Someone you love is dying? This will be hard, but you are stronger than you realize.
If death is imminent, say hours to days, you do not have to use this time to find a funeral home. Spend this time with your loved one and make preparations at home. Ask your hospice nurse if they have recommendations for a funeral home, if you don’t yet have one in mind. When the passing occurs, you’ll have time to make a few calls before deciding on a funeral home to care for you and your family.
If death is not imminent, here are some resources you’ll find useful.
Gone From My Sight: A book about the dying experience written by a hospice nurse.
The Eleventh Hour: A caring guideline for the hours to minutes before death.
The End-of-Life Handbook: A compassionate guide to connecting with and caring for a dying loved one.
Death in the family? Here’s what you need to know.
- Breathe. Take care of yourself. Don’t feel that you have to rush. You’ve got this.
- You can call around to different funeral homes for pricing. They are required to give you their prices over the phone.
- You don’t have to make a decision right away, especially when the death is unexpected. You usually have 12-24 hours to choose a funeral home. Talk with whoever arrives at the place of death (EMS, coroner, medical examiner’s office, etc.) to ask how long you have to make a decision.
- You can spend time with your loved one before the funeral home picks them up. If you don’t specifically ask, they will usually be there within the hour. It is appropriate to sit with them for a few hours if you wish. Spend the time you need with them before they go to the funeral home.
- Embalming is not required when a public visitation is not requested. You can still see your loved one if they are not embalmed.
- If you choose cremation, you can still see your loved one before the cremation occurs.
- Home wakes and funerals are perfectly fine. Ask your funeral director about them.
- You can do your loved one’s makeup, hair, and/or nails for the visitation, and you can even dress them if you wish.
- There are no rules when it comes to funerals. I have people ask me, “Is it okay if I take a photo?”, “Is it okay if mom wears this necklace but I get it back before the burial?”, “Can a family member officiate the funeral instead of a minister?”, “Am I weird if I do this?”. The answers are yes, yes, yes, and no. We all wish to make our loved ones funerals special. Do what you want. (But maybe no Highway to Hell in the chapel.)
- Most importantly, you get what you pay for. There are a lot of low-cost options out there, but they aren’t always the best. I’ve heard some horror stories inside and outside of the industry. Buyer beware.
No death yet, but making plans?
Good for you for thinking ahead! Many funeral homes can help you plan your funeral in advance, and there are multiple options for payment including monthly payment options. Call around and ask for the Pre-Planning or Advanced Planning Funeral Director. He or she would be happy to help you.
Grieving? You are not alone. Here are some resources you may find helpful.
Modern Loss: An online blog about loss. Beginners welcome.
What’s Your Grief?: A website about grief.
Angel Catcher: A journal of loss and remembrance. I recommend this journal often to my families as I found it so helpful when I lost my mom. If you just need to get some thoughts out of your head, you need this.
Healing After Loss: Daily meditations for working through grief.
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, coping, and healing after the sudden death of a loved one.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking: Only the best podcast in the world. If you want honest talk about grief and loss, you’ll find it here.