What To Do When A Death Occurs

First and foremost, following the loss of a loved one, you must take care of yourself by surrounding yourself with family members, friends, clergy/spiritual advisors and care-takers. Having support during these first few hours following a death is very important as you may experience a wide range of emotions…sadness, confusion, loneliness, anger, anxiety, and perhaps even guilt or relief.

If death occurs in a hospital or nursing home and you are the first to be aware of the death, alert the nursing staff. The doctor will pronounce the death.

If death occurs at home and is expected, call your doctor. If you call 911, be sure to inform the operator that the death was expected. If hospice is involved, you may notify them instead of 911 and they will notify the proper authorities.

If the death was unexpected at home or elsewhere, call 911. The police and emergency medical personnel will determine the next appropriate steps. Under certain circumstances, the coroner will be contacted.

If the deceased has made arrangements for organ donation, contact the medical school or other recipient organization.

Call relatives and close friends.

Call the executor for the estate.

Call the funeral home or crematory and start collecting information needed for the death certificate.  This includes parents full names, birth date, birthplace, place & address of work, social security number, veterans discharge information, etc.

Notify others – insurance companies, Social Security Office, employers, landlords, banks, credit card companies, utility companies, post office, etc.


Little did we know that morning God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly, In death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you, But you did not go alone.
For part of us went with you, The day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories, Your love is still our guide.
And though we cannot see you, You are always by our side.
Our family chain is broken And nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one, The chain will link again.
– Unknown

© Complete Life Series, University of Hawaii Center on Aging.
Grant #90-CG-2548 from the National Family Caregiver Support Program, US Administration on Aging.
Imi Hale Native Hawaiian Cancer Network.

Download When Death Occurs Brochure