Steps You Should Take Just After The Death of Your Loved One

by Taylor Evans May 06, 2022 4 min read

No one is ready for the unexpected death of a loved one. Even if you know that the person’s death is inevitable, grief can quickly overwhelm you. Unfortunately, you don’t have much time to make preparations.

You need to schedule a funeral, potential burial and may even need to worry about picking out cremation urns.

From the time of death to the funeral service is short, too. If you live in the United States, most of these services take place just three to seven days after the person’s death. You need to make a lot of decisions, and there’s little time to take everything in until the services are over.

Today, we’re going to walk you through the first steps that you need to take after a person’s death, from scheduling the funeral to choosing a casket or urns for human ashes.

Emergency Services, Paperwork and Certificates

If your loved one just passed unexpectedly, you can call emergency services and have a coroner determine the cause of death. You cannot have a funeral ceremony without a cause of death, so this is a crucial step to make.

Once the coroner is done, you’ll need to obtain the medical certificate of cause of death.

If your loved one died in the hospital, you can often obtain this certificate with greater ease. However, you'll also need a death certificate, which you’ll need to go through the funeral process. County or state officials can supply you with the certificate.

Next, you’ll need to register the person’s death at your nearest vital statistics office.

A quick checklist of the things you must do up to this point are:

  • Call a coroner if the death was unexpected, otherwise the attending physician will determine the cause of death
  • Obtain the medical certificate for the cause of death
  • Obtain the official death certificate
  • Register the person’s death with the vital statistics office

Now, we recommend calling friends or loved ones to alert people of the person’s death. You can call people close to the person immediately, or you can recruit the help of others for this process. For example, the person’s siblings can handle calling relatives.

Next, you’ll need to determine if the person’s has a will. Wills often outline a person’s last wishes, and this may include if the person wants to be buried or cremated. If this information is in a will, it definitely helps make the funeral arrangements easier.

However, if this information isn’t included in the will, use your best judgment to decide what option is best.

Arrange the Funeral

Once you have obtained all of the necessary documents, the next step is to make funeral arrangements. Funeral ceremonies can quickly become complex, so it’s worthwhile to create a checklist to keep everything organized, including costs and final prices.

Here are a few essential things to include in your checklist.

How the Arrangements Will be Made

Will you use a funeral director, or will you make the arrangements yourself? A funeral director can walk you through the steps of planning the funeral ceremony and help ensure that your loved one’s last wishes are carried out.

During times of grief, many families find it helpful to have a funeral director assist with this challenging part of the process.

Of course, you may also make all of the arrangements yourself. Consider asking family and loved ones for input and help.

Burial vs. Cremation

What type of funeral will you hold: burial, or cremation? Your loved one may have specified their wishes, which makes this decision a little easier. Still, there are decisions that must be made for both types of funerals.

One of the first decisions is whether or not to have a viewing. Viewings can be held regardless of whether you are planning a burial or cremation. Cultural, religious or family norms may dictate whether you hold a viewing. Keep in mind that if you do choose to hold one, the funeral home will likely require the body to be embalmed.

Burial Options

If you are planning a burial, you will need to consider:

  • The casket. Has your loved one already chosen a casket? If not, you will need to select one.
  • Burial plot. Does your loved one already have a plot? If not, you will need to purchase one. There may be a family plot or other arrangements made previously.
  • You will also need to decide on a headstone for your loved one’s plot.
  • How will you get to and from the cemetery? Professional transportation services may be required.

These are a few of the most important considerations when planning a burial funeral. 

Cremation Options

Planning a cremation is a relatively straightforward process.

  • You may need to choose a casket or vessel for your loved one to be placed in during the cremation process.
  • You may want to pick out an urn for your loved one’s ashes now.
  • You may need to find a burial vault to protect the cremation urn for burial.

You can find a variety of funeral urns for ashes, including brass, wood, ceramic, and marble urns. Alternatively, you may want something that is more personal, such as a heart-shaped urn or a custom engraved cremation urn.

Final Resting Place / Scattering Ashes

The final step is to carry out your plans and lay your loved one to rest. If you chose cremation, you might hold a memorial during which your loved one’s ashes are scattered or buried in the earth.

For burials, your family and friends will meet at the final resting place after the funeral ceremony to pay their last respects and say their final good-byes.

The last step is one of the most difficult. Lean on your family and friends during this time for love and support. Sharing your grief can be a comfort.

Once the funeral and final arrangements are behind you, it’s time to grieve in your own way. The grieving process is different for everyone. You may be distraught or happy knowing that the person’s pain and suffering are over.

In either case, keeping a strong support system around you will help make the process a little more bearable.

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