What to do when someone dies

What to do when someone dies

Talking about dying and what happens after isn’t something anyone really wants to do – especially at this time of year. It’s still considered a taboo subject, particularly in Western society. But it’s something that comes to all of us or someone we know, at some point. Some deaths are expected and we have time to prepare, but what about those that come suddenly and completely unexpected? What do we do then if we’re the closest person to the one who has died?

If we’ve never been through it before then it’s difficult to know where to start. I guess you could say I’m lucky, in the sense that I’ve never had to deal with anything like this directly. I have been there though, when The Husband’s parents have died. Most recently his dad, just after we moved in to care for him. From this first hand experience, I have some helpful advice that may guide you with what to do next.

Seek support

The first thing you may want to do is seek support. Support is one of the most helpful gifts at a time like this, as there will be many difficult tasks ahead for you to face. Whether it’s from family or friends I’m sure there will be plenty of people willing to offer it to you.


Let people know

After you’ve gained support from those close to you, you need to make a list of any organisations and people that the person who has died regularly dealt with, or had any form of communication from. Sunlife has some really useful information that will help with this, including a comprehensive checklist of who to inform and in what order.

Telling children

If there are children involved then you may not know how to break the sad news to them. Jacob was too young to understand when his Grandma died. He was very close to his Grandad when he died though, and the last time he saw him was in the hospital so I wasn’t sure how to tell him that he wouldn’t be coming home again. My Mum bought a couple of books about what happens when someone dies, and they were really useful.

Make funeral arrangements

This is one of the hardest parts and where the support will be really helpful to you. There are many things to consider when arranging the funeral, whether you’re on a limited budget or have plentiful funds available. If the person who’s died had life insurance then the financial payout from this may help. Choosing the funeral director, deciding on floral arrangements, choosing a coffin, picking songs, hymns, and poems for the order of service. And then of course deciding if you’re going to hold a wake afterwards – though I prefer the term “celebration of life”.


I’m sure we can all understand – or know first hand – that the death of someone we love is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to go through in our lifetimes. Hopefully with the advice above and the tools from Sunlife, it will make this hard time in your life just that little bit easier to deal with.

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