Impending Death: Ways to Help Yourself and Your Family
How an anticipated death is different
Knowing that a loved one’s time is limited doesn’t necessarily make their passing any easier when it does happen. Somehow, we can never really be ready to say goodbye, and no matter how much we may realize in our minds that our loved one is no longer suffering or leading a life without enjoyment, our loss is a difficult and complicated situation to bear. But for many families, the chance to anticipate a death, and plan in advance—even if it is just a few days, can be a huge blessing. When you have time to prepare with family and friends, clergy and funeral professionals before the death, you are very much more likely to do so in a calmer frame of mind than at the time of death itself.
Additionally, anticipated deaths often take place while your loved one is under close medical supervision, and so legal issues of pronouncing and reporting the death are usually very straightforward. This removes one additional burden from your responsibility and again makes it easier for you and your family to start the grieving process. If your loved one is an inpatient at a hospital, nursing home or inpatient hospice facility, staff and procedures are in place to comply with initial legal requirements, and often to notify the funeral service provider of choice that the death has taken place. When a person dies at home while under the care of a hospice organization, a call to the hospice nurse will start the process of completing initial legal requirements.
Having advance warning of an impending death can allow for discussions of final wishes and planning, but many of us are reluctant to face up to these eventualities, or are too overwhelmed by care-giving activities to plan or think about services. But overwhelmingly, families who take this step to plan in advance say it was the most important thing they did to make a difficult situation more bearable.
Step One: Orient yourself to the process.
One of the reasons end of life is so stressful for many families, is that we just don’t know what to expect. Getting an orientation to the process before the death occurs has proved invaluable to many families. Because death is a difficult subject to bring up, it is often easier to gain information in the privacy of your home. To give yourself an overview of what is to come, you may find it helpful to watch the short video:The Remembrance Process℠.
With these two overviews as background, you will likely want to reach out to your clergy and hospice / medical advisors and ultimately to a funeral professional, who is the caregiver who will help once the death has occurred.
Step Two: Reach out for professional and family help in advance.
Your clergy and hospice professionals will provide tremendous spiritual and emotional support, but ultimately, the advice from a funeral professional can make sure you have the information and choices you will want once the death occurs. Reaching out to them in advance, lets you prepare better, and allows the funeral home to prepare as well. They can show you all your choices, document your wishes, and prepare necessary documents in advance, all of which will reduce the stress on you and your family when the actual death occurs.
There are many benefits to addressing the funeral in advance. Just some of them are:
You will gain information when you are calmer, and better able to absorb information and choices.
You will be able to share that information with family and friends, so they can provide input and suggestions on how best to say goodbye to your loved one.
It allows you to think about the full Remembrance Process℠ and all the ways you can move from grieving to remembrance.
Your funeral home can prepare documents and a list of your wishes in advance—so there is far less stress on you and your family to make decisions when the death occurs.
Importantly, an Authorized Remembrance Provider℠ will help you plan, document your wishes, and explain all your choices, at no cost to you, and with no obligation.
Step Three: Taking care of yourself and family when the death occurs.
One of the biggest differences in an anticipated death versus a sudden or unexpected death is that you will be in a hospital or hospice situation, and they will take care of many of the immediate and necessary tasks, such as verifying the death automatically. You will have to reach out to your funeral home at this time however, and if you have planned with them, they will be able to move promptly to meet your needs.
Having anticipated a death, we may fall into an autopilot mode and systematically follow a list of tasks. We may have planned it all out only to find that we are still confused and can’t remember what to do next. In any case, and in each succeeding step, make sure that your emotional needs and those of your family are taken care of, even if this means changing your plans.
Your most immediate need may be to call your pastor, or for loved ones to gather around you. Taking care of your emotional needs and those of your family should be your first priority. All else can wait for a few hours, if necessary. Here are some key points to consider:
Don’t rush yourself through decisions and procedures, or miss out on your opportunities to say your goodbyes.
Nearly every decision can wait for a few hours, so be sure to take care of yourself and your family first.
Are there family members who will need to come right away?
Would the support of a friend help you get through this? If you feel it would help, make those calls whenever you are ready to do so.
Step Four: Consider both the needs of your family and the wishes of the deceased.
Even if we have thought out and agreed to a course for action prior to our loved one’s death, we may find that unforeseen realities cause us to question our plans. We may be torn between promises made to our loved one and the very real needs of our family. Often, the dying person doesn’t want to burden their survivors with the expense of funeral services, or would prefer to think of them rejoicing in life rather than gathered in sadness.
No one wants their legacy to be one of sorrow, but unless we work through our grief following a loss, we may have difficulty moving forward back into life. For most people, having some sort of funeral or memorial service is a positive way to work through and deal with these issues. Services can be traditional, casual, religious or secular. What is most important is that family and friends can come together to share the burden of the loss and acknowledge the importance of your loved one’s life.
Step Five: Ways of saying goodbye.
Again, every decision you’ll need to make does not have to be rushed, so if you are really unsure about what kind of ceremony would be appropriate, or whether you would prefer burial or cremation, explore your options. The funeral home will need to know whether you want them to prepare your loved one for a family and friends goodbye. In this case, they will need your permission before beginning embalming preparations. But with that said, if you are unsure about your choices, you can wait until the next day to make your decision.
Your funeral home will make an appointment to meet with you and explain your options. Years ago, most services were very similar. Today, it is customary for services to be adapted and arranged to fit your specific needs and wishes. There are many choices for services such as a private family goodbye, friends and family goodbye, or community gathering, whether burial or cremation. There are also highly personal choices for a permanent remembrance, which many families find extremely comforting. Give serious thought to what you need from the service, and to what other family members, friends and members of the community need to say goodbye to your loved one.
You may be surprised to learn all that is possible and all the different ways that these aspects of funeral ceremonies can be made more meaningful through planning and family participation. And in most cases, your friends and family will want to help. At this time, and in years to come, memories of the support family and friends provided will be a key part of moving to remembrance of the loved one. At RemembranceProcess.com we have more information on the types of funeral and memorial services families are using today and other information on choices available to you.
If you have planned with a funeral home in advance, then you will be able to focus more on helping yourself and your family with the grieving process. We have learned from the experience of thousands of families that working through the time-tested steps in the Remembrance Process℠ helps in moving from grieving to remembrance. Saying Goodbye to Your Loved One with the support of your friends and family can be a huge part of this process, and we strongly suggest that you and your family explore the choices that most appeal to you. The memories shared, the stories told at these “goodbye” services will be remembered and valued forever. What many families don’t realize is how personal and creative saying goodbye can be. Eulogies and obituaries can also be a key part of remembering your loved ones, and reviewing the sections on this website can give you the information you need on how to prepare a eulogy or obituary so they can be most meaningful. Friends and family are often eager to help here, and often, some of the most memorable parts of the service are the words said about the loved one.
Step Six: Permanent Remembrance.
Lastly, many families find that permanent remembrances like cemetery monuments and grave memorials can be especially valuable for now and for decades to come. But many families don’t know they can have these remembrances even when they choose cremation.
Having a permanent place to remember your loved ones is another time-tested way of helping move through grief. For families who choose traditional burial, a cemetery is the clear choice.
But many families who choose cremation don’t realize they have even broader choices for permanent remembrance. These choices can include special sections in cemeteries, cremation gardens, cremation niches, columabariums, and even highly personal locations.
All of these choices allow a family to choose a headstone, monument, grave memorial or other permanent tribute. View this video to learn more about the ways other families have remembered their loved ones and the many choices you have for permanent remembrance.
We know that the loss of a loved one is not a one-week, or one-year event. Our goal is to help you deal with the fact that your loved one is gone, but still with us in our memories. Remembrance is an on-going state that is positive and life-affirming. And unlike the concept of “closure,” it doesn’t imply that somehow we are closing a chapter on a life. Instead, remembrance is an on-going collection of images, words, and memories that we will never forget.
One way to help you with this process is to listen to how others have dealt with the loss of a loved one. Listening to grief counselors, clergy and other families at this time is like learning from a best friend who has been through it.
RemembranceProcess.com features a variety of videos that are inspirational, emotional, and practical from both professional caregivers and personal stories from people who have lost people close to them. These videos provide real world advice from people who have been there. They can be your personal guides. We think their stories will touch your hearts and minds, and give you insights that can help at this most difficult time.