What to do when a loved one dies

The first few hours after a loved ones death can be a very emotional and stressful time. You are not on your own and we can assist and guide you at every step of the way.

When a death occurs what do I do now?

Someone in your family or close to you has died and nothing can soften the shock and emotional distress you feel. “What do I do now?” is often the first question asked.

As hard as it is, the first thing is not to panic or get over stressed with worry, although this is easier said than done.

In the first instance you may find it easier to make contact with any one of our team at

The Lychway, (06) 3578143 and allow us to take a lot of the pressure from you and do what needs to be done on your behalf. We are available to you 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and we ask you to call us and allow us to assist you and guide you through the process.

So …. depending on where the person has passed away will in some ways direct you to the next step in the process.

If the person has passed away in hospital or other facility

When a death occurs in a hospital, hospice or rest home it is common practice for the staff there to contact the doctor, on your behalf, to issue a Medical Certificate of Causes of Death. You may wish to spend time with your loved one before contacting us and the subsequent transferral of the deceased into our care.Rest homes often request information at the time of admittance. Questions such as the main contact person, preference of Funeral Director, and whether the person’s wish is to be buried or cremated.

When a resident dies in a rest home or hospital they will offer to contact us on your behalf. The care provider will inform us of the death and arrange a convenient time to transfer the deceased to the funeral home. Making your instructions clear to them is important.

Tell the rest home or hospital staff if you wish to spend time with the person who has died prior to us transferring them to the funeral home.

If the person has passed away at home

When a death occurs in a hospital, hospice or rest home it is common practice for the staff there to contact the doctor, on your behalf, to issue a Medical Certificate of Causes of Death. You may wish to spend time with your loved one before contacting us and the subsequent transferral of the deceased into our care.Rest homes often request information at the time of admittance. Questions such as the main contact person, preference of Funeral Director, and whether the person’s wish is to be buried or cremated.

When a resident dies in a rest home or hospital they will offer to contact us on your behalf. The care provider will inform us of the death and arrange a convenient time to transfer the deceased to the funeral home. Making your instructions clear to them is important.

Tell the rest home or hospital staff if you wish to spend time with the person who has died prior to us transferring them to the funeral home.

Leave a phone number and address so we can make contact with you, an indication of a time frame when you would like to be contacted by us is also helpful.

If the person has passed away by an accidental death

An accidental death encompasses a variety of different circumstances; however in all these situations the police will need to be involved. They will examine the scene before organising a funeral director to transfer the deceased to a funeral home or hospital mortuary.

If the person has passed away out of town or overseas

Contact us immediately.  Our focus will be to get your loved one home as soon as possible. We will make all the arrangements and prepare the required documentation. You will be kept fully informed of progress and once the preliminary arrangements have been finalised, we can discuss the funeral details.

If the person has passed away by a Sudden Death

If a doctor is unable to determine the cause of death and issue the associated legal documentation, the death will be reported to the Coroner.The Coroner is a legal officer appointed under the Coroners Act who has the duty to establish the cause of death in certain circumstances. In New Zealand, a death is reported to the Coroner by contacting the Police, who act as the “Coroner’s Agent”.

The Coroner may become involved when:

  • a doctor is unavailable or unable to establish the cause of death
  • there has been no recent consultation with a medical practitioner
  • there is a sudden unexpected death
  • death occurs from other than natural causes
  • there is an accidental death

When a sudden death occurs, the police will be called to the scene and will take the lead in managing the situation, to begin initial enquires and arrange for the transfer of the deceased to the nearest Coroner’s Mortuary (usually located at the public hospital) for a post mortem examination. The transfer to the mortuary is usually conducted by a duty funeral director who is contracted to the police. It is important to note that you are not obliged to use the duty funeral director to conduct the funeral.

The Police will also ensure that the next of kin is notified and has support. Victim Support, may also offer to help. Victum Support are a community based organisation and are a good source of information about other community groups or agencies that can be of assistance.

When a death is reported to the Coroner, it is the Coroner’s role to establish the identity of the deceased and the cause of death. In most instances, this will be done by instructing a pathologist (a medical specialist) to examine the body. This procedure is called a post mortem examination or autopsy.

The post mortem is an external and internal examination of the body. There are some people who, for cultural or spiritual reasons, may be opposed to a post mortem being conducted. In such cases, the Corner has an obligation to consider this opposition before authorising this procedure to be conducted.

In deciding whether or not to conduct a post mortem, the Coroner will take into account the likelihood that the post mortem will reveal information about how, where and when the person died, or about the deceased’s identity, whether the death may have been caused by the actions of other people, or anything suspicious about the death.

Once the post mortem has been completed and the Coroner has established the cause of death, the body will become available to be released for the funeral. In most instances, the Coroner will only require the body for a period of approximately 24 hours. Therefore, it is important for you to contact the funeral director you wish to take care of funeral arrangements as soon as possible and they will liaise with the coroner for the release of the body.

Additionally, a Coroner may decide to hold an inquest into the death. An inquest is a formal hearing in a court of law. This is done to establish all circumstances relevant to the death. The inquest often happens months after the funeral has taken place.

The role of the Coroner is important in establishing the cause of death and has particular relevance in light of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) obligations in regard to accidental deaths, and assistance available to those affected by an accidental death.

If the person has passed away overseas

When a death occurs overseas, it can add a number of complications to what is already a difficult time. It is important to contact us as soon as possible for advice and assistance on the options available to you, as well as to discuss anything specific to the situation.In general, when someone dies overseas you have two basic options:

  1. bring the person home to New Zealand,
  2. or carry out funeral arrangements in the country where the death has occurred.

In either event, a funeral director or the local equivalent in the other country will need to be engaged to assist. Depending on where the death has occurred we may be able to recommend who to use in the other country based on past experience.

If not, there may be family or friends with the deceased in the foreign country that will make the necessary funeral arrangements.

Another good source of information about what happens in this situation, in other countries, is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

When dealing with an overseas death, the key is patience. Other countries have different processes to follow than we do here in New Zealand – even countries similar to ours. This process may appear as though it is taking a long time to happen.

When the intention is to bring the deceased home to New Zealand, it would be wise not to set a day and time for the funeral until the arrival details into the country are known with certainty. It is also wise to allow enough time for airline delays, and for the possibility of viewing and other formalities in New Zealand before the funeral.

The death is registered in the country where the death occurred.

If the person has passed away and needs repatriation to another country

When someone dies in New Zealand who is to be repatriated to another country for burial or cremation, contact us for assistance. In addition to the normal processes that are involved in a funeral, there are other requirements which must be fulfilled to meet the regulations of the country receiving the deceased, and also the airline which will carry the deceased home.In general terms, you will require a death certificate, evidence that the body does not have a notifiable disease, a certificate of embalming, and the necessary export and import clearance for New Zealand and the country of destination. It is also a requirement that the casket be hermetically sealed. These requirements vary from country to country and we are able to inform you of the requirements specific to your situation, and carry them out so the repatriation runs smoothly.

When the deceased is to be sent to another country the following questions might need to be considered;

a)    Will a funeral service be held in New Zealand prior to departure?

b)    Who will look after the arrangements in the other country?

c)     Are there family that wish to travel on the same flight as the casket?

When sending ashes to another country, you do have the option of taking them yourself as a carry-on item, if you have the correct documentation. If you wish to send them by post or courier, sending the ashes from one funeral director to another is the recommended method.  New Zealand Post will not accept ashes from the general public. Again, contact us for assistance.

If the person has passed away and organ donation has been noted

Many New Zealander’s have ticked “yes” to becoming a donor on their driver’s licence however less than 1% of people who die can donate organs for transplantation.Organ donation – can only happen when a person is on a ventilator in an intensive care unit and has fatal brain damage.

Tissue donation – (heart valves, eyes and skin) can occur in many more circumstances and can be facilitated a number of hours following death.

People of all ages may be considered for tissue donation and there are very few illnesses that would prevent such a donation.

Every year families in New Zealand generously agree to organ and tissue donation following the death of a loved family member saving or improving the lives of many grateful recipients.

A health professional from Organ Donation NZ is available 24 hours a day to answer any questions about donation or to facilitate organ and tissue donation.

Summary

That is alot of information to digest.

In the first instance you may find it easier to make contact with any one of our team at The Lychway (06) 3578143 and we will be able to assist you in every situation.

Once you have made contact with us, allow us to take a lot of the pressure from you and do what needs to be done on your behalf. Rest assured that we will always keep you fully informed of each process as we proceed.

We will need to get together for a meeting and during one of the first meetings we have, we need to obtain certain information to register the death to the government agency of Birth Deaths and Marriages. This information of the deceased consists of:

Full Legal Name
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Legal residence of the deceased
Name of spouse (maiden name of wife)
Occupation (prior to retirement)
Both parent’s names (and their occupations)
Ages of living children

If it is possible you can also bring to this meeting:

A recent Photograph of the deceased:
This way we can get a true picture of what the deceased looked like prior to their death and allow us to present them as close as possible to that photo.

Pre-arrangement Forms and Pre-paid contract:
(if this has been previously arranged)

Clothing:
We, or in some cases the family, may wish to dress the deceased. Therefore a full complement of clothing is required, including undergarments and clothes of your choice. Shoes are not always needed and these are optional. The type of clothes chosen are often their favourite outfit, or otherwise a style of clothes that reflected their personality.

Other Personal Items
For the person to wear can be brought to this arrangement meeting. During the meeting you will be asked to confirm with items you wish to be left in the casket and which are to be returned to you. Obviously personal items left in the casket will not be able to be returned after the funeral process.

A guide to those left behind after bereavement