Preparing for Loss

When confronting a parent’s death, allow for healthier grieving in the moment by addressing the administrative side of loss now.

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by Kathy Megyeri

You’re never quite emotionally prepared for the loss of a parent. I lost mine in very different ways; my mom suddenly to an accident and my dad to dementia after a long hospice stay. The losses were uniquely difficult, but in hindsight both taught me the importance of practical considerations when facing death. Although difficult to employ, the pre-planning tips below make space for your grief when the inevitable loss comes.

1Create a plan of action. As difficult as it may be, sensitively approach your parents about constructing a list of whom to call at the time of passing and where to find all documents related to their estate. Be sure to update insurance beneficiaries, review their will and create a health care directive.

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2Review documents and accounts. To avoid a costly probate, encourage your parents to put your name as the beneficiary on as many things as possible – bank accounts, deeds, investment portfolios, car titles, etc. This simplifies the transfer of property and lowers the legal costs of closing the estate.

3Choose a charity. Don’t underestimate the generosity of others. Ask your parents for the name of a charity to include in their public obituary – you never know who will donate to charity in your parent’s name.

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4Honor the value of hospice. When death is imminent, don’t delay the hospice decision out of emotional denial. Not only is it covered by Medicare, hospice greatly eases end of life pain. Requesting hospice records regularly also keeps you abreast of your parent’s state of mind and any communication that occurred in your absence.

5Create a funeral budget. Budget for funeral costs now, as the cost of modern funerals stress most family budgets. If loss is near, investigate cremation or burial service rates and expect the unexpected – grave diggers charge a service fee and cemetery owners have been known to charge for regular mowing and other upkeep, even if you already own the plot. On the plus side, you may find assistance if you know where to look – if a parent served in the military, contact the VA about any eligibility to funeral assistance benefits.

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6Prearrange your own emotional support. With any major loss comes the acute phase of grieving, when stress and emotions are at their highest. Prepare for the psychological, spiritual, and mental/emotional impact of the death creating a plan that gives you time and space to grieve and cry privately, but also provides the warmth and comfort of knowing you have loved ones to reach out to. Avoid sorting through your parent’s belongings alone as this can often be an overwhelming process. It can be very healing to spend time with someone who has endured this process themselves – they’ll empathize while showing you that eventual acceptance is possible.

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