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Planning a Funeral After an Unexpected Death - Part One

By Christopher M Davis

There is no easy way to plan the funeral of a loved one after an accident. You are likely feeling emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and over-stressed as you approach the memorial plans. When the death of a loved one is anticipated because of illness or old age, funeral plans have often been made or discussed beforehand and the family members may have had time to prepare themselves for the loss. If preparations like these have already taken place or if you have some idea of how your loved one wanted his/her funeral to be conducted, it is obviously much easier to put the funeral together quickly.

Steps to Take Immediately After the Death

There are certain steps to take immediately after the death of your loved one. They include:

1. Pronouncing the Death. As soon as someone passes away, the death needs to be pronounced by a professional. This normally means that you must call 911 or a coroner's office so that a medical professional can confirm the death and make it official. If the death results from a car accident or another serious accident, the deceased has either been pronounced at the scene or later at the hospital. For many unexpected deaths caused by accidents you don't need to call 911 or the coroner's office because medical professionals will be on staff and able to pronounce the death immediately.

2. Embalming. Within the first few hours of death you need to decide if you want your loved one's body to be embalmed. Embalming is a process designed to preserve the body. If you embalm, you give yourself the option of having an open casket funeral and prolonging the funeral process, since the body will not have to be buried or cremated right away. It may make sense to choose embalming if the family wants more time to plan for a funeral or if an open casket is preferred.

3. Selecting a Funeral Home. You will need to call a crematorium or a funeral home to come and pick up your loved one's body from the hospital or place of death. The funeral home will usually make the necessary arrangements for transportation. If the death was unexpected, then you may not have identified a funeral home that you prefer to use, so you will need to select one Most churches, synagogues or other places of worship have a member or parishioner responsible for assisting with funeral planning, so this is an excellent place to start. Many funeral homes also have web pages now and most are listed in the yellow pages. By taking a look at the various funeral home websites, you can get a feel for the home. If possible, consider selecting a funeral home close to your loved one's community so that it is easier for mourners who wish to attend the service.

4. Notifying Friends and Family. As soon as possible, you or other family members should start contacting people to make them aware of the loss. If you are an immediate family member like the spouse, parent, sibling or child of the deceased, you may want to contact a close friend or other family member to make most of the calls. Consider making the calls after you have made plans for the funeral so that you can let people know the location, date and time of the services.

As you begin making arrangements for the funeral or memorial service, you will want to think about what your loved one would have wanted. Where there has been an unexpected death resulting from an accident, the victim may not have made his or her wishes known. It may also mean that you have never talked about a memorial service. If this is the case, it will be up to you to make the arrangements according to what you think your loved one would want.

To plan a meaningful service, think of things that most characterized your loved one: his/her favorite activities; favorite flowers; meaningful songs, hymns, or poems, etc. Once you have made note of your thoughts about your loved one's personality and activities in life, it will become easier for you to choose some details over others for the funeral.

Seattle wrongful death attorney Chris Davis is the author of 'Wrongful Death in Washington State' a guide book for families that are trying to navigate the confusing legal process following the accidental death in Washington State of a loved one. He is the founder and principal lawyer at Davis Law Group, a Seattle personal injury law firm know for its innovative approach. You can learn more by visiting: http://www.DavisLawGroupSeattle.com.


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