What to do when someone dies
Some deaths are expected – in which case it can be helpful to contact a funeral director in advance. Others are completely unexpected. Either way, when someone dies you will be feeling an avalanche of emotion and need some clear guidance on what to do now.
Death at the Hospital or Nursing Home
If the death occurs at a hospital or a nursing home, staff will arrange for a doctor to issue a Doctor’s Certificate of Cause of Death.
Death at Home
If the death occurs at home and was expected, call your doctor who will issue a Doctor’s Certificate of Cause of Death
If the death occurs at home and was unexpected, call the police (triple zero) . Depending on the circumstances, the Coroner may be required to conduct a post-mortem to determine the cause of death.
Once a Doctors' Certificate has been issued, the body can be taken into the care of a funeral director, when you are ready. Most people are in shock (even if the death was expected) and feel numb, disconnected, frightened and many many other emotions.
What are the Next Steps
You may feel that you want to contact people straight away, but you should also give yourself the opportunity to slow down, and to have some quiet time after a loved one has passed. There are no rights and wrongs. No expectations, no “normal” behaviour and no pressure to confirm.
We often suggest you pick up the kettle rather than the phone, because once you have asked a funeral director to attend, things start to happen quite quickly – often too quickly for many people.
This time is precious, so try to slow down and acknowledge what has happened while you are still with your loved one. You've probably had a lifetime together , so take the time to start feeling their loss. You may want to sit with or lie beside with the body, you may want to light candles, maybe play music – there are no rights or wrongs: this is an intimate time for you and perhaps close friends or family to share quietly, before you let the rest of the world in. Do not allow yourself to be hurried. You will know when it is time to let go.
When you are ready, you will need to choose and appoint a funeral director, if you haven't done so already. Feel free to ask as many questions as you want and do not allow anyone to pressure you to “get on with things”. Any funeral director that you contact MUST , by law, provide cost details for their services to you prior to their engagement. Do not be embarrassed to shop around a little until you find someone you are comfortable with ; arranging a funeral is really important , and you need to know you have like-minded people to assist you in this most intimate of times.
In our grandparents time, it was usual practice to keep the body at home until the day of the funeral so that family and friends can come to say their private farewells. It is still both possible – and legal – to do this, for up to 5 days, and we can manage this for you. Or perhaps you will find great comfort in just having a few hours to start saying goodbye – maybe just wait until morning. Whatever you decide, just remember that it is YOUR CHOICE. Screw what everyone else thinks. This time is important, and you don't get it back.
When you are ready, you will need to meet with your appointed Funeral Director and Celebrant.
The role of the Funeral Director is to manage all the practical arrangements – legal documents, care and transportation of the body, provision of coffin, burial/cremation arrangements, flowers etc.
The role of the Celebrant is to create a relevant, individual ceremony that will honour and remember your loved one, and will support you, your family and friends in their loss. Be prepared to talk at length with your celebrant about your person – both their life history and, more importantly, their human essence – who they really were; what was important to them, how they made people feel, what you will miss most about them and even what drove you nuts about them.
Ideally, the Celebrant will manage the Funeral Director to ensure that the practical arrangements are in keeping with the tone of the ceremony.