Sunday, March 21, 2010

Handling Different Situations After a Death

It is inconceivable to imagine all that has to be done when a child or any close family relative dies if you have never gone through it.

As I watch others and see them struggle through papers, through household items, through jewelry and artwork and finally, through the money situation, I know exactly what they are going through. I have lived through the death of both of my parents, my daughter Marcy, and her dad. I am at a point in my life where I can tell you that no matter how many times you must deal with death and its emotional journey afterwards, it is never easy.

For those who may want to keep a list for future reference, here is what I would do to make the beginning of your grief journey…the technical part of the death…easier to handle.

Plan ahead. Do what you can call an “Estate Planning Document” for every member of your immediate family. You can be almost any age to have one of these. It is not only for adults. By doing this document, you are creating a record of trusted advisors, the location of your important documents and other important information that may be needed after a death. Include the following in this planning document: a list of where all important papers like a will and trust are located, insurance policies, house and auto information, names of lawyers, where you keep your money and stocks, and who to contact just in case something unexpected takes a loved one. Write down all your passwords and where all your keys are. Pick out where and who you would like to do funeral arrangements. You may even want to pick out family grave plots. Put this information in a safe place but one where it can be found easily. The more you can do, the easier it will be for those left behind. Contact a lawyer if you need help with this, but for your own health and well-being, get it done early in life. Those of us who have been through this understand how your life can change in one split second.

When Marcy died, I wanted to contact all her friends to tell them of her untimely, sudden death. Fortunately, we had been close, so I knew most of them. The rest I found in her address book. That was the easy part. I had already purchased family plots so I knew where she would be buried. Her important papers I found at her home, some in file drawers, some things on the computer. Because she did not do one of these estate planning documents, to this day, I do not know where some things are and may never know…one reason I feel so strongly that this is an important exercise to do.

One of the hardest parts of any death is to dispose of the personal items. When confronted with most of Marcy’s things that were eventually sent to me, I kept what was important to me: most of the jewelry, some clothing I knew I could wear, all the awards and trophies she had won in high school and before, stuffed animals, photo albums, papers from her workplace and beautiful items she had bought on her travels.

I knew that others wanted things to remember her by, so I then went through the other items and some of her jewelry and asked her friends what was important to them. In some cases they asked me, and I was happy to oblige where possible. I remember one friend asking for a dress, another asking for a neon light she had given Marcy and still another friend asking for Venetian Glassware that matched her own that she and Marcy had bought while traveling in Italy. The first two were no problem. The last I couldn’t do. I hope her friend understood.

I did go through all the albums and offer pictures to others, throwing out the ones that had no meaning to me, selling some of her clothing, and giving away a few stuffed animals, but saving most of them for my Godchildren and even me! I love stuffed animals; they are very comforting to hold.

The entire process is not an easy one but necessary when a loved one dies. Make it easier on yourself and other family members by being prepared to handle all situations that may come up.

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