The hours following a loved one’s death can be the hardest emotionally and logistically. Especially if your loved one dies outside of a hospital setting, it can be confusing to know what step to take next.

It may seem morbid, but it is important to make an immediate action plan after someone’s death in order to feel that the situation is under control. The process can be as peaceful for everyone involved.

What if they die at home?

If someone plans to die at home, they can do so peacefully with the proper planning. Hospice services or death doulas can aid the process with care, understanding and expertise.

Immediately after a person’s death, there is no danger. Unless the person died of a dangerous, rare and transmittable disease such as Ebola, a body poses virtually no threat to the living.

It is important to move the body to an appropriate location and to find a method of refrigeration. This may be in a quiet, darker place such as a bedroom with strong air conditioning or any other dry ice method. The body should be placed lying flat in order to prepare for the eventuality of rigor mortis. This can be accompanied by any appropriate ceremony or ritual the deceased and their family wishes.

Even in the winter, Texas weather presents challenges to a dead body. If the body will not be moved for a few hours, find appropriate refrigeration as soon as possible. The cycle of decay begins within a day of death but is hastened by heat and humidity.

People you should (and shouldn’t) notify

As soon as possible, someone close to the deceased to notify their people. This includes the following:

  • Spouse, ex-spouse
  • Children
  • Family physician, hospice nurse
  • Local medical examiner
  • Religious counselor
  • Funeral home
  • Family lawyer

These professionals can help you fill out appropriate paperwork such as a death certificate and recommend a course of action based on local laws. They can help arrange transportation to a hospital for examination or a funeral home for preparation of the body.

Someone who is an organ donor will need to be transported to the hospital as soon as possible. Allow medical examiners to make the decision if their organs can be donated or not. If you are unsure what arrangements the person would want, check with the Order of the Good Death’s recommendations for natural preservations options until you can discover their final wishes.

If the person has an estate plan, it is important to contact their lawyer before speaking to any creditors. Only an appointed executor of an estate should take this step when told to do so. The control of this information can be vital to preserving the estate’s assets.