What happens when someone dies unexpectedly at home?

Okay, so no one really likes to think about death, especially the death of loved ones. However, sometimes knowing what to expect, including what happens when someone dies unexpectedly at home, and the practical side of death can help enormously.

What I have written here, is a brief overview of what happens to your loved one after death.

It includes some of the duties you will have to perform as next-of-kin or closest person to the deceased. This is to help you (and myself) to understand the practical steps. Hopefully, this will help make the whole process a little easier.

Let’s start with places people usually die: a hospice, the hospital, or at home.

  • At the Hospice

You will hopefully have had time to talk with hospice staff about which Funeral Home you would like to use. The staff will contact your nominated Funeral Home, who will come to collect the deceased.

  • At the Hospital
  1. After a long-term illness, you or your family will have had time to share information about your preferred Funeral Home and the hospital will contact them.
  2. With an unexpected or sudden death, you will be asked to sign a Release Form before the deceased is released to the Funeral Home of your choice. You will have to contact the Funeral Home to organise the collection.
  • At Home
  1. With an expected passing, you need to phone your GP to confirm death. They will come around to the house to see the deceased and the Death Certificate should be available the next working day from the GP’s surgery. After this you can call your chosen Funeral Home.
  2. However, a sudden or unexpected death at home requires you to call the Police as well as your GP. The GP will confirm death and the Police will investigate the scene to make sure nothing untoward has occurred.

The Police then call the Funeral Home that they are contracted to. The body is removed to the Coroner who performs any further tests to explain the cause of death. Once the investigations are complete or no further evidence can be gained from the body, the deceased is released to the family. You can now arrange your chosen Funeral Home to take responsibility for your loved one.

What next? This varies from business to business as do the costs. And although it seems odd to talk about phoning various funeral businesses to get quotes, there can be a massive variation not only in price, but the level of service offered.

It may be useful to have a few family members or close friends who are good at organising information and talking to people to make these calls. Retaining information and making decisions can be difficult when we are in a highly emotional state. I know that my brain would be a fuddle of mud if I was trying to organise a funeral for anyone in my close family.

  • At The Funeral Home 
  1. The Funeral Home will collect the deceased and take them to their premises.
  2. The body is usually cleaned very respectfully, and most Funeral Homes will embalm the body. This is done for two reasons. First, it makes the body more presentable if family and friends wish to view the deceased. Second, it prevents bacteria escaping the body and causing illness. You do not have to have the body embalmed, but you will have to ask your Funeral Home specifically about this as they all have their own procedures.
  3. You can provide clothes to the Funeral Home that you would like the deceased to be buried/cremated in, or the Funeral Home will provide a shroud.
  4. The Funeral Home will make arrangements between you and the crematorium/cemetery regarding funeral details: cremation or burial; time and date; type of coffin; number of cars, etc.

While this is happening, you need to go with the Death Certificate to your local Registry Office and register the death.

You will be given a Green Form which you must give to the Funeral Home for the funeral process to continue. This is the beginning of  many, MANY identification checks from now until you bury or collect your loved one’s ashes. This means it is super hard, if not downright impossible, for the wrong remains to get buried or given to a family. A very reassuring point.

“Pass the salt and what sort of coffin would you like?” or It’s good to talk.

It’s also a great idea to have a chat with your loved ones about funeral ideas. What do you want to happen at your funeral? What music would you like played? Is there a particular type of coffin? Do you want to be cremated, which is cheaper, or buried, which is somewhat more expensive? Do you have someone you would like to speak or do a reading? Is there a favourite poem? Are there specific people you would like to attend…or not attend?

It may seem weird, but I have talked with a number of families who have had to do a lot of guessing as to what the deceased would have liked, so it is good to talk.

If nothing else, remember these:

  1. Have a chat with people in your family about funeral arrangements.
  2. Get funeral cost QUOTES. Prices vary a LOT!
  3. Ask a friend/distant relative to be your Organiser/Phone-Call-Maker.

And if you have a question: ask!

With huge thanks to Amanda and Kelly at Kiss Goodbye Funeral Arrangers, St Helens.