What to expect when a loved one dies

The need to arrange a funeral is not an everyday occurrence for the average person.  There are many people who have never encountered a death and had the necessity to organize a funeral.  Which brings up the question – “What happens after my loved one dies?”  This can be a scary and overwhelming situation, but this blog will walk you through what you can expect.  Most of our fears are founded in the unknown.  In cooperation with our sister funeral home in VA, you will find some helpful and insightful information to help guide your through what to expect when your loved one dies in this blog.

Typically, when a person moves into a facility, goes to the hospital or is in the care of hospice, the admissions counselor will ask if your loved one (or you) has a funeral home of choice.  Along with other important end of life documents, your funeral home choice will be a part of your file.  Once your loved one passes away and some of the paperwork their staff needs to process is complete, they will contact the funeral home you​ have​ chosen​.  No matter what time of day, our funeral professionals at Altmeyer Funeral Home are available to serve your family.  At this point, you should spend as much time with your loved one as you wish.  The facility or hospital staff or hospice nurses are there for you and your family. They will understand if you want more time before continuing. If the death occurred without medical attention or unexpectedly, stay calm and call 911 first before calling the funeral professional. The police and/or emergency medical services will arrive and assist your family as quickly as they can. They will continue to provide care until the funeral professional arrives.  There are a few questions that will likely arise when the funeral professional arrives:

  • Is the family currently present? If so, do they need more time?”
  • “Who is the next of kin, what is their phone number, and what is their relation?”
  • Are there any special circumstances concerning removal of the body?”
  • “Do we have permission to embalm?”
  • “Has your loved one made any pre-arrangements with our funeral home?”
  • Do you know what type of services you might want?”

You may not have answers to all of the questions at this time, and that is okay.  Our staff is there to help you in any way we can and will answer your questions.

The funeral professional will arrive with a dignified vehicle with equipment including a cot, sheets, gloves, and necessary paperwork that​ accompany the removal/transfer. Before proceeding, they will talk with the family and explain the steps they will take. Always feel free to ask them questions or present your concerns at any time. It is your choice if you would like to stay during the removal process or walk into another room or outside. The funeral professional may recommend you to step out of the room because it may be hard to watch this final moment.  Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your family.

On the cot are buckles that ensure a safe travel back to the funeral home. A pillow will be placed under the head as well.  The​n, ​sheets will be wrapped around them in a dignified way for transportation. Finally, a cover (or flag for veterans) is placed on top so there will be total discretion. At this time, you may want​ to take​ rings, glasses, necklaces, or any other precious items on your loved one’s person.  The nurses and funeral professional can do this for you, if you prefer.   You may choose to leave them with your loved one, but make sure to inform the funeral professional of your decision so they may make a note.

Once the transfer onto the cot has been completed, the funeral professional will bring the necessary paperwork to you. Some of this paperwork may include personal property inventory form, authorization for embalming or authorization for cremation. The funeral professional will talk you about coming into the funeral home at your convenience to make the funeral arrangements. They may ask you about bringing in clothing that you want your loved one to wear during the service, bringing a photograph for the obituary, or even the DD214 Discharge paperwork, if they were a veteran.

Sometimes this presents new questions or thoughts.  Feel free to write down any specific desires or ideas you would like to share with the funeral professional. They will be happy to help you and address your concerns, take care of any details on your behalf, and help coordinate the different tasks necessary for the service.  Your loved one will be in our care from then ​until the time of the funeral​.  Our crematory and preparation room are located locally in the Ohio Valley.

At Altmeyer Funeral Home, we want to educate all families of their choices and the care we provide.  If you have any questions or concerns, please call us. ​

– SarahB
Sarah Barickman is an outreach director and life celebrant at Altmeyer Funeral Homes and CARE Funeral & Cremation Specialists in the Ohio Valley.  She and her husband, Mike, have lived in Wheeling for 19 years, where they have been raising their two children, Lilly & Haden.  Sarah is a collector of people, she has never met a stranger and will always strive to be of service to others.