What to Do When a Loved One Passes: A Guide and Checklist

Sage Aging Podcast: What to Do When a Loved One Passes

When a Loved One Passes

When a loved one passes, it is a profoundly challenging experience. This post and the accompanying Sage Aging Podcast episode aim to give you some practical advice and emotional support as you navigate the loss of a loved one. From the first steps to take when a loved one passes to managing the various responsibilities that follow, we will cover key aspects to help you work through all that has to be done.

This Episode of the Sage Aging Podcast:

Barbara Herrington, MA, CMC, joined me for this important conversation about losing a loved one. Typically, conversations about loss involve advice for coping with grief and what life might be like after the loss. While we do address all of that in this episode and share our personal stories and insights, a key part of the conversation centers around all of the ‘things’ that have to be taken care of when a loved one passes. Quite often, families have no idea what needs to be done. Not only does the lack of awareness cost extra time and frustration, but it could cost you financially too.

We will hit the highlights of the conversation in this post and our printable checklist, but I encourage you to watch or listen to the podcast for all the details. Furthermore, offer a helping hand or encouragement to someone who is dealing with grief. Even small gestures can be very helpful. Learn How to Help Someone Dealing With Grief.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding Grief and Loss

First things first. When a loved one passes away, it can turn your world upside down. The thing that has so consumed your life, maybe for years, is suddenly over. From personal experience, I can tell you that it may leave you feeling lost and empty. The list of things that must be addressed now is long. But let me encourage you to start by giving yourself a moment to breathe and take in the loss. It’s significant, and you deserve some time to process it before you begin the next part of the process. These frequently asked questions about grief may be helpful to you. Confronting the grief and emotional turmoil that comes with a loss is something to acknowledge and respect.

Practical Steps to Take When a Loved One Passes

An older woman with short white hair, wearing a patterned blouse, sits at a kitchen table and reads from a green folder. A middle-aged woman with blonde hair and glasses embraces her from behind. They are taking care of what needs to be done when a loved one passes in a cozy, sunlit kitchen setting with a red kettle on the stove.

There is much to be done after a loved one passes, and it can be overwhelming. The good news is that everything doesn’t have to be done all at once. Depending on your situation and how much pre-planning was done, this process can take some time. Maybe weeks, a year, or more. Be patient, get some help, and take it one step at a time. We’ve created this When a Loved One Passes Checklist to help you organize the tasks. Barbara also recommends this helpful book: Please Don’t Die, But if You Do, What Do I Do Next?: A Practical and Cost Saving Guide for the Estate Executor

Here are a few key tasks to be done. Download the checklist for a more comprehensive to-do list.

Obtain a Death Certificate

This document is essential for various legal tasks following a loved one’s death. Often, a certified death certificate is required by financial institutions, insurance companies, and for estate settlement.

Contact the Social Security Administration

It’s important to notify the Social Security Administration when a loved one passes. You do this not only to manage their benefits and inquire about potential death benefits for family members but to protect against identity theft as well.

Funeral Arrangements

If there was no prior planning for the end of life, deciding on a funeral home and planning a memorial service will need to be done. If this was preplanned, you will need to contact the funeral home to inform them of your loved one’s death.

Managing Digital and Social Media Presence

In today’s digital age, addressing your loved one’s social media and online accounts is another necessary task. This might involve memorializing their accounts or closing them, depending on the platform’s policies.

Dealing with Financial Matters

Contacting banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions to settle your loved one’s accounts is a must. This also includes understanding and claiming any insurance policies under the deceased’s name.

Estate Management

If you’re responsible for handling your loved one’s estate, consider seeking legal advice to make sure all is handled properly.

There are likely people you are already working with who can assist in some of the necessary tasks that have to be addressed when a loved one passes. Your attorney, financial advisor, care manager, or social worker are all people who may provide assistance and guidance.

Finding Comfort and Support When a Loved One Passes

During bereavement and throughout the grief process, you will need some emotional support. There is no shame, EVER, in asking for help. Support can be found in a variety of places. Family members, friends, support groups (in-person and virtual), community organizations, or mental health professionals can all help. The grieving process is different for everyone. Some individuals may grieve for a long time and have difficulty getting over the hump, while others may work through the process faster. Here are a few things that can help:

Support Groups

Connecting with support groups for those who have also lost a loved one can provide emotional support and a sense of community as you adjust to this big change. This article by VeryWellMind.com has a good list of online support groups to get you started.

Professional Help

If the burden of grief feels overwhelming, ask for help. Consider seeking help from a grief counselor or therapist who can help you process your grief.

Quotes and Poems

Search phrases like “when a loved one passes away quotes” or “when a loved one dies quotes” online. For some, inspirational words can offer comfort and a sense of shared experience.

Wrapping Up

Losing a loved one is a life-altering event, and handling the aftermath involves both emotional processing and practical responsibilities. I hope the steps outlined in this post and the checklist we created for you will relieve some of the stress of managing the necessary tasks as you honor the memory of your loved one. Remember to take care of your health and well-being during this time and to seek support when needed.


Disclaimer: The content on this site is meant for general informational purposes and should not be considered professional advice. While we strive for accuracy, we recommend consulting experts for specific guidance. We are not responsible for any decisions made based on this information.

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