Death is always a shock. It’s one of the only constant things in life, but it still has the power to knock you off your feet. Even if a loved one has been sick for a while, it’s hard to handle the fact that they’re truly gone. You’ll feel a range of emotions, from guilt to anger to even relief, especially if the person you care about had been suffering for a long time before they died. All of those feelings are normal. One way to deal with the grief is by trying to ensure that your family member’s final wishes are respected.
It starts with the funeral. Your relative may have very specific instructions for their memorial service, from the funeral home you should use to the music they want played. It’s easier to deal with tangible requests like that. It becomes harder when someone dies without leaving any real instructions for how their death should be handled. Then you have to constantly ask yourself “What would my relative want?” That can become emotionally exhausting very quickly. If you have no clear path forward, remember the old adage about how funerals are more for the living than the dead. You don’t have to spend hours agonizing over which coffin to select. It may be better to make some choices and then move on to other things.
After the funeral or memorial service is completed, give yourself time to rest. Planning such events are always emotional. You’re in mourning, and you must also deal with dozens of people offering you condolences. That can be draining even if you’re the biggest introvert in the world. Take some time away from the world. Think of your loved one. Write down some of your favorite memories, since those tend to fade with time. People often forget how someone’s voice sounded, so if you have any voicemail messages or videos of your relative, back those up and keep them in a secure spot.
Hopefully, your loved one wrote a will that specified how their estate should be divided up. An estate can consist of property as well as money, and if there’s no will, figuring out who gets what can get confusing really fast. It can get complicated even with a will. Let’s say a parent dies and leaves each of their three children an equal portion of the house. One sibling may want to sell it, while the other two may want to keep it. You may need to talk to both a real estate agent and a lawyer to figure out what your next steps should be in a situation like that. It’s possible for the two siblings to buy out the third sibling’s share, but it’s not something you want to try and figure out on your own.
Once all the legal stuff is taken care of, you may feel like you should be done grieving somehow. That’s not realistic. Grief is a tricky thing. You can carry on for months or years with only a vague sense of sadness, until one day something in the grocery store reminds you of your loved one, and a few seconds later you’re sobbing in a supermarket deli. Be kind to yourself. Know that the sadness will feel unbearable sometimes, but as you move forward, it won’t always feel that way. Feel free to see a therapist or spiritual advisor if you need help working out your feelings.