STEP 5

Plan and Manage the Funeral

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Make a plan to manage grief

Grief – we all experience it, and yet bereavement is such a mysterious process. Few people really know what to expect when coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Everyone experiences grief differently. We all go through different emotions and the amount of time a person grieves can vary greatly from one mourner to another. But there are some common emotions that many people experience as they go through the grieving process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five of these stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying. In the years since, mental health professionals have expanded upon Kubler-Ross’s work to include seven stages of grief.

The 7 Stages of Grief are:

  1. Shock – When we first hear that someone has died, many of us are in shock. It is simply too difficult to wrap our mind around the fact that someone is no longer around. This is especially true when a death is unexpected – as a result of an accident or a heart attack, for example – but it can happen even when someone was expected to pass away.
  2. Denial – We might ask, “How can it be possible?” Or “How can she be gone? There’s no way she could have died.” We also might deny our feelings; for example, we might try to look strong in public despite what we’re going through.
  3. Anger – It’s easy to become hostile as the result of the passing of a loved one. You might be angry at yourself for something you did, or didn’t do. You might be angry at the doctors for not saving your loved one.
  4. Bargaining – In trying to come to grips with the loss of a loved one, some people feel the need to try to make a ‘deal’ with God, the universe, or some other power or being.
  5. Guilt – You might feel guilty about a number of things. You might feel guilty that you didn’t spend more time with him or her. Maybe there was some unresolved issue that you had with them. Perhaps you even blame yourself for his or her death.
  6. Depression – For many mourners, this is the most difficult stage. It’s when we realize that our loved one will no longer be with us to celebrate big events, enjoy holidays, chat with us, or hug us.
  7. Acceptance and Hope – Eventually, you realize that there is life after someone else’s death. You don’t “get over” the fact that they are gone – you still miss them – but you realize that there is still so much more to enjoy in life.

Our emotions are rarely as raw and vulnerable as when a loved one leaves us. The “7 Stages of Grief” may or may not effectively represent how you personally grieve. But by understanding many of the common stages of grief, you can come to realize that there are brighter days ahead.

Having a comprehensive plan to help manage the executor duties can be helpful in the grieving process. It will add a bit of certainty at a very uncertain time. It will also allow an executor to follow an approach that will be very fair to all beneficiaries, which will also relieve stress during this very difficult time of bereavement.

Terms to Know

Bequeath / Bequest

Bequeath means to give. It is generally used when a gift is made via a will. Therefore, bequeath is commonly understood to mean to give via a will. A gift in a will is referred to as a bequest. Technically, the terms bequest and bequeath are used to refer to personal property only, though you might hear the term refer to any gift in the will.

Death Certificate

A death certificate is a document containing details of a person's death including cause of death, date and time of death, location of death, etc. A death certificate is typically issued by a medical professional or applicable state records office.

Will Contest

If someone or an organization challenges the validity of a will, it is called a will contest. That person or organization is “contesting” the will. There are several reasons a person might want to contest a will and determination of the validity of a will is left to the probate court.
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