No one really wants to ponder over the possibility of their spouse or family member passing away. But it is a reality that many people will have to and are currently having to deal with. And it helps to be prepared and know what to do next amongst all the chaos.
These are the required steps to get out of the way as soon as possible so that you can plan the funeral and begin the grieving process.
- Register the death: You’re going to need to register the death of your loved one with the Department of Home Affairs, the South African Police Service or the South African Missions Embassies. And to do this you’re going to need the medical certificate for cause of death and then the person’s official ID documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate, driver’s licence and proof of residence.
- Certificates: Once you have done this you will receive a certificate of registration of death, a certificate for burial or cremation and a death certificate.
- Contact: Other than family members and friends of the deceased, you’re going to need to contact governmental departments (library, tax office, electoral office, etc), their bank, employer, utility companies, medical care practitioners and subscriptions (and other monthly installments that were in place).
- Plan the funeral: When the legalities are over, you can start planning the funeral. Make sure you have the last will and testament on hand for burial preferences (also, it will be a handy document to have when it comes to the state of affairs). It would also be a good time to look into their funeral cover or life insurance plan with African Unity Life or another life insurance broker (funerals are rather costly). The funeral arrangements can be made when the finances are in order.
The grieving process
With everything else out of the way, your mind can finally start the grieving process (which it will start as soon as the loved one passes but this will be a chance to focus on it and get through it). Understand that the way people experience and work through the grieving process is not directly from step one to five, it’s an ongoing and sometimes simultaneous experience of stages. The comfort is that you’re experiencing the emotions and working through them as they present themselves.
- Denial: With the rush of everything happening within the first few days of their death, denial comes easily. All the situations you find yourself in and the people you contact may seem surreal and not possible. This leads you to suppress most of what you’re scared to feel or unable to feel in the moment, but that’s also a necessary step… for now.
- Anger: Eventually it becomes hard to suppress what you’re feeling and the next three stages of grief are proof of that. It starts with an anger towards the people who are around you, yourself and even the loved one who died, but it’s also not a limited emotion. The more anger you feel, the more you’re healing through the release. Anger is pain, but it’s also the strength to start moving on.
- Bargaining: The phase of “what ifs”, “please, it can’t be true” and “I’ll change if it will bring them back”. This is where you experience regret, loss, disbelief and build a mindset of changing something to change what has happened.
- Depression: And when you realise that nothing can change what has happened, you hit depression. You feel the loss in your heart, at home, in everyday activities and it hurts. You don’t want to do anything except dwell on your emotions and consider life without them here.
- Acceptance: Reaching acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re over it and are okay with what has happened. That isn’t normal or healthy. Acceptance is, rather, realising and understanding the reality of the situation as undoable and the new “norm” in which you must learn to live.
It’s not really anyone’s place to tell you how to deal with the loss of a loved one, even if it’s advice from experience. Everyone will go through it in their own way because no person is the same and no life lost is the same life lost. It’s an extremely personal process, but seeking support and advice may be a good place to start if you find yourself completely lost.
- Let it out: If you’re feeling anything, let it out. It’s not mentally or physically healthy to bottle up emotions just to appear “okay”. You have every right to be feeling the way you do and you shouldn’t have to hold back for the sake of public opinion and perception.
- Take care: You can’t give up on your health or daily beauty habits. Keep yourself clean, make sure you eat every meal and try not to overindulge as a coping mechanism. You need to keep taking care of yourself and keeping your routine as normal as possible will help you reach acceptance.
- Support: Find a support group. It doesn’t matter if you go just for the coffee, to listen to other people’s stories or to be the only member sharing all night. Knowing that there are people who are going through a similar experience and having a weekly outlet to let it all out will make things a bit easier to deal with.