The death of a loved one is always a difficult experience and planning a funeral is usually not the first thing a spouse wants to do in the midst of grieving. Whether or not arrangements have been made in advance, there is a lot that goes into planning a funeral. If you are the family member or close friend that is helping a surviving spouse during this devastating time, there are some things you can do to move the process along and alleviate some of the burden.
Commit to help and get others involved
The first thing you want to do is make it clear to the grieving spouse that you will do whatever is needed to relieve some of the stress of the funeral planning process. They will likely have a hard time thinking clearly and will need assistance making decisions in such an emotional time. Depending on your relation to the deceased, you may be experiencing grief yourself. Withdraw when needed to process your own grief, but try to make comforting the spouse your first priority. Also, don’t be afraid to ask other family members and friends for help and delegate tasks out. Coordinating a meal registry with as many people as possible is another practical way to help.
Choose a funeral director
After notifying friends and extended family of the passing, you will want to help the spouse find a funeral home and director. There are some bad seeds in the bereavement business, so educating yourself and evaluating the intentions of the funeral director is vital.
You will then meet with the director to make decisions on funeral proceedings. Embalmment or cremation? Opened or closed casket? If the body is cremated, will the ashes be scattered or deposited into an urn? You also may need to decide on a burial site and discuss any religious traditions that should be respected. Even if such matters have been drawn out on a prearranged plan, they must be confirmed and changes may need to be made due to last-minute wishes or financial concerns.
Ensure that financial affairs are in order
Another important part of helping the spouse is to make sure financial affairs—before and after the funeral—are being taken care of. Since these matters are typically numerous and complex, you will want to assemble a team of professionals to help with the spouse’s financial affairs. This usually includes a lawyer, accountant and financial advisor to handle things such as life insurance claims, wills, powers of attorney, transfers of funds, reviewing real estate and preserving assets. Bringing on professionals you know and trust is the best way to go, but if you need to hire someone new then it’s good to do some research to make sure they will indeed make the process easier instead of more confusing. It’s also good to help the spouse apply for government benefits and check with past employers for any accrued pensions that should be paid out.
Address the spouse’s long-term care
A surviving spouse’s grief will last long after the funeral is over. It’s important for them to have someone to support them as they cope during this time, as well as help them make any changes that are necessary. Like having a prearranged funeral helps when the day comes, so does having a care plan in place. However, when the death of a spouse comes unexpectedly and no plans have been made, the surviving spouse and those helping them must be intentional in planning their self-care. Deciding how and where to live, getting finances in order, and securing the proper health care are of utmost importance. Also, family and friends who are close to the spouse should know about the plans so that they can serve as an adequate support system. It helps to have plans that are both cohesive and flexible.
No one looks forward to the day that their beloved spouse passes from this world. Whether it’s unexpected or from a long-suffered illness, it’s a terrible thing to endure and an overwhelming time in the surviving spouse’s life. Especially when the spouse is older, help is needed to guide them through the funeral planning and grieving process. By committing to help and getting others involved, choosing a trustworthy funeral planner, ensuring that financials are in order and making accommodations for long-term care, you’ll be well on your way to being a blessing to someone in their time of need.
An article prepared by Marie Villeza of Life Force Care
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