What to Do When Someone Dies

Here’s what to do when someone dies, including:

  • Where to Find Support
  • How to Grieve in a Healthy Way
  • What to Say When Someone Dies
  • What to Do for Next of Kin – A Helpful Checklist

Death is an inevitable part of life and with it comes grief and sadness. There is also a lot of stress associated with the death of a loved one. To reduce the amount of stress, there are a lot of things you can do to prepare for the stress of funeral planning and resources for coping with the loss of a loved one.

Where to Find Support After Loss?

Grieving is an important of loss and what to do when someone dies. Consequently, finding support during that period can help in so many ways. Moreover, unexpected loss and early loss can be tragic and traumatic.

Here are some places you can find support.

Friends and Family

Reaching out to friends and family who might also be feeling a similar way about the loss can be helpful. Not only are they also grieving but being able to share stories and memories about your loved one can be therapeutic.

Support Groups

Next, support groups are common for those grieving the loss of a loved one and are helpful in learning to cope with the loss. Moreover, support groups are especially helpful in instances where the death is tragic or the person you lost is a very close person to you.

For example, there are groups specifically for grieving parents who have lost a child, and there are groups for people who have lost a spouse. Sometimes a group that is filled with people who are experience a similar loss can be more helpful than family and friends.

If you are interested in finding a support group, you can do a simple search online, or you can probably find resources through your local funeral home or a social worker at a local hospital.

Church or other Religious Groups

Finding religion or leaning on religion in times of loss can help you find meaning and comfort. If you belong to a church, your church family can be especially supportive in times of loss. For many people, religion helps them find hope that death was not the end for their loved one. Whether you are religious or not, there are a lot of great religious texts that are comforting in these times too.

Counseling or Therapy

Loss is hard for anyone. When we are grieving, we sometimes need guidance from a professional to help us cope with the tough thoughts and emotions. There is no harm or shame in getting help from someone who is trained in guiding people through their feelings and thoughts. If you are looking for support, a counselor or therapist is a great place to find it.

Social Media

Social media can be a great place to find support when you experience loss. There are groups filled with thousands of people that are experiencing the same thing you’re experiencing. Finding those groups and connecting with people in similar situations can be similar to support groups. Knowing there are people who have been in your situation and they have survived can be reassuring that you too will learn to cope with your loss.

What to do When Someone Dies – Tips for Grieving

Grieving the loss of a loved one is different for everyone. How you grieve may depend on the relationship you had with the person and whether the loss was sudden.

Acknowledge How this Changes Your Life

Death can impact your life in different ways. Depending on this person’s role in your life, you may find that the loss changes a lot of things about your life. Acknowledge how this loss changes your life. You may find it helpful to write down the changes. For instance, if you suffer the loss of a close friend, you may find the loss changes who you call on a bad day. Acknowledging these changes is an important part of coping with loss.

Find a Way to Honor Your Loved One

You never really “get over” the loss of a loved one, you simply learn to live with it. With that in mind, you can cope with loss by figuring out a way to honor your loved one. Many people hold events like candle lightings or lantern releases, as yearly event with others. If your loved one passed as a result of a medical condition, you might find peace by attending awareness walks or events. Honoring the person you loved can help you keep their memory alive, and can help you cope.

Find Support

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Finding support is important. Grieving alone can be difficult and can prevent you from truly coping. You may also find yourself turning to coping mechanisms that are unhealthy. Getting support during this time can help you feel like you aren’t alone and help guide you into using healthy coping mechanisms.

Write Down Your Memories

When you’re feeling especially sad, try writing down one of your favorite memories of your loved one. Those memories are something you will cherish forever and having a journal of memories to read through on tough days can be helpful. Those memories might make you sad that you can’t make new ones but will also bring you happiness. Writing down happy memories when you are sad can help train your brain to revert to happy moments in times of sadness, which is a great way to cope with loss. 

What to Say When Someone Dies

When someone is grieving, it can be difficult to find the right words to comfort them. While each situation and loss will be different, there are some general rules.

Avoid “at least” Statements

If you find yourself want to start a comfort statement with “at least…” just stop and think of something different. Words like “at least” and “just” can diminish the feelings the person is feeling. There is no “at least” with loss. The situation is a loss and the feelings of sadness are valid.

Consider if Religious Statements are Appropriate

Unless the family is openly religious, it may not be appropriate to use religious statements to attempt to comfort the family. Statements like “it was God’s will” can be extremely insensitive and make a person question their faith or it can anger them. If the family is religious, be mindful of their religion. If you don’t understand their religion, it is probably best to avoid religious statements. Someone who is not religious may not be comforted by a statement such has “I’ll pray for you.” Being mindful of religion can help you find truly comforting words.

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Share a Happy Memory

If you’re struggling to find the right words, try sharing a short happy memory. “I’m so sorry for your loss, he was an excellent story teller, I loved his story about…” Sharing a short memory can bring back happy memories for other close family and friends. It is comforting to know our loved ones had a happy life and many people who loved them.

Mention Something You Will Miss

Similar to sharing a story, sharing something you will miss about the person can be comforting. It is comforting to know a loved one is missed by many. It means their life consisted of touching the lives of others. Knowing their memory will live on in other people’s lives is a good feeling. You try saying “I’m really going to miss her laugh at work, it was always so robust and brought a smile to everyone.”

When in Doubt…

If you weren’t really close to the deceased you maybe finding it difficult to find the right words. Maybe you don’t have many memories, or maybe it has been awhile since you’ve seen the person so you aren’t really sure what you will miss. A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” may not seem like much, but it is a phrase that will not bring negative feelings.

It is a simple statement and it may not be the most comforting, but it may not be your responsibility to bring peace and comfort. Simply showing your support to the family is comforting and that might be where your statement should end.

What to Do When Someone Dies Checklist for Next of Kin

If you’ve found yourself responsible for the planning following the death of a loved one, this checklist can help you feel less overwhelmed.

Your very first steps for what to do when someone dies.

  • Find out if there is a will.
    This step will determine how other steps are taken. If there is a will, you may not need to make as many decisions. If there isn’t a will, you may need find there are a few more tasks.
  • Call a funeral home to pick up the remains.
    If there is a will and it states what to do with the remains, then follow those directions. Many times though, you will need to contact a funeral home to pick up the remains so they can begin caring for the remains, especially if you are wanting an open casket viewing. The funeral home will also have a checklist of tasks to help you plan the funeral.

The first people to contact when someone dies.

  • Contact family and friends.
    You might contact a close friend or family member to help you call others and notify them of the death. This can be an emotionally taxing task, but it should be done as soon as possible.
  • Contact an attorney.
    If there is a will, there is likely an attorney listed that did the will for your loved one. Contacting this attorney for details and guidance can be helpful.
    • If there is no will, you will want to contact an attorney that handles property and wills. They can help guide you through the process following a death.
    • They can also help you find out if there is life insurance or legal property that will need to be evaluated for inheritance.
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What to Do When Someone Dies Logistical Checklist

  • Set a date for the funeral.
    If you plan on having a funeral or memorial of any sort, you will want to set a date. This is something you will discuss with the funeral home based on their availability to provide a venue and services.
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  • Set a date for an inheritance meeting.
    Almost everyone dies with some sort of personal property. If your loved one had bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, or just personal belongings, a family member will inherit these things. A will typically determines who gets the property personal belongings, but sometimes there is no will and sometimes the will only discusses things like money and taxed property, such as vehicles and real estate. This meeting should be done with an attorney to ensure the property is legally transferred.
  • Clean out personal belongings.
    Depending on where your loved one was living prior to passing, there maybe a place you need to clean out.
    • First, if it’s a house your loved one owned, you may not need to rush to get personal belongings.
    • However, if your loved one lived in a rented property or was in the care of a facility, you may need to pick up their personal belongings quickly.
    • If that’s the case, you may want to consider getting a storage unit for the belongings until you and other family members can sort through the belongings after the funeral.
  • Find support for yourself.
    Taking time to care for yourself and your mental health while you grieve is important. Don’t forget to care for yourself during this time.


In summary, it is never easy to process all your emotions at the same time that you have to actively prepare for a funeral. It is our hope that this list will help you make sense of the logistics and your bereavement journey.

Here are a few resources to help you on your path:

Average Funeral Costs for planning and budgeting

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