What To Do When A Parent Dies?

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June 6, 2023 by Marjorie R. Rogers, MA (English), Certified Consultant

When a parent dies, the first steps to take are: contact family members, notify the funeral home, and obtain the death certificate. Losing a parent is an unfortunate event that brings an immense amount of emotional pain.

Dealing with one’s emotions can be exhausting, coupled with the added stress of making plans for the funeral service as well as settling the legal aspects of the estate. Knowing what to do when a parent dies will help alleviate these stresses, and allow you to focus on handling your emotions.

This guide will walk you through the initial steps that need to be taken after a parent passes away. We’ll also provide tips on how to support yourself and your family during this difficult time.

What To Do When A Parent Dies?

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Understanding The Emotional Impact Of Losing A Parent

Losing a parent is one of the most challenging experiences one can go through. Without proper coping mechanisms and support, it can feel overwhelming. While grief is a natural process, everyone handles it differently. Understanding the emotional impact of losing a parent is the first step in navigating this journey.

Discussing The Emotional Aspect Of Losing A Parent:

  • The emotional impact of losing a parent can be immense, with some individuals experiencing a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, and even numbness.
  • It’s okay to feel whatever emotions arise, do not try to disguise them as this may prevent you from properly grieving.
  • Losing a parent might mean that you will never be able to do some of the things that you enjoyed doing together, adding to the emotional burden.
  • Sharing your feelings and emotions with family, friends, or even a grief counselor can help you cope better.

Coping Mechanism And Resources Available To Help Family Members Deal With The Loss:

  • Creating a support system after the loss of a parent can help to alleviate some of the burden.
  • Grief counseling can provide a safe space to discuss your feelings and help you develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Joining support groups where individuals who have gone through similar experiences can offer their support and advice.
  • Engaging in activities that you enjoy can help you process your emotions, such as listening to music, journaling, and exercising.

Handling Grief And Mourning

  • Grief has no timeline, so it’s crucial to be patient with yourself, and take as much time as you need to process the loss of your parent.
  • Mourning doesn’t always have to be a solemn affair; you can opt to celebrate the life your parent had by creating a memory box or hanging up pictures of happy moments.
  • Finding healthy ways to cope with grief is paramount, as harmful coping mechanisms (such as drug or alcohol use) can lead to long-term consequences.
  • Remember that you are allowed to mourn in your own way, do not force yourself to follow societies’ expectations of what mourning looks like.

Losing a parent may leave a void in your life, but understanding grief and mourning, alongside having a support system and engaging in healthy coping mechanisms, can help you navigate this difficult time.

Making Practical Arrangements After The Death Of A Parent

Losing a parent is an emotional event, but after the initial shock subsides, there are practical arrangements to be made. Here are the key points to consider:

Notifying Relevant Authorities And Next Of Kin

Informing authorities and family members about the death should be your top priority. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Call the local emergency services or police if your parent dies at home without medical supervision.
  • Contact your parent’s primary care physician or hospice provider if they were under medical care.
  • Notify the next of kin, close family members or friends about your parent’s death.

Obtaining The Death Certificate And Other Necessary Documents

It is essential to obtain the necessary documents after the death of a parent. Here are the steps that you need to take:

  • Contact the funeral home or crematorium to start the process of obtaining the death certificate.
  • Gather your parent’s id cards, insurance policy documents, and will for legal and financial purposes.
  • If your parent was an organ donor, inform the medical staff so they can begin the donation process.

Arranging For Funeral Services And Burial/Cremation

Funeral services and burial/cremation arrangements are an essential part of the grieving process. Here are the steps you need to take:

  • Choose a funeral home or crematorium and discuss the type of ceremony, burial/cremation, and funeral expenses.
  • Send out invitations and coordinate the service details.
  • Consider cremation as a low-cost alternative to a traditional funeral.

Managing The Deceased’S Estate And Finances

Managing your parent’s estate and finances can be overwhelming. Here’s what you need to be aware of:

  • Contact your parent’s lawyer to discuss their will, trusts, and estates.
  • Notify banks, credit card companies, and financial institutions about your parent’s death.
  • File any outstanding tax returns and clear out any remaining debts and bills.

Hopefully, these key points will help you navigate the practical arrangements associated with the death of your parent. Remember, it’s essential to take your time and process your feelings while handling all the necessary logistics.

Legal Considerations And Steps To Take When A Parent Dies

Understanding Probate And The Estate Administration Process

When a parent dies, the legal process of dealing with their assets and liabilities is called probate. Here are some key points to keep in mind when dealing with probate:

  • The probate process can be complicated, and it’s best to consult with a probate attorney to help guide you.
  • The process involves verifying the deceased’s will and identifying and valuing their assets and debts.
  • Once the assets and debts are identified, they will be used to pay off any outstanding debts owed by the deceased.
  • The remaining assets will then be distributed to the heirs according to the instructions in the deceased’s will.

Identifying And Communicating With The Deceased’S Attorney

In many cases, the deceased will have an attorney who helped them write their will and manage their affairs. Here’s what you need to do to identify and communicate with the attorney:

  • Look for the deceased’s legal documents, including their will, trusts, and estate planning paperwork.
  • If there is an attorney listed, reach out to them to let them know about the death.
  • The attorney can help guide you through the legal process and make sure that all necessary legal documents are filed.

Addressing Debts And Liabilities

When a parent dies, it’s important to address any debts and liabilities they may have had. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Identify all of the deceased’s debts and liabilities, including mortgages, credit cards, and other types of loans.
  • Notify the creditors of the death and begin the process of paying off outstanding debts.
  • If there isn’t enough money in the estate to pay off all debts, the creditors may need to take legal action to recover their money.

Dealing With Inheritance And The Distribution Of Assets

One of the most important steps after a parent dies is to distribute their assets according to their wishes. Here’s what you should know:

  • If there is a will, it will outline how the assets should be distributed.
  • If there is no will, the assets will be distributed according to state law.
  • Once the assets are distributed, make sure to update any legal documents and deeds to reflect the new ownership.

Frequently Asked Questions For What To Do When A Parent Dies?

What Do I Do First When A Parent Dies?

The first thing you should do is call the coroner or funeral director. They can help you with necessary arrangements.

How Can I Deal With The Grief And Loss?

Dealing with grief is a personal process. Consider therapy, talking with friends, and giving yourself time to heal.

What Legal Matters Should I Handle?

You’ll need to obtain the death certificate and handle estate matters. Consider consulting with an attorney for legal guidance.

Who Do I Notify Of My Parent’S Death?

Notify close family and friends, employer, financial institutions, and government agencies such as social security.

How Can I Honor My Parent’S Memory?

You can honor your parent’s memory by creating a memorial, sharing memories, and doing things they loved in their memory.


Losing a parent is one of the most challenging moments of life, and coping with loss is a long process. Remember, everyone has unique needs and deals with grief differently. However, there are several things you can do to manage your emotions and take care of yourself.

It’s essential to reach out for help, talk to close friends and family members who can offer support, and seek guidance from a mental health professional. Take time off from work or school if necessary, and make time for yourself to grieve properly.

Cherish your parent’s legacy by creating a memory album, writing a letter or poem, planting a memorial tree or garden, making a donation to a charity in their memory, or doing something they loved to do. In the end, know that you are not alone, and healing takes time.

Be kind, patient, and gentle with yourself and take the time you need to heal.

About Author (Marjorie R. Rogers)

The inspiring mum of 6 who dedicates her time to supporting others. While battling with her own demons she continues to be the voice for others unable to speak out. Mental illness almost destroyed her, yet here she is fighting back and teaching you all the things she has learned along the way. Get Started To Read …