What Happens When A Death Occurs?

Kaitlyn N. Williams, Outreach Director

In the average lifespan, a person may have to arrange only two or three funeral arrangements which leaves the people who have never encountered a death. Many people ask questions like, “What happens after my loved one dies?” It can be stressful and overwhelming when a death occurs… Here is some helpful and insightful information that may help guide you when you have experienced a death in the family.

If your loved one is at the hospital or hospice facility, the staff will need to process paperwork and may ask you on your selection of funeral home. Once everything is complete, the staff member will call the funeral director. I recommend that you spend as much time with your loved one as you wish. The hospital staff or hospice nurses are there for you and your family. They will understand if you want more time before continuing. If the death occurred without medical attention or unexpectedly, stay calm and call 911 first before calling the funeral director. The police and/or emergency medical services will arrive and assist your family as quickly as they can. They will continue to provide care until the funeral director arrives. Sometimes death occurs after normal business hours, but that’s okay. Most funeral homes will either have an answering service or a funeral director on call that will be in contact with you. During the conversation, keep in mind of the questions they may ask you:


“Has your loved one made any pre-arrangements with the funeral home?”

“Is the family currently present? If so, do they need more time?”

“Do you know what type of services you were thinking about?”

“Do we have permission to embalm?”

“Are there any special circumstances concerning removal of the body?”

 “Who is the next of kin, what is their phone number, and what is their relation?”


Don’t hesitate to ask the funeral director any questions or concerns that you have. The funeral director will answer any and all questions you have. Sometimes you may not have the answer to the questions that are asked, that’s okay too.

The funeral director or team member will arrive with a dignified vehicle with certain equipment including a cot, sheets, gloves, and necessary paperwork that may accompany with the removal/transfer. Before proceeding, they will talk with the family and explain the steps they will take. Always feel free to ask them questions or present your concerns at any time. It is your choice if you would like to stay during the removal process or walk into another room or walk outside. The funeral director may recommend you to step out of the room because it may be hard to watch this final moment.  Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your family.

On the cot is buckles that ensure a safe travel back to the funeral home. A pillow will be placed under the head as well. The sheets will be wrapped around them in a dignified way for transportation. Finally, a cover (or flag for veterans) is placed on top once those following steps are taken so there will be total discretion. At this time, you may want to think about taking off rings, glasses, necklaces, or any other precious items. If you want to leave them with your loved one, make sure to inform the funeral director of your decision so they may make a note.

Once the transfer onto the cot has been completed, the funeral director will bring the necessary paperwork to you. Some of this paperwork may include personal property inventory form, authorization for embalming or authorization for cremation. The funeral director will ask you about coming into the funeral home the following day to make the funeral arrangements. They may ask you about bringing in clothing that you would want your loved one to wear during the service, bringing a photograph for the obituary, or even the DD214 Discharge paperwork if they were a veteran.

Sometimes this presents the arising of new questions or thoughts. Feel free to write down any specific desires or ideas you’d want to share with the funeral director. They will be happy to help you and address your concerns, take care of any details on your behalf, and help coordinate the different tasks necessary for the service. Here at Altmeyer Funeral Home, we want to educate all families of their choices and the care we provide. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us.

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