I’m experienced with a topic no one wants to talk about — the death of a loved one. Even though I’m only thirty-something, I’ve seen relatives through hospice care three times.
When someone you love dies it’s like being dropped into a foreign world. Everything looks vaguely familiar but nothing makes sense.
Here are some pieces of advice to help you find your way…
Take help when it’s offered
When someone asks, “is there anything I can do?” give them a specific task. Saying “it would be wonderful if you could drop off some paper plates, no one has time for dishes” or “could you walk Fido?” is perfectly okay. Yes, there are a thousand details to think about, but you don’t have to do everything. Remember, mourning takes energy; let people help you through it.
You want hospice care. Really…
Hospice is the branch of medicine that brings comfort to the dying. They aren’t concerned with curing a disease or making last-ditch efforts to save someone — they simply bring comfort. Hospice care can be given in your loved one’s home or in a hospice house. The hospice house is a more homelike environment than a hospital. Hospice patients usually get a private room and the hospice house has amenities like a kitchen for you to use. This can be helpful if you’ve come in from out-of-town. After your loved one passes the hospice gives you access to a network of grief counselors and help. They’ll even call to check up on you in a few months.
Find the paperwork
Wills are not registered with the state until after someone dies. If the person you love can’t tell you where the document is the court acts as if it doesn’t exist. Life insurance works the same way — no account number and no form means no pay out. So save any official paperwork, shove it in a box and go through it later if that’s easier, but don’t throw away anything that looks like it might be related to an estate.
The average funeral costs more than your first car
A simple cremation can be as cheap as $1,000 but once you add on things like death certificates ($45 each in my home state) and obituaries ($15 per word), the total cost can be more than $8,000. The funeral industry is much like the wedding industry in that you’ll be offered a lot of things that are really unnecessary, such as embossed thank you notes (not kidding). It’s really helpful to have a friend or person outside of the family come with you to the funeral home to rein in on the spending.
There’s no right way to do this
I played cards in my father’s hospice room, baked an apple pie for my dying father-in-law, and read the Bible to my unresponsive mother-in-law. Dying is a very personal thing, if you think your loved one would want you to hold a swinging wake that lasts until dawn, go for it. If you suspect they’d rather have a church funeral, then do that. One of my friends left behind a 24-year-old daughter and a collection of designer clothes. I knew she’d be happy when her daughter rocked a black sheath dress, smoky eyes, bright red lips, and a vintage beret at the funeral.
If you don’t remember anything else from this post, remember this: you didn’t do anything wrong. This isn’t a test. You can’t fail. Be kind to yourself.