When A Death Occurs
There are several things that need to be considered when a death occurs. The order in which things need to be done usually depends on whether the death occurred at a residence, a public place, a care center or in a hospital.
Today a large number of people choose to be at home with Hospice or a Home Health Care provider assisting the family until the death occurs. Usually the family will notify the hospice provider and hospice will notify the proper people in the correct order. They will contact the physician, the medical examiner's office, and they will call the funeral home. The medical examiner's office needs to be notified of all deaths that occur in a home. With hospice or a home health care provider involved, a simple phone call is the only notification that the medical examiner needs. The medical examiner will not need to come to the residence to review any information.
- If the death occurs in a residence and the person is not under hospice care, the police will need to be notified and respond to the residence before the deceased is brought to the funeral home. The police will notify the county medical examiner and their office will contact the funeral home for you.
- If the death occurs in a hospital or care center, the name of the funeral home should be left with them, and the institution will notify the funeral home at the time of the death. The funeral home will respond, and at the right time, review matters with the family.
- A funeral director will be in contact with the family after the medical examiner or institution has notified the funeral home.
- If in any case the death should occur and you are not sure of who to notify or what to do, you may call your funeral home and they will assist you in notifying the proper agencies.
When death occurs away from home
When a death occurs away from home and there will be no services held in the city of the death, it is best to contact the funeral home where the services will be held. This will help limit additional expenses that could be incurred. Gill Brothers will contact and make arrangements with a local funeral home to pick up the deceased from the place of death, embalm or cremate the body and make preparations for return to Minnesota.
Funeral & Visitation Guidelines for Family, Friends and the Bereaved
How to Show Respect, Offer Comfort and Accept Condolences at a Time of Loss
Many people feel awkward at visitations and funeral services because there is simply nothing that can be said or done to make grief go away. The natural response is to offer comfort and support, but fear of saying the wrong thing is as tongue-tying as saying nothing at all. Appreciating that family and religious traditions may vary, following are guidelines for friends and families and the bereaved to show respect -- and accept condolences -- at a time of loss. The No. 1 thing to remember: There is no right or wrong. Just do your best to show you care.
For the Bereaved
• It is common for people to enter into denial upon loss of a loved one. The process of planning a funeral is often a first step in accepting the reality of the death, and the funeral itself may mark the start of the healing process. Although accepting condolences from relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers can be overwhelming, their presence at the visitation and/or funeral is as much about supporting your grief as honoring the life lost in death. As drained and emotional as you may feel, talking about your loss and acknowledging the love of those paying their respects can be very therapeutic. Nevertheless, to help protect your heart and mind during a difficult process, you may consider a pre-arranged signal with a close family member or funeral director should you need extra support.
• During the visitation, it is standard practice for you to greet all visitors. You don't need to keep track of everyone in attendance. They will approach you and/or sign a guest book. It is entirely appropriate to keep your conversation brief, simply thanking them for coming.
• There may be a visitor you don't like very much. Unless the person is likely to make a scene or start a fight, the best tactic is simply to be polite. Funeral directors are very experienced in managing difficult guests, so do not hesitate to ask for help should you have any level of discomfort.
• You may have many visitors you have not seen for years. While you would, of course, like to spend time catching up, you also need to attend to each of the guests. So, it would be good to ask those friends to visit you after the funeral. This will help you catch up on old times and support your grieving process.
• Often, a sticky subject at a funeral is the cause of death. If you want to avoid this question, it is helpful to put the cause of death in the obituary. However, you will need to have some sort of answer prepared, as people will ask anyway. Despite our culture of over-sharing, you do not have to elaborate. Period.
• After the funeral, it is customary to send thank you notes to people who have helped you manage funeral details, sent flowers, contributed memorials, prepared meals and performed household tasks while you were distracted. (It is not necessary to send notes to visitors.) Try to send the notes within two weeks of the funeral. And while personal notes are appreciated, friends and relatives certainly appreciate that you have a lot going on.
• If flowers or memorial contributions are made by a group, you should try to thank each contributor individually. If this is not possible, send one note to the leader of the group and ask for the note to be shared at an appropriate time.
• A personal note should be sent to the clergy who provided spiritual support. This note should be separate from any honorarium or offering.
• Each pallbearer should receive a personal note thanking them for their final service to your loved one.
For Families & Friends
• Your attendance at a funeral, visitation or memorial service is highly valued. If you think you should go, you probably should go. Your job is to show you care. Expressing sympathy is hard -- for everyone. If you're at a loss for words, stick with something simple. Saying, "I am so sorry," is sincere and perfectly adequate. If you were acquainted with the deceased, it is quite appropriate – and welcome -- to also say, "She will be highly missed" or "I remember him fondly." Most importantly, listen to those who want to talk. Many find that having a chance to say what's on their mind is therapeutic.
• Funerals are a good time to share memories of the deceased. In fact, families often learn new things about their loved ones. If you have a story that shows the deceased in a favorable light, the visitation or funeral is an appropriate time to share. Otherwise, approach the bereaved at a later date. Or keep the story to yourself. Some laughter can help ease pain, but remember you are at a funeral.
• During the visitation, do not feel that you have to stay for long time. If the deceased was a good friend, stay as long as it feels right. If you have never met the family, introduce yourself and explain how you knew the deceased. If you knew the deceased through a business or other organization, feel free to come in a group. But do not descend upon the family en masse. Again, a simple "I'm so sorry," or "How can I help?" is always appreciated.
• During the emotional swirl of death, if you can help, you should. But be specific. Instead of saying, "If there is anything I can do ..." offer to help take care of the children, drive a widow to appointments or mow the lawn.
• While some people may think wearing bright colors at a funeral is a way to celebrate the deceased, it is never a mistake to dress in simple, dark clothing. It shows respect. And in many Orthodox churches black is a required color.
• If there is an open casket, feel free to go up to the casket to view the deceased and provide a few minutes of silence or prayer. Although this is not required, it is often comforting to say a last goodbye. If you prefer, it is appropriate to ask a family member to escort you to the casket.