Whether you received a 2 a.m. phone call with news of an unexpected death or shared your loved one's final moments of a long illness, your initial reaction to the death was likely shock.  It doesn't seem to matter how prepared we are - or aren't - a loved one's death often leaves us feeling numb and bewildered.  If you're responsible for making the funeral arrangements or executing the will, shock and grief can be immobilizing.  Even simple decisions can be overwhelming.

Making the first phone calls

What to do first depends on the circumstances of the death.  When someone dies in a hospital or similar care facility, the staff will usually take care of some arrangements, such as contacting the funeral home you choose, and if necessary, arranging an autopsy.  You will need to notify family, friends and clergy.  It may be easier on you to make a few phone calls to other relatives or friends and ask each of them to make a phone call or two to specific people, so the burden of spreading the news isn't all on you.  If you are alone, ask someone to keep you company while you make these calls and try to cope with the first hours after the death.

Call a funeral director

Whatever the circumstances of death, one of your first calls should be to a licensed funeral director.  We are here to help you:

  • transport the body
  • obtain a death certificate
  • select a casket, urn and/or grave marker
  • arrange the funeral, memorial and/or burial service
  • prepare the obituary
  • help you notify the deceased's employer, attorney, insurance company and banks
  • offer grief support or direct you to other resources

Although the hospital or institution often initiates the first call to the funeral home, it is still a good idea to contact the funeral personally as soon as you are prepared to do so.  This will ensure that the funeral home is aware of some of your wishes, and gives you the piece of mind knowing that the funeral director has taken matters into his/her hands.  You may feel better talking to the funeral director to see what the next few steps will be.  If the death occurs in the middle of the night, do not hesitate to call the funeral director at any hour to get answers to some of your questions.  Funeral directors are always available 24 hours a day, anyday.