When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to be made. Unfortunately these often have to be made at a time of personal distress. Here is some help and guidance about how to be prepared for someone’s death.
Share your fears
As we grow older we are beset by fears. In bereavement we may experience the return of childhood fears as well as new fears; fear of the dark, fear of the unknown future, fear of having to move house, fear of not being able to cope with house chores, the garden or pets, the fear of being alone after many years of loving companionship – perhaps the greatest fear of all is having to face your own death. Fears are real but can be shared; the support of your family and friends will help to quell those fears. Specialist helping agencies can also provide help, so do keep their addresses and telephone numbers in handy places.
It isn’t morbid to talk about death and it’s very sensible to be prepared for it as far as possible, both emotionally and practically. If you or your partner share the household tasks you should each learn the other’s role: cooking simple, healthy but appetising meals; wiring a plug; changing a fuse; relighting the boiler; knowing how the washing machine works; general house and garden maintenance; paying household bills; knowing about family finances, pensions, insurance; making a will.
Not knowing how to do things if your partner dies could make you even more frustrated in your grief. And being able to do day to day chores can also bring a measure of relief in the midst of emotional upset. New skills can be learned by teaching each other or you could consider taking a course at your local adult education institute. And it’s also a good idea to join a local luncheon club or day centre to widen your circle of friends as well as your interests.
A word here about money. In law when a person dies their assets are frozen until probate is granted. But the newly widowed need ready cash. It’s worth making a list of all your assets and thinking ahead. Check on a pension which may be due; find out about a Funeral Expenses Plan; the bank account of the deceased will be frozen until probate is granted, but that doesn’t apply to a joint account where the survivor can go on drawing cash.
Things that need to be done when there is a death
If your partner dies at home you must call your doctor who will sign a medical certificate confirming death, unless he decides to refer the matter to the coroner (see Sudden death).
If your partner dies in hospital the doctor on duty will issue the certificate. This paper must be taken to the Registrar of Births and Deaths who will issue the death certificate and the notification of disposal which should be passed to the Funeral Director.
If the death is sudden or unusual your doctor has to tell the police; they will report it to the coroner who may call for a post-mortem and may arrange for an inquest which is a public inquiry to find out the cause of death. You should not be alarmed by this. In most cases it is purely a technicality.
When the death certificate has been issued by the registrar or coroner you will be given a certificate authorising the funeral.
The funeral has several purposes: the committal of the deceased through burial or cremation and at the same time to pay tribute to the one who has died, and to provide support for the bereaved. A funeral is an occasion when grief can be shared. So do not be afraid to cry or to accept offers of help.
The choice of a funeral director is important as you should feel comfortable and confident with him. He may be known to you personally, may be recommended by a friend or neighbour, or may have a good reputation in your locality. The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors has a Code of Practice and members will give you an estimate of costs – their own and those fees they will pay on your behalf and add to the account.
Your funeral director will make all the arrangements for the funeral – burial or cremation, religious or secular service – whatever you or your loved one wanted. The funeral director can also advise on all the procedures and documents needed to register the death as he is experienced in these matters.