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Following the death of a loved one

We would like to express our sincere sympathy to you and your family.

This booklet has been designed to include a range of information that may be of use to you and your family and friends. It is intended to guide you through some of the decisions and emotions you may be dealing with following the death of your loved one.

Grief reactions

Everyone will react to a death in different ways but it can help to know some of the feelings and physical reactions that people experience. These reactions are a very normal response to the death of someone close to you.

You may experience some, all or none of these reactions as grief is such a personal experience. If you find that your distress is continuing longer that you feel it should or is causing you concern there are people you can talk to. Contact details are provided at the end of this booklet.

Physical Feelings
Nausea (feeling sick) Sadness
Sweating Anger
Exhausted (tired) Feeling lonely
Energetic (can’t sit still) Disbelief
Headache Feeling anxious
Loss of appetite Feeling numb
Increased heart rate Guilt
Disruptive sleep patterns Overwhelming sense of loss and sorrow
Inability to concentrate Questioning of faith

Hospital care

death imgWhen someone dies in hospital, their family, friends and other
support people are welcome to spend time with them.

You may choose this time to say things you haven’t had the chance to say, just sit with them, hold them or say your goodbyes—what you are most comfortable with is the right choice. Alternatively, you may prefer to spend time with family and friends to remember your loved one.

The usual practice is for staff to wash your loved one and prepare them for
transfer to the mortuary. Please be assured that we will continue to treat your
loved one with great respect and dignity during this time. If there are particular cultural considerations the staff need to be aware of please let them know. Before leaving the hospital, ensure your loved one's personal belongings and valuables are taken with you.

What should I do following the death?

Unless your loved one has made arrangements prior to their death with a funeral director or body donation program, you will need to choose a funeral director. The law in Queensland dictates that a funeral director must be used.

There are several ways to find a funeral director:

  • Your family member may have mentioned a funeral director they would like you to use.
  • Family and friends may have had experience with a particular company.
  • Do a search using Google.
  • The Australian Funeral directors Association has a search function on their webpage afda.org.au or telephone 03 9859 9966.

Once you engage a funeral director they will arrange the transfer of your loved one from the hospital and obtain all the relevant details and certificates required for burial or cremation.

A funeral or memorial service provides you with an opportunity to gather with friends and family including children to mourn and celebrate the life of the person who has died. It is an important time to grieve, to remember and give thanks for their life.

Important matters to discuss with the funeral director

The funeral director will guide you through the funeral choices and styles available and the costs involved. The decision to choose a burial or cremation is a personal one, it may have already been made or voiced by your loved one or may need to be decided by the family.

The location of a Cemetery for a burial or where the ashes are located following a cremation is also a personal preference. If a cremation is decided, there are many options—you may choose an urn, a wall or garden niche located at the Crematorium or the ashes can be collected for scattering by the family.

A funeral service can be held in a Church, Chapel, Crematorium, Gravesite or at a private venue, or there may be a decision not to have a funeral service and your family may choose other ways to remember and honour the person. A funeral director will be able to make any arrangements for regional, interstate and international transfers of the deceased if this is required.

The funeral director will need information about the deceased including:

  • full name
  • residential address
  • date and place of birth
  • parent’s details
  • marriage details
  • details of any children
  • occupation
  • if born overseas the date of arrival in Australia.

The person who signs an agreement with the funeral director is liable for the account. You can ask the funeral director to provide a breakdown of the costs and what aspects are optional as you may prefer to make your own arrangements for some aspects like flowers and music. Like any service you purchase it may be helpful to obtain several quotes from different companies before making your final choice.

Often the money to pay for a funeral will need to come from the deceased’s estate. Contact the relevant bank or financial institution to see if they will release funds from a deceased person’s estate to pay for the funeral. The bank will usually require a copy of the account from the funeral home in order to release these funds. It is important to make arrangements with the funeral director about the payment of the account, particularly if there is a likely delay.

Financial assistance 

If you are having financial difficulties and cannot afford the cost of a funeral please contact the local courthouse or the Coroners Court of Queensland.
Website: courts.qld.gov.au
Phone: 1300 304 605

Centrelink

Centrelink provides a range of information about what to do following the death of a loved one.

Centrelink can be contacted via their website or face to face by visiting a local office. The telephone contact numbers vary according to the payment type and can be found on their website.
Website: humanservices.gov.au/

Insurance policies

The deceased may have held an insurance policy to cover the expense of a funeral.

In these circumstances you will need to find the policy and speak to the financial institution issuing the policy to determine who the beneficiaries of the policy are and how the policy can be paid out.

Legal matters

A Will is a legal document that instructs you about the deceased person’s wishes.

Someone (or multiple people) is/are named as Executor of the will. This person(s) is responsible for managing the deceased’s estate including distributing the assets and belongings to beneficiaries and for payment of debts from the estate.

If no Will exists you should seek legal advice from the Queensland Public Trustee, Legal Aid or a private solicitor.
Depending on the personal circumstances of the deceased a Grant of Probate may be required. Probate is the Supreme Court of Queensland’s official recognition of a Will as legally valid.A grant is a Supreme Court document that recognises someone’s authority to deal with the estate of a person who has passed away. Probate is often needed before the executor of a deceased estate can take control of the estates assets (administer the estate).

Executors and administrators of deceased estates must be authorised to administer the estate before they deal with the estate assets—a grant gives that authority.

Webiste: www.qld.gov.au/law/births-deaths-marriages-and-divorces/deaths-wills-and-probate

Can I have a copy of the death certificate?

When someone dies a Doctor completes a Medical Cause of Death Certificate and this is provided to the funeral director to allow the funeral arrangements to proceed.

Following the funeral this certificate, details about the person who had died and details of the funeral location are provided to the Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages so that the death can be officially registered. The “Death Certificate” is not available until all of this information has been submitted, generally about two weeks following the death. The funeral director can arrange a copy of the Death Certificate for you or you can apply directly to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Phone: 1300 366 430

Deaths that must be reported to the Coroner

A hospital must notify the Coroner if a death is of unnatural causes, the cause of death is unknown or the death is reportable under the Coroners’ Act 2003.

After the Coroner is notified of a reportable death they will decide whether a coronial investigation is required. A representative of the Coroner, usually a police officer, will come to the hospital to collect information and organise transportation of your loved ones’ body to Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services. As part of the  investigation the Coroner may order that an autopsy be performed to assist determination of the cause of death. An autopsy is the medical examination of the body and internal organs.

Information about the process of coronial investigation can be provided by the Counsellors at the Coronial Family Service.

Phone: 1800 449 171

Non-Coronial autopsy

In some situations conducting an autopsy can provide further information about the cause of death. If the medical staff feel this would be beneficial they will discuss with you and obtain specific consent to perform the examination.

The gift of organ and or tissue donation

When your loved ones dies in hospital there is often the opportunity to consider organ and/or tissue donation for transplantation and/or research which helps save and improve the quality of life for many Australians who suffer from disease or trauma. You may have had discussions with your loved one about their wishes regarding donation or they may have recorded their wishes on the Australian Organ Donor Registry.

Not everyone is able to donate organs or tissue for transplantation after their death. Sometimes the cause of death or previous illnesses might prevent donation. If organ or tissue donation is possible then families may be contacted by the staff at Donate Life Queensland or the Queensland Tissue Bank to discuss.

Website: donatelife.gov.au
Phone: 07 3176 2350

Who needs to be notified of your loved one's death?

There are a number of people and institutions to be notified of a death. The affairs of the person who died will need to be finalised. Most of the people listed will need notification in writing and may also require a certified copy of the Death Certificate and in some cases a copy of the Will. Some institutions may require probate in order to close accounts and release information to the Executor.

The following is a list of people and organisations who may need to be advised of the death of your loved one:

Executor of Estate Financial Advisor Australian Taxation Office Rates
Solicitor Banks and/or Credit Unions Australian Electoral Commission Electricity
Public Trustee Credit card and hire purchase providers Medicare Gas
Funeral Fund Provider of Social Media accounts Department of
Veteran Affairs
Water
General Practitioner (GP)/Specialist Internet and phone providers Department of
Human Services
Private Health Insurance
Accountant Schools, TAFE, University Centrelink Life Insurance
Residential Aged Care Facility Community groups/clubs Pension (Australian
or Foreign authority)
Superannuation
Landlord +/- Tenants Retail accounts and Loyalty programs Australia Post House Insurance
Family and friends Vet and/or animal kennel My Aged Care Vehicle and/or
Boat Insurance
Employer Library Department of Transport Trade Union/Professional Association

 

We understand this is a difficult time for you and your family.

If you wish to speak to someone, you can contact a pastoral care worker or social worker at Mater.

You may also wish to contact your local GP if you would like a referral to a counsellor in the community. If you belong to a particular religious denomination you may wish to speak to a member of that community to support you through this difficult time.

Loved ones may leave this world but they never leave our hearts. 

Contact details

Mater Social Work
Pastoral Care

For more information telephone: 07 3163 8111

Email: info@mater.org.au

 

We wish to acknowledge that sections of the content in this booklet have been partially reproduced with the kind permission of HammondCare. © HammondCare, Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420073
Last modified 21/2/2020.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 20/9/2019
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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