A loved one dying can often come as a shock, even if the death wasn’t sudden or shocking. While you’re dealing with the grieving process associated with saying goodbye and mourning the person who passed, death often feels like it comes with a lot of responsibility and questions unanswered. This can be magnified when the person you lost is a parent. Whether you’re an only child or you have siblings to share in the experience, a parent’s passing can come with a long to-do list to accompany your feelings of loss and grief. Of course, more responsibility is not what you need in a time like this, so turning to resources and loved ones who can offer support and guidance can be crucial.
Whether your parent passed recently or you’re talking about post-life plans openly with them, knowing your role in all of this can help you do what you need — both for them and for yourself. If you feel overwhelmed and sad, that’s completely normal. An experience like this can bring on a range of emotions, and that’s okay. If you’re looking for a guide of everything you need to know about when a parent passes, here are some of the things you should keep in mind.
1. Allowing Yourself to Feel
You might be surprised to hear this, but many people find that the responsibility and seemingly never-ending to-do list that accompanies a parent’s passing can bring about a sense of numbness. Often, grieving comes after wills and funeral arrangements and taking care of others. However, this might not be the most healthy way to go about things — or it can be a part of the denial phase of grief. Even if it’s uncomfortable or if the grieving process is accompanied by feelings of overwhelm, acknowledging your feelings in the moment can help you process.
2. Getting a Death Certificate
When it comes to concrete responsibilities, one of the first things you’ll need to do — if it hasn’t been done already — is contacting the proper authorities and getting a death certificate. This can involve calling the hospice agency, family doctor or calling 911 if they died at home.
3. Funeral Preparations
Funeral preparations are the main things on most peoples’ minds whenever a loved one passes away, and that makes sense — funerals require a lot of moving parts. If your parent had a specific death plan or death wishes, now is the time to enact them — things like organ donation should be taken care of first, followed by plans for the body, the gathering and laying them to rest however best works for both your parent and the family.
4. Notifying Loved Ones
While you and the other family members present might feel all too aware of the situation, news doesn’t travel unless you send it. This can be a task you take on as well as partially delegate to someone close to you, as notifying everyone can be taxing. For close friends and family members, calling them with the news is often the best route to take, whereas for those who aren’t as close, a mass email or text message can be the right way to go.
5. Meeting With Their Attorney
If your parent had an attorney, a will and other death arrangements, now is the time to get everything straightened out. This is how you can get started on everyone obtaining their inheritance, in addition to paying off any taxes and delegating any property to those who it’s being left to. The full inheritance process usually takes around 17 months to distribute funds, so if you need to expedite it for any reason, you can look into inheritance advances.
6. Care for Their Home
If your other parent is still living in their home, you might have a bit less to do, but there will still be responsibilities when it comes to taking care of the home. If your parent had pets, caring for them and possibly passing them along to the next owner — if there was a plan in place to do so — can be an important step. Caring for their home, car and belongings in the next few days following their passing can make sure everything stays in order for further planning after everything is a bit more settled.
7. Additional Paperwork and Housekeeping
In the following weeks, there are a few things you should look into taking care of so everything is in its place. Notifying social security, canceling any insurance in their name, managing credit accounts, canceling drivers license and voter registration, handling any other assets they may have and contacting the life insurance company are all steps that can be taken in the days and weeks following your parents’ passing.
What to Know When Your Parent Passes
If a parent passes, it comes with a range of emotions in addition to a wave of responsibility. When you have loved ones and a support system around you, they can help you during this time as you take care of everything you need to do — from grieving and allowing yourself to feel to the practical tasks that come along with the process. There’s no wrong way to grieve, and while it may take time, you can honor your parent in the way you know they deserve.