My dad just died, what do I do?

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 Answer

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.