My dad just died, what do I do?

30 answers | Last updated: Dec 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What do I do now that my dad just died? What are you supposed to do after a father dies?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Sorry for your loss. For better and worse, the first week or so after a death are often filled with attending to many details -- most of them related to tending to final details of securing end of life paperwork and final disposition of the body. While the tasks at first may seem daunting, many people actually find they are relieved to be occupied during the most raw early moments of their grief.

If you are the main person handling these concerns, you will need to be attuned to:

  • finding out whether there are specific instructions for donating the body or organs or tissues
  • securing a physician's certification and death certificate, which will be needed later in dealing with insurance and estate matters
  • arranging for an autopsy in the rare instances in which one is required
  • seeing to the details of a burial or cremation, and
  • deciding whether to hold a funeral or memorial service.

Other tasks you may wish to take on or delegate to others may include;

  • notifying close friends and relatives about the death
  • collecting information for a death notice or obituary
  • stopping newspaper subscriptions and arranging to have mail forwarded to another address
  • finding someone to care for your father's pets and home if that is necessary, and
  • locating estate planning documents, such as a will or living trust.

In all the busyness of this business, treat yourself gently and acknowledge your grief. Talk with friends and family -- or consult a grief counselor or clergyperson if you feel the need.

Community Answers

Dollvintage answered...

My Father justed passed in June suddenly (not necessarily unexpected).

Understand nothing will be quick...banks assume you are a terroist, insurance companies don't want to pay you the money and family emotions run high...crying and screaming are ok but might be better kept in private. And primal screams hurt your throat.

1). Find a good funeral home-mine was God sent. 2). Find all legal documents and assets (and liabilities). 3). Share the work with other family members or ask for help from friends... you are under stress. 4). Go thorough posessions when you can. My recommendation is to sort them and box them then give yourself sometime... there maybe some items you would like that you gave away or sold in heist. (My Mother in Law put all of my Father in Laws tools and equipment on the curb never asking any of the kids about it or selling them for money ...the garbage pickers made a mint those weeks). 5). An attorney can help with the legal notifications and title and deed paperwork but it will cost money.

Hope this list helps... still going through it all now myself including being the sole trustee for the family trust and having to pick up the sole caregiver for my elderly mother...certainly not my plans for early retirement... Post if you have any questions, chances are I have been there and done that. Deepest sympathies and prayers. DV

Leami answered...

I am wondering how to handle going through my mother's things after her passing? My brother and I both live 2-4 hours from Dad. Our father lives where my mother's things are. I was thinking to have my brother's family and my sister in law's family help out for a weekend. This would include a 12 and 9 year old. It has been suggested to only my brother and I assist Dad and afterwards have other family members choose what they would like to have. I want no family conflicts, if possible.

Leami answered...


My mother passed away in Dec 2010. My brother and I both live over 2 hours away from Dad. It has been suggested to me, it is best for my brother and I go throught mother's things with Dad. After the 3 of us have gone through everything, I plan on having the in-laws and grandchildren come and take what they would like. Afterwards, we will hire an auction house to come out and inventory, sell and send us 30-40% of the proceeds.With only the immediate family, there will be less conflicts. I am finding that only being able to go up once a month or so, it is going to take a long time to sort things out. I hope this is helpful to you.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Leami, You answered yourself? Strange.

Queenbee10 answered...

Live to the best of your ability. Live well, try to learn as much as possible about others, yourself--life in general. Try to leave (when your time comes) a more experienced and better person and try to help others. Death is a natural transition from one plane to another. We all just do our best and try to LIVE--that is the best testament to the people who brought us into the world.

Beginherehsm answered...

We created a self help book/toolkit that helps guide you through all the day-to-day tasks necessary after someone has died. Our site has free downloadable forms with instructions on how and who to notify specifically. Sorry for your loss, it is not fun experiencing is the website Again, sorry for you loss.

Xox candi xox answered...

my dad died today... i dont understand how to deal

Sho b answered...

Hello "xox_candi_xox," I'm sorry for your loss. You may find some helpful information in the response that is left by Expert Barbara Repa above.

You may also find some helpful resources as you grieve the loss of your dad:

I hope that some of these resources are helpful for you during this difficult time.

Soulfulwriter answered...

Forgive me if I am wrong, but most of the answers to the "what I do now" sound cold and just addressing the "practical" and task oriented phases of dealing with a loved one's death.

It seems to me that the question is more on the emotional side. "My father just died, what do I do now?" can be easily interpreted as "Oh, my God, I just lost my father who was a huge part of my life, my rock, my best friend. I am so much in pain that I do not know how to go on with my life."

The answers that somewhat addressed this issue directed the person to links for grief support. That's great. However, aren't these people sharing their grief here and looking for comfort? If so, why not share with them how we coped with losing a loved one, like a parent? Sharing our experience might help them cope with theirs.

I lost my mother to breast cancer over twenty years ago. Although I knew that she would eventually die of the disease (stage IV), it was not any easy on me to know this fact when she died. After she died, I felt I was in limbo. I went through the "practical" tasks described above as in a daze. I was her only child and everything fell upon my shoulders. Everyone else in the family seemed to disappear as if by magic, leaving me alone with my grief. Fortunately, my son was only three years old and as a single parent, I had to "hold it together" for him. Having that responsibility certainly helped.

Nevertheless, the "being in limbo" feeling took months to go away. Also, to my surprise, I seemed to have "adopted" some of my mother's personality traits for a while. Going through her stuff was a painful experience. I think it is best to leave that "task" alone for a while instead of diving into it right away while the grief is still in "raw form".

As time went by, I allowed myself to cry my eyes off when alone. It brought some relief. I also found that what worked for me for a while was to avoid anything that had to do with my mother, even thinking about her. I think that is one of the stages of grief. As getting angry towards the departed is another stage. I did. I was very angry at her for a while (especially since she had refused treatment after her mastectomy). I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. Of course, then, I felt guilty for having those feelings.

Allow yourself to grief fully. Don't let other people rush you through the grieving process. There is no set timeline. Some people, like me, take longer to move on. Others are able to overcome the grief and move on with their lives almost immediately. Each one of us have our own way of coping. Find yours. Perhaps, writing how you feel might work for you. Or, acting as if your father were still around and having imaginary conversations with him. You will say good-bye to him in your heart and mind when you are ready. Cherish the memories of the moments you had together. They will always be with you and your father remains in your life through those memories. Allow yourself to feel his presence. The body is the only thing that dies. The body is just the vessel that our spirit uses to function in this physical world. The essence of our being is eternal. Your father is still alive either in another realm or here in spirit form looking over you until you are able to overcome the grief and move on, There's no rush. Just allow yourself to take it one-day-at-a-time until you're ready to let go. It might take you days, weeks, months, or even years. That's OK. It's your life, not anyone else's.

Hope this helps. :)

A fellow caregiver answered...

Take things one day at a time. Everyday it will be a little easier.

I lost may father last year and the best advice I can give you is to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

For me, pushing forward with the practicalities like emptying his flat and collecting his paperwork together kept me busy which is what I needed at the time. I also ask myself often what he would say or do in a certain situation - this helped enormously because he wasn't sentimental about possessions at all. His point of view would have been "chuck it - who's going to use my old pants now!" It helped us to remember him and even though it sounds strange, to laugh about some of the harder things we had to deal with.

My one regret is that I didn't open up enough to let my friends and family really be there for me. Remember people want to help you and love you and be there but you have to ask them to help and let them in. I hope you find the strength and support you need to move forward at this difficult time. x

A fellow caregiver answered...

When my father passed away, we first called immediate family and close friends. We asked them to spread the word for us. Once the funeral arrangements were set we used to notify everyone via email. This really helped because so many people knew and loved my father, it was such a simple way to get the details to them. Allowed so many more to attend or at least be aware of his passing.

Sorry for your loss, and yes it gets better. I still think about my father everyday.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I found the biggest consolation after my Dad died was talking to his old friends.

Xicareyix answered...

I'm sorry and I don't know how you feel. I lost my father tragically in 2008 when i was 22 years old. He was my idol, my best friend, my mentor and my dad. My little cousin stepped up and became my best friend at that time. My cousin lived and worked with me for years and now he just died in April. Although i have moved on publicly and am thriving in my superficial and family life(wife and child), i am struggling to find cope with the fact that i will never again see or speak to my 2 best friends. My advice is, it may get easier or it may get harder. The only thing that is for certain is that your father is gone and you will surely have a gaping hole in your heart that cannot be filled. All you can do is live the way he would have wanted to and enjoy life to the fullest, be a testament to your father's legacy and don't regret a single day from this day forth.

Kckn57 answered...

Breathe. Allow time to pass.

Issabelle answered...

Hi my dad turned to be minutes before h died and I don't no if he said I'm going to be OK or if he said am I going to be OK. What do I do

Szmaon answered...

Sorry for the loss of your father, remember your grief is unique! give it time, if you want to see how I coped with the death of my father click the link Hope all is well

A fellow caregiver answered...

My Father died last week and we are going through much of what is mentioned here, I just add a few thoughts.

Do the things you think you should do for his funeral or remembrances, you won't get another chance.

Be careful with the funeral arrangements, many funeral homes are greedy and take advantage of folks when they are low. I got 3 different bids from 3 different funeral homes and saved over $5,000. This is hard to do right now, but no reason to overspend.

Come to grips with the realities of the situation as quickly and realistically as you can. One thing we struggle with is that my step mother will be getting everything that was our fathers, this is hard for some of the family to accept, but we have to, its what he wanted and its the law. I know the sooner we accept it the better. Unfortunately after someone dies their material possessions take on a greater value to us than they should. My father's legacy to us was what he did for us and how he treated us, his stuff really means little.

Best of luck to you.

Blueandblack answered...

My mum an dad died when I was 4. All my family is on the other side of the world. My pa who looks after me ( I am 12) died this morning. I feel so angry. It sounds stupid and I know I should know the answer but what do I do know other than funeral arrangments? I have a life here. I have friends. But no family so I dont have a choice but to go to my family on the other side of the world. Help?

Kimkell71 answered...

My dad died suddenly in my arms 2 weeks ago, I knew he had gone but still was told to do CPR he was in my hallway and I spoke to him 10 mins before he got to my house, he was fine. I feel so lost and empty but people tell me oh your so strong I feel like crumbling inside and do not know what to do.

Purplelongisland answered...

Lost my father in June and still have my moments. The first everything is always the hardest. The first birthday without him, the first Christmas. It was especially hard because he died 3 weeks before my parents 50th anniversary where we were going to plan a party. I have many regrets and try to find ways to forgive myself for them because I know that he would not want me to worry. Not getting to the hospital in time. Not talking to him the day before because I was tired. I try to remember his words that this is part of life and we all live and die, but it does not make things easier. I am told in time that things do get easier but still it is hard.

Alymarie answered...

My father passed away 2 weeks ago. I knew it was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier. He was a horrible alcoholic and his drinking became drastically worse after the death of my older brother. I have tried everything you could possibly think of to try to get him help including: court-ordered 96 hour holds, rehab, becoming his legal guardian and having full power of attorney over his health care, admitting him to hospitals, etc. The problem is that he refused to quit drinking and didn't try to save himself. These past 4 years have been hell, to say the least. I am the only child left and my parents are divorced, so I was left with taking care of all the "practical" stuff. I am 28 years old and all of this is very overwhelming. I do have an attorney to help with all the legal stuff, but it is expensive. It makes me angry because all of this could have been prevented had my father made better choices. I think I'm still in shock a little bit. Anyway, how do you deal with all this and still somehow keep your sanity?!

Mpb1230 answered...

I'm not sure how this thing works, so I'm actually going to ask a question. Apparently my father is on his death bed in the hospital in San Antonio. I live in Michigan. I don't actually consider him my father as he has not been in me and my siblings lives for over 40 years. He left the state and my mom so that he could avoid child support. Back then he was able to get away from it. After he left he never had anything to do with me or my siblings/I nor my sisters want any part of decision making or really any contact. The unfortunate thing is the only other family he has is a step sister living in California. Which she's the one that notified me and my siblings. She's overwhelmed with her own issues but she has been talking to the doctors. I told her in a kind way that none of us wanted anything to do with him. I'm more worried about the burden that's being put on her. And I put a lot of thought into going out to San Antonio to take some of the burden off of her. But the flight's are cost prohibitive and I just got back to work after being off for seven weeks due to surgery. Are there any suggestions as to do? Should I call a local church or something?

Mattlazarus answered...

On the emotional side, you are still, whether you know it or can accept it, a part--a big part--of who your dad was (same goes for your mom) -- so one of the things you learn, one of the steps, so to speak, in the process of grief is that your dad (or your mom) is living on in you. Some people resist this -- I had many, many arguments with my dad about many different things over decades -- at some point the arguments ended. I am certainly not the same person my dad was (and I don't mean to imply this), and my experience growing up (partly because of who and what he became) was completely different from his experience of growing up. But in some way, I feel he really has not died -- something essential about him has not died--because of who I am, and who my brother is and my sister. I think it's really essential to understand this. I'm still in the first stages of realizing this.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My dad has cancer and the people at the hospital are saying he is going to die but he is only 42. I can't with this how am I supposed keep myself together!????????????????????????????????

Livelifethefullest answered...

My dad just died yesterday he has cancer in his brain and stomach, my family didn't even have the heart to tell me, I went to visit him yesterday thinking everythings fine and I wake up today with my mom telling me hes gone. My younger sisters only four I can't imagine telling her when she grows up. My whole family's devastated my dad has 7 siblings all in China. I don't know how I should feel, I never got to tell him how much he meant to me.

Livelifethefullest answered...

He was only 44, I miss him already and it hasn't even been 24 hours yet. I feel even worse for my mom.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My Dad died Dec 8, and while the first week I was thankful he was in heaven being comforted by God, and his pain from heart disease was no longer hurting him, and he could be reunited with loved ones who had gone on before, I still hurt. As time went on and all the details were taken care of, I am finding healing in looking at my Dad's pictures, remembering the good memories. Also, being around supportive people who hold me when something reminds me of my Dad and the tears start to flow. I am learning grief is a process, and the healing is not quick, it is slow. My Dad always said, good things are worth waiting for. I think healing emotionally, slowly grieving his loss, remembering I will see him in heaven one day are all important things that need to take time. People that are not supportive I am careful to avoid. Just like when you are sick you need to take care of yourself with kind friends, rest, healthy eating, and walks. "For everything there is a season, a time to be born, and a time to die...a time to mourn...a time to weep... Knowing I can run to God for help makes all of this possible. Because I trust my Dad in the hands of my Heavenly Father, who holds me heart in His merciful and gracious hands. My heart is praying for you, so is Jesus. "Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you".

A fellow caregiver answered...

Hello there I have a situation and it left me clueless. what should i do in my situation my father recently passed away and before his death he had a talk with me and a few of my relatives that he made it clear that i was going to heritage the house he left it to me. the issue now is that the house was paid off by my father in full the tittle was issued to him during the time when he was still living he took the tittle and got a loan on the house due to financial problems he was having. well my father had problems paying on the loan so my grandfather went and paid the loan out in full. so my father recived the tittle again to the home but had a verbal agreement to pay back in full the amount that my grandfather paid the loan aggency the only thing they had in written form was paper receipts of the payments that my father was was making to my grandfather before his death. so now am trying to see what i can do to keep my fathers home that he said to me to take over the payments and the house was mine. what should i do? can someone please help me with my situation?

Mercy iyun answered...

I lost my pops last month ending (20th)and am better now even since after the 3rd day u felt strong and happy that his in heaven.i cried not really becos of his death but the fact that I didn't see him before he died;3 weeks at the hospital I didn't see him;though I was told that his state was critical ;the old man asked of me severally been his only girl and last child after a long time;I really have many things to type but I felt stronger than I seemed to be -his burial ceremony Is this week pray for more strength.A week after the incident I got back to school and am feeling great with friends around me and my boyfriend;am just 17