1 Being a Grief Helper to your Family
2 This material has been assembled as a guideline. This information will be needed by your loved ones to take care of the immediate questions encountered by your family upon your death or at the time of a debilitating illness. Not all items covered apply to each person s or family s circumstances. Use what you need and add what you think would be helpful. Use a pencil so you can make the necessary changes when either your circumstances or wishes change. Introduction Death is an unavoidable conclusion to life on earth. Our Faith affirms death as the beginning of a new live. While we may recognize and accept death we still tend to postpone thinking about and doing things that would aid and support our families when we die. When an individual dies, the family is greatly affected by the event. The family may be confused and vulnerable to exploitation at such a time. You can be of great help to your family by planning ahead and letting them know your wishes. Planning gives you the opportunity to make independent decisions that need to be made about the funeral. Planning also reduces the number of decisions your family will need to make at the time of your death. In planning, it s important to discuss your plans with your next of kin. That way you ll be sure that they understand what you want and are willing to abide by your wishes. Unfortunately, although you may announce or record your wishes concerning how you would like to be treated after death, you next of kin can and may decide otherwise. Open communication and sincere, clear expression of your wishes can help prevent this from happening. According to Earl A. Grollman, author of Concerning Death: a practical Guide for the Living, Preplanning is the most significant factor in diminishing the confusion that follows a loved one s death. Why should I do this now? Getting your family, business, and other personal matters in order, not only prepares you and your family for your death, but allows a more satisfying way of life. It lessens the difficulty for your family when you die and minimizes the feelings of regret and guilt that so often surround death. It s not only reassuring to have taken care of these matters, but it shows your love and concern for your family. Did you know, that:
3 You can save your family money by planning your funeral? Many churches and most funeral homes provide consultation and forms for planning funerals? Planning can be done at any age? (Young as well as old people die. You cannot choose the time, but you can choose to make your death less stressful for our loved ones.) In the event of your death, would your family know: Where your important papers are? Who you want to take care of your financial affairs? How to manage daily living expenses? What financial resources are available to them? Unless you and your family can answer a definite yes to all the above questions, you need to take a closer look at the alternatives that exist and begin to make some firm decisions. What s important for my family to know? Part of the tragedy of bereavement is being forced, during a deeply emotional time, to make decisions that may be costly and even inappropriate. Often spouses and relatives don t know things you might assume they would know like whom to notify, whether or not there s a burial plot, where important papers are kept, what insurance policies there are, etc. You can help your family by providing them with written information that includes such items as: The person or agency to be contacted if the body or an organ of the body is to be donated for medical research. Information about desired funeral arrangements clergy to preside, kind of service, manner of burial or cremation, kind of casket, kind of memorial or monument. Location of cemetery plot (title deed). Whether deposit or prepayment has been made for any part of funeral. Names of family members, friends, business associates, members of civic organizations who should be notified of your death. Information and details for a published obituary, and names of newspapers and other publications to which it should be sent. Instructions regarding memorial contributions. Location of insurance policies and clear information about the kind of policy, amount, settlement options available and status of any loans against policies. Location of will and other important documents, bank accounts, passbooks, checkbooks, stock certificates, etc. Information about Social Security, Veterans benefits, pensions payable to survivors.
4 What should be done at the time of death? Your family should be aware that the place of death may influence what immediate steps to take. If death is expected and occurs at home: Call the family physician, (if hospice is involved, check with the hospice nurse for instructions and assistance) who will come to the house and make an official death pronouncement. If the death is unexpected, a physician or the police should be called. The funeral director then can be notified. If death occurs in a public place or while traveling: Call the police and the body will be taken by ambulance to a hospital where the physician and/or the medical examiner will be summoned. A funeral director then can be notified about the death. If you are traveling in the United States, a local funeral director should be contacted and given the name of the funeral director you will be using in your hometown. If you don t know which hometown funeral director to name, ask the local funeral director to recommend one. The two funeral directors will then make arrangements for transporting the body. If death occurs outside the United States: Contact should be made with the nearest US embassy or consulate. A consular officer has the responsibility to report the death to the Department of State and to inform the closest relative or legal representative. Disposition, preparation and shipment of the remains must be accomplished in accordance with the laws and customs of the host country. A funeral director in the US will assist through coordination with the Department of State. When is an autopsy performed? There are circumstances under which an autopsy may be required and also times when your physician or family may request one. An autopsy is sometimes required by law when death occurs without the presence of an attending physician or under questionable circumstances. Autopsies are an aid to medical science and they do not eliminate the option of an open casket, viewing and visitation. How are bodies prepared for disposition? There are two ways bodies are usually prepared:
5 1. Embalming The cleansing and restoring of the body to lifelike appearance. This does not preserve the body forever 2. Cremation The process that reduces the body to ashes. A viewing and service can be held before cremation if desired What are the common methods of disposition? Interment or burial is the most common. This is burial of the casketed body in the earth in dedicated ground called a cemetery or memorial park. Entombment is the placing of the casketed body in a specially constructed mausoleum above the ground. Residue from cremation may be buried, scattered or placed in an urn according to the laws of your state and wishes of the deceased or family. There also are special above ground interment places that have niches for the urns. What local services are available? Funeral directors, also called morticians and undertakers, arrange the details and handle the logistics of funerals, taking into account the wishes of the deceased and family members. Together with the family, funeral directors establish the location, dates, and times of wakes, memorial services, and burials. They arrange for a hearse to carry the body to the funeral home or mortuary. Funeral directors prepare obituary notices and have them placed in newspapers, arrange for pallbearers and clergy, schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery, decorate and prepare the sites of all services, and provide transportation for the deceased, mourners, and flowers between sites. They also direct preparation and shipment of bodies for out-of-state burial. You ll need to check what is available locally and whether or not there are additional fees for various services. You can help your family by sharing this list with them and making them aware of the kinds of help and services a funeral director can provide, such as: Taking the deceased to the funeral home. Completing and filing the death certificate, at which time the burial or transit permit is given. Help planning a service. If a religious service is desired, the director can help coordinate the service with the pastor. Assisting with locating and selecting cemetery or mausoleum space. Arranging for opening and closing the grave.
6 Securing a cremation permit and making arrangements with the crematory. Providing cards and visitor books. Arranging for memorials. Contacting fraternal and civic organizations of which the deceased was a member. Notifying papers of obituary. Assisting with selection of the casket and notifying the casket bearers. Taking care of floral arrangements. Providing a car to take flowers to cemetery. Providing cars for family and casket bearers. Arranging for physical facilities visitation, use of church, etc. Receiving and ushering friends to seats. Organizing the funeral cortege. Assisting the family in filing necessary claims for Social Security, insurance and other benefits. What about funeral costs? Funeral directors use various methods to quote prices for their services. Some quote only a lump sum. This usually includes several services, facilities and the caskets. Other directors may quote two prices one for services and facilities, and the other for the casket. Some will break down the cost even further. Usually the price of the interment receptacle used for earth burial, clothing, and newspaper notices, and honoraria for clergy are quoted separately. It s a good idea to check on the cost of the following items in you locality: Casket. Funeral home services (chapel, viewing room, funeral arrangements, honorariums, flowers). Embalming and preparation room. Any transfer of body. Burial permit.
7 Hearse. Limousines. Death notice for newspaper. Certifications. Vault. Cemetery plot. Cemetery charge for opening and closing grave. Monument or marker. When planning your funeral, if you intend to deposit all or part of the cost, be sure to get the transaction in writing amount paid, specific services, etc. Be very clear about what you expect and ask questions about areas you re not sure of. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that funeral homes give written cost estimates of the services you request with no obligation. Most funeral homes will allow you to prepay for your funeral. The financial planning of your funeral is perhaps the most useful way you can help your family at the time of your death. Any savings on your funeral expenses will mean better financial provision for your family and heirs. Additional information about funerals can be obtained from: The Federal Trade commission Continental Association of Funeral & Memorial Societies Funeral and Memorial Societies of America website National Funeral Directors Headquarters Bishop s Drive Brookfield, WI Phone: Fax: Business Hours: M-F, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central (this information is current as of 2011) What do memorial societies do?
8 Memorial societies are generally non-profit organization that are started up by churches, or individuals to assist people in finding reasonable priced funeral services for a loved one. Don't get them confused with funeral directors as they do not act as what a funeral director would do, but rather serve in an advisory role. A memorial society may also work with funeral homes. Memorial societies provide information to the family when a death occurs. They may provide information such as legal matters and death benefits. The funeral homes that work in conjunction with a memorial society may offer discounted or moderate pricing to the families that find them through the society. So that is one benefit you may want to consider. There are many different memorial societies and each can vary as far as how they operate and make specific arrangements. The majority of them are generally non-profit however, some may not be. What should I know about body and organ donations? UNIFORM ANATOMICAL GIFT ACT (1987) You may wish to donate your body, or parts of it, for scientific and medical uses. Some of the basic guidelines under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968 are listed below: Any person 18 years of age or older can donate all or part of his or her body after death for transplantation, research, or placement in a tissue bank. A donor s valid statement of gift supersedes the rights of anyone else, unless a state autopsy law prevails and has conflicting requirements. If a donor has not acted in his lifetime to specify a wish to donate, his survivors may do so in a specified order of priority ( spouse, adult son or daughter, either parent, adult brother or sister, guardian, or any other person authorized or under obligation to dispose of the body). Physicians who accept anatomical gifts, relying in good faith on documents provided to them, in such cases are protected from legal action. Where a transplant is planned, the fact and the time of death must be determined by a physician not involved in the transplant. The donor has the right to revoke the gift, and it may be rejected by those for whom it is intended. The donor arrangement has time limitations and must be reviewed periodically. Information about organ donation can be obtained at:
9 National Kidney Foundation 30 East 33rd Street New York, NY Phone Fax To contact your local office visit our office locator. Some states use the driver s license to indicate if a person is a donor. Donating a whole body to a medical school usually can be discussed or arranged through a university s department of anatomy. Because organs often have a limited time of usefulness after death, it is important to make the appropriate arrangements, review them periodically and make others aware of them. This list of organizations is intended as a resource to you. It does not constitute endorsement of any kind. Donor programs: Eye Bank Association of America 1511 K Street NW, Suite 830 Washington, D. C Phone: Pituitary Tissue Donation Pituitary Program 210 W Fyette Street, Suite Baltimore, MD Phone: Identification Emblem Medic Alert Organ Donor Program (MAODP) PO Box 1009 Turlock, CA Phone: Ear bone Donation National Temporal Bone Banks Program of the DRF Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary 243 Charles Street Boston, MA Phone: Tissue Donation American Association of Tissue Banks 1117 N. 19 Street, Suite 402 Arlington, VA Phone: Fax: How can my family claim my life insurance benefits? Some agents will help you turn in claims for other insurance companies. When calling your insurance company about a claim be prepared with the following information: Full name of deceased
10 Number of each insurance policy or certificate from companies handled by that representative. Date of death Cause of death. Funeral Arrangements Checklist This checklist is provided to assist the grieving family in dealing with necessary arrangements and tasks at the time of a death. Immediately notify the deceased's pastor Notify the selected memorial society or funeral home and give clear instructions for what is needed (decision about viewing, embalming and/or cremation should be made within 2-6 hours of death). Decide on time and place of funeral or memorial service. Make a list of family, friends, colleagues and employers to be informed, and inform each of them by phone. If flowers are to be omitted, choose the charity to which gifts may be sent - church, hospital, organization. Arrange wake or reception, if planned to follow the funeral. Notify insurance companies, employer, union. Notify lawyer and executor(s). Arrange for special household needs - answering callers, taking phone messages, caring for children, taking care of food and housework. Friends can help with these needs. List distant family and friends who should be notified by letter and begin writing to them. Check life insurance and other related benefits, Social Security, credit union, trade union, military authorities, etc. The following can be handled by the funeral director, some at no extra cost. Be sure to inquire. 1. Register death and obtain burial permit.
11 2. Write the death and funeral notice, including obituary information, and deliver it in person or by phone to the appropriate newspapers. 3. Arrange transportation for family and friends, if necessary. 4. Obtain death certificate from doctor. Extra copies of the certified death certificate are needed in order to collect insurance, burial allowances and other benefits. The Death notice sample Death Notice information for Newspaper Paid Death Notice: Date(s) to run Free Obituary: Date to run Mr. Mrs. Ms. Full Name Age Cause of Death Date of Birth Place of Birth Date of Death Place of Death Street Address Years of Residence Occupation Preceded in Death by Survivors (full Name and Place of residence: Widower or Widow Parents: Number of Sons: Names: Number of daughters: Names: Number of brothers: Names:
12 Number of sisters: Names: Grandparents: Names: Grandchildren: : Names: Special Companion: Activates/Memberships/Interests Services/Internment: Memorials: Death Notice information for Newspaper: Veteran s Information and Benefits As an honorable discharged veteran, you or our family may be entitled to a number of benefits, ranging from educational and medical benefits for you to various forms of death benefits for your survivors. Also, please be aware that Veteran s benefits must be applied for, they are not paid automatically. There is a timeline for claiming benefits, or they will be lost. The Veteran s website is When filing a claim for Veteran s Benefits, most or all of the following documents will be needed: Veteran s Death Certificate Birth Certificates of Veteran s Copy of Veteran s Discharge minor children Papers Receipts of itemized funeral cost Marriage Certificate for Veteran Types of benefits available and criteria for qualification change from time to time, so it is important to obtain pertinent, up-to-date information of items you will need. You can contact your local or regional office or the U.S. Department of Veteran s affairs for current information on benefits and claims procedures, or call the Department of Veteran s Affairs at:
13 Department of Veteran s Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue NW Washington, D. C Social Security Information and Benefits Social Security benefits can play a vital role in planning your family s future. Most of us are entitled to some type of benefits, but the nature of the benefits and the qualifications thereof are subject to change. Thus, it is important to obtain timely information every few years on what benefits may be due. It is also important to remember Social Security benefits must be applied for they are not paid automatically. Also, benefits must be applied for within a specific time frame. To facilitate the filing of a claim for your Social Security benefits, you will need most or all of the following documents: Death Certificate Birth Certificate of Deceased Social Security Card of Deceased Copy of Marriage Certificate Applicant s Birth Certificate Minor children s birth certificate Proof of disability for children over 18 Receipt of funeral bills. In addition to various retirement and support payments that you may be eligible for while alive, there are certain lump sum available benefits for which your spouse may qualify. Also, the widow, widower, dependent children or dependent parents may be eligible to receive benefits. You can contact your local Social Security Office for current information on benefits and claims procedures, or call the national toll-free number at: You may also write to your local office, or to the national Social Security Office at: Social Security Administration Baltimore, Maryland To find out the current status of your Social Security account, fill out a statement request card available at your local Social Security Office or by mail.
14 The Living Will Today more than ever, issues concerning death with dignity or the right to die have received increased attention. As advances in medical and scientific techniques find new ways to maintain bodily functions, keeping the human machine alive, more people have become concerned with quality of life issues, in contrast to simple continued existence. Issues concerning the use of heroic measures to sustain life, and quality of life issues, are very personal and very important to consider. It is recommend that you and your family discuss these issues, to avoid the uncertainty that could arise at the difficult time of a serious, prolonged illness. Today, most states have Living Will statutes, specifying documents which anyone can copy and sign according to state law. These forms are found at the end of this document. It is suggested that your physician as well as your local hospital have a copy. In some states a copy must be given to the ambulance attendant. Therefore it is advisable to carry a copy on your person (perhaps miniaturized and laminated) at all times. When traveling, it is also advisable to obtain copies of the required documents from the states you will be traveling through. Some states are now requiring that a Living Will be no more than five (5) years old, so keep your copies current and your family and friends advised where the copies are kept. Persons belonging to HMO's such as Kaiser Permanente can obtain copies of necessary documents directly from their local clinic. In some states a local stationery store may have a copy in with other preprinted legal documents. Your local hospital or doctor may be another source for the documents. What is covered by a Living Will A declaration setting forth your directions regarding medical treatment. You have the right to refuse treatment you do not want, and you may request the care you do want. You may list specific treatment you do not want. For example: Cardiac resuscitation Mechanical respiration Artificial feeding/fluids by tube You may want to add instructions or care you do want for example, pain medications; or that you prefer to die at home if possible. If you want, you can name someone to see that your wishes are carried out, but you do not have to do this.
15 Your signature must be witnessed by two adults who are not responsible for your medical care and preferably not a person who is a beneficiary of your will. Some state require a notary seal too. Checklist of Things to do At the time of death, there are countless things that must be done. The list below contains Forty-nine of these, and many are decisions that can be made and information that can be assembled ahead of time. The more you do ahead of time, the easier you will make it for those left behind. Notify: The doctor or coroner The funeral director The cemetery or memorial park The minister and church All the relatives All the friends Employers of mourner who must be absent from work Organist and singer Pallbearers Insurance agents Union and fraternal organizations Newspapers Attorney, accountant or executor of estate In addition to: Providing vital statistics about the deceased Preparing and signing necessary papers Providing addresses for all interested people who must be notified Answer innumerable sympathetic phone calls, messages and letters Meeting and talking with everyone about all details Greeting all friends and relatives who call Providing lodging for out of town guests Prepare home for visitors Planning funeral car list Decide On: Cemetery/Mausoleum property Memorial or monument casket Vault or outer case Clothing Flowers Music Food Information for obituary Time and place of service Transportation Thank you cards You must pay for some or all of the following: Current or urgent bills (mortgage, taxes, utilities) Doctors and Nurses
16 Hospital Medicine and drugs Funeral Cemetery lot Interment Musical selections Florist Clothing Transportation Telephone and telegram Food Memorial or monument Service Minister Will and Important Documents Everyone should be safeguarded by a properly drawn and executed Will. Without a Will, state laws and the courts will decide how your assets and even the future of your minor children are to be treated. The absence of a will deprives you from making the decisions about how you want these important issues resolved. The preparation of a will is not a one-time event. A Will is not a one-time event. A Will should be reviewed every few years in the context of changing family status, obligations, tax laws, and wishes that you may have. Upon death, your Will must be probated in court. The court must approve the executor, and an estate inventory must be prepared and filed. Taxes and debts must be recognized. Often the services of an attorney and/or accountant must be utilized. Often the original Will is kept at the attorney's office and they furnish at least one extra copy to be kept at home with other important papers. Since much difficulty and hardship can be encountered at the time of death, delays and expenses can be more severe without competent, professional assistance. Homemade or do-it yourself Wills often do not stand up in court. It is recommended that you seek reliable, professional assistance in the preparation of your Will, that you update it regularly as circumstances dictate, and that you consider carefully your selection of the executor of your estate. These issues are of vital importance for the protection of your estate and, most importantly, for the protection of those left behind. Husband Date of Will: Location of Will: Wife Date of Will:
17 Location of Will: Important Papers Locator Instructions: Insert the proper code letter in the box, indication the location of important papers. H Home O Office L Lawyer E Elsewhere (specify where) S Safe Deposit Box Insurance Policies Promissory Notes Birth and Marriage Certificate Stocks and Bonds Tax Returns Certificate of Ownership Diplomas Cemetery/Mausoleum Property Military Papers Notes and Obligations Social Security Cards Deed to Home Bills of Sal Bank Books Titles Personal Statistics and History (indicate if husband or wife) Full Name: First Middle Last Funeral/Memorial Instructions (make a copy for the church office) Residence: Street Birth Place: City County State Zip Baptism Month Day Year Church City State Social Security Number Insurance Company Policy Number
18 Medicare yes No Medicaid yes No Type of Coverage Policy Number Marital Status Married Widowed/er Divorced Name of Spouse Wife's Maiden Name Marriage Date Professional Statistics Company Job Title Years with Company From To Professional Achievements Schools Attended: From To Degree From To Civic or Public Offices Held From To Organization Affiliations From To Office Held Veteran Yes No Name of War Dates Served From To Organization Rank Enlisted at City County State Date Discharged at City County State Date Location of Discharge Certificate
19 Citations, Recognition or Awards Service Location: Funeral Home: Church: Graveside: Church Preference: Church Denomination: Name of Church: : Street Address City State Phone Clergyman to officiate, if possible: Obituary: Yes No Paid notice: Yes No Picture: Yes No Newspaper(s) to be published in: Favorite Hymn(s) and musical selections: Biblical text preference: Biblical text preference: Organist: Yes No Name: Choir or Soloist: Clothing: From Current Wardrobe New Other Jewelry: Wedding Ring: Stays on Return to: Viewing: Yes No Casket: Open Closed at the service Flag: Yes No Glasses On Off
20 Husband s Funeral continued Name: Veterans/Fraternal participating Organization: Floral request: Suggested Pallbearers: Suggested Honorary Casket Bearers: Thoughts I would like shared only with my family at the time of my funeral: Thoughts I would like shared with the Congregation at the time of my funeral
21 Other thoughts/suggestions for my funeral service Burial Instructions (make copy for church) Name: Date: These directions express how I would like my funeral handled. If possible, I request the following: A. I would like my body, or parts of it to be used for medical purposes. Explain: Provisions have been made by proper documentation in accordance with the state laws governing this procedure. Location of documents: Lawyer: Name Office Safety Box: Name of Bank Address City State Phone B. I want the following funeral home or memorial society to handle my funeral: Name: City State Phone
22 If above is out of town, give local mortuary Name: City State Phone C. I want to be cremated, with ashes to buried. Place City State Phone D. I want to be cremated, with ashes placed or disposed of as follows (according to state laws governing this procedure). Place City State Phone E. I want burial in a casket Place City State Phone Casket desired: Metal Wood Fiberglass Economical Medium Priced Highest Priced Vault desired if in ground Burial: Economical Medium Priced Highest Priced Type of plot: Ground space Crypt Mausoleum Already purchased, place:
23 City State Phone Memorial: Yes No Bronze Granite Other Double Sing Inscription Emblem Special Instructions: I want the following: Memorial Funeral Church: Phone Funeral home, if place where service will be held: