Frequently Asked Questions
- What to do when Death Occurs
- Organ Donation
- Funeral Etiquette
WHAT TO DO WHEN DEATH OCCURS
When a death occurs there are several things which need to be considered. The order in which things need to be done usually depends on where the death occurs.
Home under Hospice Care: Usually the family will notify Hospice of the provider and Hospice will notify the proper people in the correct order. They will contact the physician and the Coroner's office, and they will call the funeral home. The Coroner's office needs to be notified of all deaths that occur in a home. With Hospice or a Home Health Care Provider involved, a simple phone call is the only notification that the Coroner needs. The Coroner will not need to come to the residence to review any information.
Home but not under Hospice Care: If Hospice or a Home Health Care Provider is not involved, but the person is under a physicians care, and family or friends are present, the family may want to call the funeral home directly or contact the local police department (non emergency number.)
- If the death occurs in a residence and no one is there at the time of death, the Coroner will need to be notified and respond to the residence before the deceased is removed from their home. You can contact the non emergency number and they will be able to help.
- If the death occurs in a hospital or care center, the name of the funeral home may be left with them, and the institution will notify the funeral home at the time of the death. The funeral home will respond and at the next practical time, review matters with the family.
Who can be a donor?
Anyone, regardless of race or gender can become an organ donor. Organs and tissue that can’t be used for transplantation, due to advanced age or disease, can often be used for research to find cures for serious illnesses.
How do I become a donor?
Check out this website for more information about becoming a donor: http://www.organdonor.gov/
Discuss your decisions with your family.
When a friend or acquaintance dies, your first reaction may be to help but you may not be sure of what to say or do. It is natural to feel this way. This part of our web page has been designed to guide you on the proper etiquette. It will also give you helpful advice on how you can be of comfort to the bereaved.
While you may feel hesitant about intruding on the family during their grief, it is important to visit them. It lets the family know that while their loved one is gone, they are not alone; that while suffering a great loss, they are still connected to the living, and that life will go on.
When should I visit?
Upon learning of a death, intimate friends of the family should visit the home to offer sympathy and ask if they can help. You may prefer to visit the family at the funeral home. This setting may be more comfortable for you and the family, as they are prepared for visitors.
What should I say?
Using your own words, express your sympathy. Kind words about the person who has died is always appropriate. If the family wants to talk , they usually simply need to express their feelings; they aren't necessarily looking for a response from you. The kindest response is usually a warm hug and to simply say, "I understand".
Viewing the deceased is not mandatory. However, if offered by the family, it is customary to show your respects by viewing the deceased, and, if you desire, spending a few moments in silent prayer. Always sign your name in the register book. If you were a business associate of the deceased, it is appropriate to note your company affiliation if the family may not otherwise know you.
Your simple presence will mean a lot to the family. You do not need to stay for the entire visitation, but try not to leave during any prayers that might be offered.
Expressions of Sympathy
While there is no substitute for a personal visit if you are able to do so, there are many other ways to express your sympathy.
- E-mail: .E-mail is appropriate from those who are not intimate with the family such as a business associate or a former neighbor. The family will appreciate your message of concern.
- Flowers: Flowers can be a great comfort to the family and may be sent to the funeral home or to the residence. Some people prefer to send flowers to the residence afterwards. If the family asks that donations should be made in lieu of flowers, you should honor that request.
- Food for the family: The most welcome gift at this time is food. Also, there may be several visitors in the house who need to be fed. During the days immediately following the death, substantial dishes that require little preparation other than reheating are appropriate. If you take food in a dish that you want returned please write your name and phone number on the bottom. This is a great opportunity to get together at a latter time for a cup of coffee and friendship.
- MassCards: If the deceased was Catholic, some people will send a mass card instead or in addition to flowers. Catholics and non- Catholics may arrange for a mass to be said for the deceased. It is also appropriate to arrange a mass on the anniversary of the death.
- Memorial Gifts: A memorial gift is always appropriate, especially when the family has requested such a gift in lieu of flowers. Usually the family will designate a specific organization or charity. Remember to provide the family's name and address to the charity so they can send proper notification. It is acceptable to mention your gift in a sympathy note without mentioning the amount of the gift.
- Phone Call:If you live out-of-town you should telephone as soon as possible to offer your sympathy. Keep the call brief, since others will probably be trying to call as well.
What do I say when I see the family in public?
What you say depends on if you've already had contact with them. If you attended the visitation or funeral, merely greet them warmly and ask how they are doing. If this is your first meeting with them since the death, your first reaction might be to express your sympathy. However, it is nicer not to bring up the death as this might evoke emotions which might be painful for your friend to deal with in a public place. Perhaps it would be better just to say you understand that this is a difficult time for them. You might even ask when it would be a good time to visit or go to lunch or dinner.
What can I do to help later?
In the days and months to come, the family will continue to need your support. Try to write or call on a regular basis. Continue to include them in your social plans; they will let you know when they are ready to participate. It is also nice to remember the family on special occasions during the first year following the death. Don't worry about bringing up the pain and emotion of the loss; they are well aware of that. By remembering such occasions as wedding anniversaries and birthdays, you are not remembering the death, but reaffirming that a life was lived.