Immediate Considerations after Sudden Death
The following are some suggestions to assist the bereaved immediately after a death.
Start “To Do” Lists
Place them where the family can easily review and add to them. Consider grouping the tasks as follows:
- Immediate Action
- Next Day
- Next Week
Assign non-family friends/teams to:
- Coordinate food arrangements
- Answer and log incoming phone calls/floral deliveries/visitors
- Purchase extra paper products: plates, cups, napkins, toilet paper and paper towels
- Coordinate airport pick-up/drop off
- Reserve block of hotel rooms
- Create a list of all out-of-town guests; include name, number, location and travel arrangements
- Ensure family members have fuel in their vehicles
- Prepare and copy maps to memorial/funeral location and other events
Consider temporarily installing a second phone line
- Use for outgoing calls
- Frees original phone line for incoming calls
Designate a box to collect the following
- Place all incoming sympathy cards
- –note any monetary gifts on back
- –tear off return address and staple to card
- Floral delivery notes
- Include a separate envelope for checks/cash received
Begin a memorial fund
- Establish with a financial institution
- Keep details handy for inquiries
Prepare a background and obituary
- Call local newspaper to find out details
Plan how to handle the media
A Personal Encouragement to you
Whether you are a professional supporter, family member or friend – be gentle with your grievers. Their pain is enormous. They probably feel lost, confused, and emotionally fragile. Be gentle with your words and actions. Specifically, I encourage you to:
Write a Note
Send a note or card with a hand-written message. If you knew the deceased, share some anecdotal story. What you write does not have to be long. Many grievers find great comfort in this gesture. If you are a professional supporter, mail a card with an encouraging one-liner. Someone wrote to me: “I’m warmly holding your hand…” I will never forget the strength those words brought to me.
Initially, the bereaved receives a significant amount of assistance. Several months post-mortem, support dwindles as others resume their normal activities. During this apparent “quiet time,” the bereaved still has a big need for love and support.
Some grievers need to talk and share their memories, regrets, questions, and current concerns. Gently listen and acknowledge their thoughts and concerns. Listening is truly the best gift a supporter can give.
Ask the following:
- “What do you need from me, right now?”
- “What would feel supportive to you right now?”
- “How can I help?