Key Takeaways

    • There are an overwhelming number of tasks one faces following the sudden death of a loved one.
    • Despite the availability of online resources, most families don’t know what to do or where to start after the death of a loved one.
How do I manage my grief with immediate decisions and duties?

Your loved one has just died of sudden cardiac arrest, and you are in shock. Despite needing time to absorb this horrific event, you have duties. There is an overwhelming number of decisions, choices, tasks, and calls to make. You will need to determine who will take care of the pets, if there was a will, get a death certificate, find legal documents, find banking records and passwords, and find out if there will be a death investigation or autopsy. There are so many other tasks – working to close accounts, manage social media, and notify utility companies, banks, and federal organizations. 

To help you, here is a list of things we have gathered from our experience to get you started.

1. Notify family and friends

Call friends, family, any employers, and let anyone else that loved your person know of their demise. It is important to have help if you have a long list of people to contact. Reach out to family and friends for support. Social media is an excellent way of helping to share this tragic news. Although there are great examples of how to phrase the message online, all you really need to say is, “It is with great sadness that we are letting friends and family know of the sudden death/passing/loss of _____________. Details regarding a celebration of life/funeral will be shared as soon as we are able.”

2. Arrange for proper care of the body

You may contact and select a funeral home or crematorium. There are families that want to have the body remain at home for some time. This provides a familiar place and opportunity for loved ones to sit and spend time with the person who has passed. Know your rights. You do not have to buy a casket – you can make one if you choose to do so. Or you may choose a green burial, a witnessed cremation, tree pod options, or utilize a mushroom burial suit. More people are choosing environmentally responsible burial alternatives. Decide what your budget is. Find family or friends that will support you without judgment. 

The end-of-life wishes of the individual who has died can be honored in a multitude of ways, not just as directed by traditions or expectations of a funeral home. People can also be invited to participate using online platforms or digital processes. It is important to have access to your own non-denominational or traditional religious death burial process. Find out what is available in your local area by speaking with your municipality officials.

3. Write an obituary

Take time to remember what was important in this precious life. Ask friends, co-workers, classmates, and siblings for their memories if it helps. It is important to mention in the obituary things like if you want donations in lieu of flowers. If so, decide which charity to support to reflect the values of the one who passed. Utilize social media, local radio, or other ways to connect with people to ensure they know what time and place you will have the funeral or memorial service.

4. Find the will

Once you have the will, determine who the executor is, publish a notice to creditors, and contact a lawyer to review any documents that you are unsure about or to find out what else is required. This is a good time to connect with anyone named in the will.

If no will or last testament could be found, a discussion of next steps with a lawyer may be needed. It can take a long time to get through all the tasks required after the sudden death of a loved one. Self-care is important, so make sure you have a support system and those you can rely on to help.

5. Go through all your loved one’s belongings

Depending on the age of the person and their living circumstances, you may need to change locks, secure valuables, and find passwords to cell phones and accounts.

Do not feel that you must get rid of everything right away. If your loved one was a child or youth, there are school items to pick up from their classroom or locker. Friends may have photos or notes you haven’t seen before. It can be comforting to look through your loved one’s belongings and have things available months or even years in the future. (Helpful resource: “What To Do When Someone Dies: The 2023 Checklist” )

6. Cancel services and accounts

This is the time to let landlords know of the death, as well as utility companies, banks, and insurance firms. This is just a start on what needs to be done, what is coming, and the tasks that you will have to do. 

Helpful Resource:

7. Reach out for support

Understand that there may be a lot of attention now, but everyone continues with their life, and you may feel overwhelmed by how alone and secluded you feel in the months ahead. This is a pain that never goes away. It changes over time, but the hole left by this loss reflects the deep love you had for that person. Be kind to yourself and take the time and space you need. There are excellent grief resources online, and counselors may be available in your area. 

See additional resources: 

The Bereavement Advice Centre has an online step by step checklist at:

What to Do When a Loved One Dies- Advice to keep a sad event from becoming even more painful

What To Do When Someone Dies: The 2023 Checklist

At A Loss – Helping bereaved people find support & wellbeing

Grief Australia – A guiding voice through the universal human experience of grief

Green Burial Council 

Dr. Jane Simington

Love lives on 

Announcing a Death on Facebook with Examples,how%20to%20honor%20the%20deceased.

British Columbia- After a Death: Get Support When Someone Dies (

Thank you to our contributors

Kim Ruether

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