Losing a loved one is extremely difficult — there’s no other way to say it. And the grieving process can be even more challenging if you are the person responsible for making funeral arrangements, carrying out the deceased’s last wishes, or sorting the things your loved one left behind.
While Lantern has resources to guide you through many of these responsibilities — from what to do in the first 24 hours after a death to how to give a eulogy — avoiding these eight common mistakes can also help ease the bereavement process.
No matter how lonely grieving can feel, you are not alone. So don’t feel obligated to take on all the tasks and emotions that come with the loss of a loved one on your own. Whether this means leaning on friends for emotional support or dividing up funeral planning tasks among family members, remember that the people around you who care for you will want to help and it’s important to practice self-care during this time.
- Feeling pressured to make quick decisions.
When someone dies there are many decisions that may be time-sensitive, like whether or not to donate the deceased’s organs, but not every decision needs to be made quickly. Give yourself time to speak to different funeral providers and ask the questions you need to ask to feel comfortable using their services. In most states, hospitals will hold the body until you are ready to make arrangements, so don’t feel rushed to make a decision. Taking this time will also give you the chance to find out more about the funeral or memorial service your loved one wanted to have — if they wanted to have any at all.
- Not budgeting.
Of course, you’ll want to give your loved one the goodbye they wanted and the one they deserve. But funerals can be expensive, and your loved ones may also have debts or bills that need to be settled out of their estate, so it’s helpful to assess your budget and work within that. Find out more about planning a funeral on a budget here.
- Sorting through the deceased’s possessions without a system.
Organizing your own possessions can be a daunting task. Sorting through the possessions of someone you’ve recently lost can not only be emotionally difficult but can also pose a logistical challenge if you don’t know how they typically organized things.Instead of trying to sort through their possessions piece by piece or even room by room, try to sort items into categories such as: legal documents, items of personal value, and other valuables. By identifying these items and putting them together, you can start to create an organizational system that will help you later down the road. While it’s good to have help during this process, you may want to avoid giving away any of the deceased’s possessions, even to family members or the deceased’s close friends, until after you have found their will and contacted the executor and know the deceased’s explicit wishes
- Forgetting to take care of household arrangements and tasks.
You don’t need to sort through your loved one’s possessions immediately or all at once — in fact, letting some time pass before you take on this task can be a good way to practice self-care. However, there are a few household items that you will want to deal with sooner rather than later; for instance, making care arrangements for any pets the person may have had and removing perishable items like food or plants from their home.
- Not canceling credit cards and utilities, or stopping Social Security benefit payments.
If the deceased’s home is going to be unoccupied for an extended period of time, don’t forget to turn off the utilities and close any other accounts that might otherwise continue to accumulate charges, such as credit cards.If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefit payments before their death, it is crucial to notify the Social Security Administration of their death. Social security benefits end the same month that the beneficiary dies, and if the spouse or estate of the deceased receives a payment because the Social Security Administration was not notified, they are responsible for returning the money to the agency. Typically, a funeral home can report the death of your loved one to the Social Security Administration on your behalf (as long as they have the deceased’s social security number).
- Making big financial decisions too soon.
You may want to hold off on making any big financial decisions right after losing a loved one, especially if that person was someone you relied on to handle your finances. It may take some time before you know what outstanding bills and debts the deceased’s had, so it’s a good idea to leave the deceased’s estate intact until you know what debts will need to be paid off and which ones will be canceled.In addition to speaking with an estate planner to better understand the financial implications of the deceased’s assets, it may be helpful to consult a financial advisor before making any big financial decisions like withdrawing your spouse’s IRA or selling a house, especially if the loss of your loved one has impacted your household income.
- Not caring for yourself.
Remember to practice self-care. Grieving is a process, allow yourself to take the time you need and to create space for your emotions. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it, or to accept it when it’s offered.
Give InKind is honored to feature Lantern in this piece by Daniele Selby.
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