate process to settle their estate.
  • A power of attorney: This document gives you the legal authority to make financial and/or medical decisions on behalf of your loved one.
  • An advance directive: This document outlines your loved one's end-of-life care wishes, including whether they want to be resuscitated or receive life-sustaining treatment.
  • Any funeral home or cemetery contracts that the individual has
  • A list of any open accounts that will need to be handled and closed (Ever Loved’s free checklist can help with this)

You may also need to gather other documentation, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, bills, tax information and insurance policies. It's a good idea to keep all of these documents organized and in a safe place so you can easily access them when needed.

5. Reinforce your support network

It is important to have a strong support network when preparing for the death of a loved one. This includes close friends, family members, and any other individuals you feel comfortable talking to about your impending loss. These people can offer you emotional support and practical advice as you navigate the process of grieving. They can also help you prepare by offering their assistance with tasks or by simply being a shoulder for you to lean on.

If you don't have a strong support network, there are many resources available to help you find one. Grief support groups are a great way to connect with others who are going through a similar experience. Many have found support in Ever Loved's grief center through chatting with others who are also dealing with a loss. You can also reach out to mental health professionals for assistance.

6. Pay attention to self-care

It is important to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally when preparing for the death of a loved one. This is a difficult time, and it's important to give yourself the space and time to grieve in a healthy way. Make sure to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. It's also crucial to find healthy outlets for your emotions, whether that means talking to a therapist, journaling, or spending time with friends and family.

Preparing for the death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult task. By taking the time to prepare both logistically and emotionally, you can make the process a bit easier for yourself and your loved ones.

7. Ask for time off work

This is a difficult time, and you will need all the energy and focus you can muster to take care of your loved one. If possible, try to get as much time off as possible. Many companies offer bereavement leave, and this can be a lifesaver during the weeks leading up to and after your loved one's death. If you can't get time off, see if there's anything your employer can do to lighten your workload. This may mean temporarily reassigning some of your duties or giving you more flexible hours.

Remember, your first priority should be taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

8. Read about the grieving process

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but it can be helpful to read about the process before you're faced with it. This will help you understand what to expect and how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Grief counseling and support groups can also be beneficial as you work through your loss.

As a reminder, grief is not linear but has a general theory of stages behind it (though these stages can be experienced at different times, at the same time or not at all). The five stages of grief include:

-Denial and isolation -Anger -Bargaining -Depression -Acceptance

You may experience these stages in any order, and you may find yourself cycling back and forth between them. It's important to give yourself time and space to grieve in whatever way feels right for you.

9. Understand the dying process

It's important to have a general understanding of the dying process so you can prepare both emotionally and logistically. This includes knowing what to expect in the days and weeks leading up to death, as well as how to care for your loved one during this time. Hospice care can be extremely beneficial during this period, and many hospices offer support for families as well.

Preparing for the death of a loved one is emotionally taxing and incredibly difficult for those involved. You can feel better prepared to handle the tasks ahead by working with your loved one to record key information. Having this information before they pass away will set you up to handle their affairs in a much less stressful way.

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Last updated June 14, 2022
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