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Around you when the worst happens

Losing someone is never easy

When a loved one passes away it’s one of the most distressing, emotionally unsettling times you can go through. You’ll probably be in some degree of shock. And you will almost certainly be feeling a sense of overwhelm at the prospect of organising everything. What do I have to do? Who do I have to contact? And where do I start?

We all respond to stress differently. So first things first – take some comfort in knowing that there is no ‘right way’ to handle this situation. Every passing – like every individual and family – is different and has its own unique set of circumstances. Grief too can manifest itself in a variety of ways – both physically and emotionally. Just be kind to yourself while working through everything. Remind yourself you’re not an expert. And that you’re simply trying to do your best for the deceased and everybody involved.

One step at a time

Depending on where your loved one passes away, there will be some things that require your immediate attention. But when thinking straight isn’t an option it’s good to have something to refer to that clearly outlines what your priorities should be. The following is our checklist of all the practical things to get in motion in the early stages. We’ve put this together as a guide to help give you peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing for the bereaved. And we hope it helps make your life easier during those difficult early days.

What to do when someone dies

The following covers the important things you need to focus on when someone close to you passes away.

  • Death at a hospital

    When death takes place within a public hospital, the family will often be at their loved one’s side to say their goodbyes. The hospital will have the required facilities to hold your loved one for a time until you’ve engaged a Funeral Director. The hospital will also complete all relevant paperwork required for the funeral to take place. Once the Funeral Director provides an authority form signed by the nominated Next of Kin or Executor of the deceased estate, they will then be able to take your loved one into their care.

    Some private hospitals in the Sydney region are not equipped with the necessary holding facilities. In this situation, the staff will usually advise you to engage the services of a Funeral Director prior to death. This ensures that once the required paperwork is completed, there is no delay in the Funeral Director taking the deceased into their care and commencing the arrangements for either a burial or cremation service.

  • Death at an aged care facility

    Much like some private hospitals, most aged care facilities are not equipped to hold a body once a resident has passed away. Often staff will advise you to engage the services of a Funeral Director prior to your loved one’s passing. With the family’s authority, the Funeral Director will organise all required paperwork and the deceased can then be released into their care.

  • Death at home

    If the death was expected, the palliative care team will usually advise you who to call. Typically, this is the treating doctor who will then complete the interim certificates. However, if they are unavailable, after-hours doctors or registered nurses can be contacted to verify the death. However, the treating doctor will be required to complete all the official certificates for the funeral to take place.

    If the person died at home and it was unexpected, you will need to call the police. Depending upon the circumstances, and at the police’s discretion, the Coroner may be required to determine the cause of death.

  • Contacting the Funeral Director

    When you first make contact with your chosen Funeral Director all you need to give them is your name, the deceased’s name, what service you require (burial or cremation) and where the service is to be held. You can also discuss any other arrangements you’re considering so they can provide you with a quote for the cost of the service. They will usually offer suggestions as they take you through the process so that a full and accurate quote can be given.

    After this initial conversation it is important that you feel you understand all the inclusions, so ask for an email confirmation that clearly outlines everything you’ve discussed with all costs included.

    Southern Cross Funeral Directors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week answer any questions or queries you have to help lighten the burden.

  • The Belongings

    All valuables that are left with the deceased are noted and family are given the option to remove them or leave them with their loved one.

  • When someone dies suddenly

    In these situations, if there is no pre-existing health condition, the police and/or the GP can make a decision to involve the State Coroner to establish the cause of death. If this happens a representative from the Coroners office is usually assigned to the family.
    Once a Funeral Director has been engaged, they will liaise directly with the Coroner to ensure all the necessary paperwork is completed so that your loved one can be taken into their care.

  • Letting people know

    One of the important, more emotional tasks after someone dies is to inform those close to them about their passing. The best way to go about telling their wider circle depends on how close you were to them. Either way, it’s likely there will be people keen to pay their respects that you may be unaware of. A phone call has always been the most traditionally preferred method of contact, however as technology has improved and communications have become much easier, many other forms of notification are now available.

    Our recommendations on the best ways to go about reaching out to contacts are;

    • - If you have access to their phone you can use their contacts list to send both blanket and individual messages
    • - If their home computer and email address book is available to you then send an email message to all contacts
    • - Check their place of dwelling for traditional physical contact or address books (particularly relevant for older people)
    • - Reach out to other close relatives and ask them to contact anyone they think should know
    • - Try to post something on the deceased’s social media accounts to announce their passing. If it’s not possible to get access then post the information yourself and tag them (NB: most social media sites will offer a way to deactivate an account if the account owner has died, usually after the presentation of the death certificate. Facebook also offers the opportunity to ‘memorialise’ accounts if the owner dies)
    • - Post a death or memorial announcement in the local newspaper and/or their online version. This is no longer a mandatory requirement as it was in the past
  • Look after you

    It's easy to get lost in the business of organising a loved one's funeral but it's important to look after yourself when you're working through grief, especially after the intensity of arranging the funeral has passed.

    If you're struggling, a good place to seek help is via your doctor, who can refer you to a counsellor or psychologist for more specific, ongoing assistance.

    There are also organisations offering support and assistance when you are grieving:

Stories from our clients

“We would like to thank you for all of the care and thoughtfulness that went into my grandmother’s (Gwen) funeral.

Thank you for the care and compassion you showed my mother and the strength you showed. Your kindness will always be appreciated and never forgotten."

- Belinda and family

“On behalf of Russell's family I would like to express our gratitude for the wonderful send off Russell had last Friday. Everything was so well organised and we were very happy with the service you provided. The Celebrant, Deborah Jenkins was a perfect choice as her presentation at the Funeral Service was excellent.”

- Dianne

“With deep appreciation for your kindness and sympathy. You have indeed made our sad time a little easier to bear.”

- Dianne and family

“Thank you so much for being exactly what our family needed in the funeral preparation and the funeral service for our much loved mother.”

- Doris

“I am writing to thank you and every member of your staff for the professional and caring service on the occasion of my husband’s (David) funerals service on 29th May 2017.

We could not fault any part of the service, and we are most grateful."

- Jill and family

“I'd like to thank you and your team for taking care of all the arrangements for my Dad's funeral. On the day of the service the staff were so understanding, kind and supportive it made such a difficult day easier to get through.”

- Laura

“Your bright spirits and kind hearts reflected your professionalism and deep caring for families at their significant time of loss.”

- Lesley, Chris, Rob, Phil and Ken

“Thank you for looking after mum and all the hard work you have done! Words can’t thank you enough. You are one of the best human beings I have ever met in my life. Thanks for being there for all of us girls and keeping me laughing at this sad time. I take my hat off to you, Matty. Love you heap a very special person with a lot of gifts."

- Lisa, Vanessa and Julie