When Death Occurs

No matter if a death is sudden, or if it something that was a long time coming, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem staggering.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within the first 24 hours after death.

When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the death is expected, a discussion with your health care provider (ie V.O.N.; family physician or palliative care doctor). This should be held prior to the death occurring. When person passes away under Palliative Care, 911 should not be called. If the person was under palliative care, contact the palliative care representative if they were not present and they will notify family members what the proper procedures are to follow. The funeral home should also be notified and we will make arrangements for the careful removal and transfer from the home.

If a death is sudden, usually a call to 911 is made which starts a series of events. Paramedics may arrive to confirm the death and the police will have to be notified.  The police will be dispatched to the home and place the call to the medical examiner.  From there the medical examiner office may interview by phone a family member to see to try to determine a medical history. They will ask who the decease's physician was and may attempt to reach that doctor. Although a death may be sudden, there may be a medical history and the physician will accept the case.

If the physician is unwilling to complete the Medical Cause of Death Certificate, the Medical Examiner will take the body and determine whether further action is necessary which may result in an autopsy ( a post mortem examination). The medical examiner must release the body before a funeral home can do anything.  We suggest, however , the funeral home still be notified as many arrangements and discussions may be made prior the release taking place.

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you and the necessary authorities immediately after a death has occurred.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If you are present at the hospital when the funeral director arrives, they will ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and set up a time to come into the funeral home to make arrangements, however, if you are not present a funeral director will contact you by telephone to discuss these arrangements.

Informing a Funeral Director

Once everything has been cleared with the proper authorities, the next call you place should be to a licensed funeral director.  Funeral directors are here to help you obtain a death certificate, transport the body, and in the event pre-planning was not done, select a casket/urn and arrange the funeral/memorial service.  The funeral director will also help you notify the employer and insurance company of the deceased to assist with those arrangements.  Funeral directors are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in funeral planning.

Meeting a Funeral Director

You should meet with a funeral director within 24 hours of a death to begin to make final arrangements for your loved one.  Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when you are in heightened emotional state, but, funeral home staff have years of experience dealing with these issues, and strive to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Making Arrangements

First the Funeral Director will gather information required for the death certificate.  This includes:

  • Full Name and Address
  • Marital Status
  • Date and City of Birth
  • Father’s Name, Mother’s Name (including maiden name)
  • Name of Spouse (if married or widowed)
  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Occupation and Employer

The funeral director will also need pertinent documents required to do all the legal paperwork, those documents include:

  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Last Will - indicating the name of the Executor

Unfortunately, although the Privacy Act provides security of individuals, it does inhibit the funeral home from being able to assist with many pieces of business.

If no pre-planning has been done, necessary arrangements need to be made for the funeral service.  These include:

  • Scheduling the location, date and time of the visitation and funeral service
  • Selecting burial or cremation
  • Choosing Funeral Products
  • Arranging a cemetery plot
  • Preparing an obituary notice
  • Scheduling transportation arrangements

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a memorable funeral for your loved one. From here the funeral services can be personalized.  Did your loved one have a favorite sports team?  What was their favorite type of music?  What activity was your loved one known best for?  Recalling fond memories assists with the grieving process and will help honor the life of your loved one.

Have a question? Ask the Director