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An Unexpected Death: What to do in the first few hours

Sometimes death comes without warning. The most common causes are heart attacks, and accidents. But sometimes, people just die without warning-in their sleep. We are going about our lives and suddenly, with the unexpected loss of a loved one, everything has changed for us. Our first reactions may be a mix of shock, anger, fear, sadness, confusion, and disbelief. As the reality of the situation sinks in, we wonder what to do next. Here is a step by step guide to follow during those first difficult hours.

Step One: Take a step back?

Although there are many decisions that must be made regarding arrangements, and certain legalities that must be observed, remember that your emotional needs and those of your family are more important than anything else. Here are key points to consider:

  • Don't rush yourself through decisions and procedures, or miss out on your opportunities to say your goodbyes.
  • Nearly every decision can wait for a few hours, so be sure to take care of yourself and your family first.
  • Do you have a clergy person available for support? If so, you may want to call them - they have been through this before, and their calming counsel at this time can be invaluable.
  • Are there family members who will need to come right away?
  • Would the support of a friend help you get through this? If you feel it would help, make those calls whenever you are ready to do so.

Step Two: Legalities

A sudden or unexpected death often takes place outside of a hospital, hospice, or the care of a physician. The death will have to be pronounced by an authorised heath care professional, medical examiner, or coroner. If you are the one to discover your deceased loved one, you will need to contact the appropriate authority. In some parts of the country, the Coroner or Medical Examiner's office can be notified of a death directly. In others, emergency services must be called first. The best way to address this is to call 000, and let them know that a death has occurred, and that you need their help. Also ask them to not turn on sirens or flashing lights, and they will be very responsive to this request.

Step Three: Notify Creightons Funeral Service-Helping with Funeral Emergencies is something they do best.

Once the death has been pronounced, you will need to contact Creightons on our 24/7 Careline on 4324 1533 to arrange for us to take your loved one into care. In addition, Creightons Funeral Service will complete and file the death certificate, and notify Social Security of the passing.

Many families have entrusted Creightons with the care of their loved ones for generations.

Step Four: Ways of Saying Goodbye.

Again, every decision you'll need to make does not have to be rushed, so if you are really unsure about what kind of ceremony would be appropriate, or whether you would prefer burial or cremation, talk to a Creightons representative to explore your options.

You may be surprised to learn all that is possible and all the different ways that these aspects of funeral ceremonies can be made more meaningful through planning and family participation. And in most cases, your friends and family will want to help. At this time, and in years to come, memories of the support family and friends provided will be a key part of moving to remembrance of the loved one.

Step Five: Moving From Grief to Remembrance

Saying Goodbye to Your Loved One with the support of your friends and family can be a huge part of the process, and we strongly suggest that you and your family explore the choices that most appeal to you. The memories shared, the stories told at services will be remembered and valued forever. What many families don't realize is how personal and creative saying goodbye can be.

Eulogies and obituaries can also be a key part of remembering your loved ones, and this website can give you the information you need on how to prepare a eulogy or write an obituary so they can be most meaningful. Friends and family are often eager to help here, and often some of the most memorable parts of the service are the words said about the loved one.

Lastly, many families find that permanent remembrances are a wonderful way to establish a permanent, tangible reminder of what a loved one meant as well as offering a focal point for grief and ongoing reflection.

The Palmdale Group has established a Permanent Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure our memorial environments are maintained in perpetuity, giving you peace of mind and comfort in the knowledge that the memory of your loved one will live on for the benefit of future generations.

Many families who choose cremation don't realize they have even broader choices for permanent remembrance. These choices can include special sections in cemeteries and cremation gardens. To learn more about the many choices you have for permanent remembrances with cremation, visit our Guide To Funerals videos

We know that the loss of a loved one is not a one week, or one year event. Our goal is to help you deal with the fact that your loved one is gone, but still with us in our memories. Remembrance is an on-going state that is positive and life-affirming. And unlike the concept of 'closure', it doesn't imply that somehow we are closing a chapter on a life. Instead, remembrance is an on-going collection of images, words, and memories that we will never forget.

One way to help you with this process is to listen to how others have dealt with the loss of a loved one. Listening to grief counselors, clergy and other families at this time is like learning from a best friend who has been through it.

The Salvation Army in association with Creighton's offers counseling and bereavement services, click here to find out more.