When death comes home

It’s one thing looking at death in the abstract, as an academic interest or a quirky curiosity, and quite another when it turns up on your doorstep when least expected.

I found out this weekend that my mother has died suddenly in hospital. She had various illnesses on and off for many years, including alcohol issues, but was recently very stable. She was rushed into hospital the other night, and died soon after. As I live hundreds of miles away, I was unable to be there for the death and so I got a phonecall from a relative to inform me the following day.

As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, nothing can be done until tomorrow at least. So there’s no death certificate as yet, and the coroner will be doing a post-mortem, so I have no idea when the body and certificate will be released.

But I will have to travel back at some point in the next few days. As the only surviving next-of-kin, organising the funeral and dealing with the estate (such as it is) is up to me. I won’t lie, it’s bloody terrifying as I have no real experience of this. I did help (along with Georgina) to organise my grandfather’s funeral a few years back, but estates and wills are a new minefield for me.

So what I was thinking of doing was blogging the process as I go. Both as a form of catharsis for me, and hopefully to be able to help others in a similar situation negotiate the legal and personal difficulties of a parent’s death. From dealing with funeral directors and solicitors to trying to organise a funeral in a religion I no longer identify with to dealing with family and the platitudes of well-wishers, it will all be here, so watch this space in the next few days/weeks.

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9 thoughts on “When death comes home

  1. Dear Ryan

    Thank you for your blog and for being brave enough to share with us what is happening to you. I wish you well in organising the funeral. Hopefully you will have good friends to help you with some difficult decisions. I live in Australia – there are some good pointers about organising a memorable funeral on a website called finepoets.com. Good luck.

    • Thanks Ros, appreciate the sentiment. I do have a rather excellent wife who is pretty awesome at organising things, so that’s a great help! I’ve had a look at that finepoets site, there are some really useful tips there, thanks.

  2. Firstly, condolences on your loss. Secondly I would like to say that having been through something similar (Dad died on a holiday weekend and we had to organise everything for the first time ever) that sharing the process will help a lot of people. I sincerely hope that it helps you too.

    • Thanks Claire. Having gone through it yourself, do you have any good pointers for me? I hope that blogging the process will be helpful. I find that I process things in writing better than I do in speech or just thought.

      • I would advise you to just take the time to think about what your Mum would want and try to incorporate that but also to focus on how you feel comfortable saying goodbye. For example we were pushed towards choosing a certain type of burial for Dad as this was ‘easiest’. Happily in the end we found somewhere more appropriate for both him and us. It doesn’t make things any easier but it does help.

  3. My deepest condolences. I’ve no practical advice to offer, though I’m sure a well-maintained spreadsheet or to might come in handy. Take care of yourself as much as you can while you’re taking care of all the practicalities.

    • Thank you, Katie. A spreadsheet is a great idea, and one I had not thought of (I’m using an old notebook at the mo, but a nicely organised Excel file might be easier to use).

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