ResourcesTake a look at some advice and information to assist with the loss of a loved one.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one
Losing someone or something you love is very painful. After a significant loss, you may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger, and guilt. Sometimes it may feel like the sadness will never let up. While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are normal reactions to loss. Accepting them as part of the grieving process and allowing yourself to feel what you feel is necessary for healing.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve — but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. You can get through it! Grief that is expressed and experienced has a potential for healing that eventually can strengthen and enrich life.
Myths and Facts About Grief
MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.
Death of a parent
First things first
The most immediate tasks when someone dies are to make the final arrangements and notify others of the death. If your parent left specific funeral and burial instructions, with a list of people to be notified, your job is that much easier. If not, you’ll need to consult with other family members and look for address books that can help you with your task.
Most people contact a funeral home for help with arrangements. If your parent was religious, call the pastor, priest, rabbi or other religious leader for guidance.
It’s also traditional to put together an obituary to run in the local paper. This can be a challenge if your parent didn’t leave behind some kind of summary of her life, but you can pick the brains of friends and relatives for help. The funeral director usually can help with this task, or you can call the newspaper and ask about its procedures for running obits.
Essential documents and offers of help
This is a good time to order several copies of the death certificate so that you have these essential documents on hand when you later apply for any life insurance benefits or financial accounts. Again, funeral directors typically can handle this task for you, or you can contact the health department in the county where your parent lived.
How many certificates you need depends on how complex your parent’s finances were and what estate planning was done before death.
Taking care of business
Your parent probably was receiving income from somewhere — an employer, a pension, the Social Security Administration, or perhaps all three. Legally, they need to be told of the death.
If your parent was employed or receiving a pension, you should notify the company’s human-resources department within a few days of the death. This also will start the process of collecting any life insurance, accrued vacation pay or other benefits the employer may owe the family.
If your parent was receiving other government or health services, such as Medicaid or hospice care, these agencies should be notified as well.
Decisions to be made
The following important matters will require your consideration:
- Do you wish to have a funeral or a cremation? Where possible, the deceased’s will or any funeral contract should be examined for any specific instructions relating to the matter.
The final plans for the deceased’s remains include:
- Burial – Burial requires purchasing a cemetery plot, casket, grave liner or vault, and grave marker or monument.
- Entombment – A patient or family may choose to have the body entombed above ground in a casket placed in a tomb or mausoleum.
- Cremation – Cremation is a heat process which reduces the remains to ashes. The ashes can be stored in a urn and buried, placed in a niche at a cemetery, kept at home, or scattered. If the wish is for the ashes to be scattered, you should consult with the funeral director regarding legal restrictions.
- What type of casket do you require?
A variety of products are available to suit your requirements.
- Where would you like the funeral service to be held? In your own church, the crematorium chapel, in our funeral chapel, in your home, etc.
- Where would you like the deceased to be buried?
In the local cemetery, in the family cemetery, at his place of birth, etc.
- Do you require any special services?
The nature and extent of any function to be arranged for funeral goers, photographs to be taken, video recording of the proceedings, transport for the funeral goers, etc
- How do you wish to personalize the service?
The dressing of the deceased, type of flowers, service programmes, special music, etc.
- Whom do you wish to officiate at the funeral?
If you do not know of a minister, we can obtain the services of one for you.
- Whom do you wish to act as bearers?
Family members, friends, etc.
- Do you require notices to be placed in local newspapers?
Please let us have the necessary wording as soon as possible to make the newspaper’s deadlines for advertisements.
Definition of a Funeral
The purpose of a funeral is to give meaning to a person’s life. It’s an opportunity for family and friends to gather and remember the deceased while offering support and comfort to one another. Planning a funeral can be an emotional process with several legal and financial matters to consider. Taking these steps can help you as you plan, whether you are planning your own funeral or that of a loved one.
The African Concept of Death
Death, although a dreaded event, is perceived as the beginning of a person’s deeper relationship with all of creation, the complementing of life and the beginning of the communication between the visible and the invisible worlds. The goal of life is to become an ancestor after death. This is why every person who dies must be given a “correct” funeral, supported by a number of religious ceremonies. If this is not done, the dead person may become a wandering ghost, unable to “live” properly after death and therefore a danger to those who remain alive. It might be argued that “proper” death rites are more a guarantee of protection for the living than to secure a safe passage for the dying. There is ambivalence about attitudes to the recent dead, which fluctuate between love and respect on the one hand and dread and despair on the other, particularly because it is believed that the dead have power over the living.
Many African peoples have a custom of removing a dead body through a hole in the wall of a house, and not through the door. The reason for this seems to be that this will make it difficult (or even impossible) for the dead person to remember the way back to the living, as the hole in the wall is immediately closed. Sometimes the corpse is removed feet first, symbolically pointing away from the former place of residence. A zigzag path may be taken to the burial site, or thorns strewn along the way, or a barrier erected at the grave itself because the dead are also believed to strengthen the living. Many other peoples take special pains to ensure that the dead are easily able to return to their homes, and some people are even buried under or next to their homes.
Many people believe that death is the loss of a soul, or souls. Although there is recognition of the difference between the physical person that is buried and the nonphysical person who lives on, this must not be confused with a Western dualism that separates “physical” from “spiritual.” When a person dies, there is not some “part” of that person that lives on—it is the whole person who continues to live in the spirit world, receiving a new body identical to the earthly body, but with enhanced powers to move about as an ancestor. The death of children is regarded as a particularly grievous evil event, and many peoples give special names to their children to try to ward off the re-occurrence of untimely death.
There are many different ideas about the “place” the departed go to, a “land” which in most cases seems to be a replica of this world. For some it is under the earth, in groves, near or in the homes of earthly families, or on the other side of a deep river. In most cases it is an extension of what is known at present, although for some peoples it is a much better place without pain or hunger. The Kenyan scholar John Mbiti writes that a belief in the continuation of life after death for African peoples “does not constitute a hope for a future and better life. To live here and now is the most important concern of African religious activities and beliefs. . . . Even life in the hereafter is conceived in materialistic and physical terms. There is neither paradise to be hoped for nor hell to be feared in the hereafter” (Mbiti 1969, pp. 4–5). Piece from www.deathreference.com
Environmentally Friendly Funerals
An eco friendly has influenced all aspects of life from transportation to food and music festivals. You can also be considerate to the environment in death with an environmentally friendly funeral. Between clearing areas out to create burial sites, green house gases due to cremation, trees cut down to make caskets and embalming fluid which contains chemicals like formaldehyde other solvents burials are not environmentally friendly. Below follow a few alternative options to ensure you make your contribution to the earth long after you are gone.
Cardboard coffins are ideal for cremations as it cuts the cremation time by half which means less carbon emissions. Besides being environmentally friendly, an advantage of the cardboard coffin is that one can customise the coffin with an image of one’s choice.
The use of trees as tombstones has become more widespread. An indigenous tree is specially planted, with the deceased’s details on a plaque, marks the burial spot.
One of the concerns of biodegradable coffins is that their appearance is simply not elegant and distinguished as coffins made the traditional way. With Coffin Cover one can still give the illusion of a “normal” coffin by is covering the plain biodegradable coffin with a removable “outer” coffin. This outer coffin is later removed and reused. The funeral cost as well as the impact to the environment is dramatically lowered.
A Swedish ecologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak developed a method using human remains as fertiliser. Within a few days after death the body is frozen in liquid nitrogen which makes the body brittle. Ultrasound waves are then used to crack open the tissues to let the nitrogen work right to the core. The frozen bodies shatter into a powder with the tap of a hammer. The result is a hygienic odourless powder that can be used to fertilise plants.
An English company Biopresence, uses a specially developed coding method to encode human DNA underneath the DNA of a plant cell, without affecting the resulting tree in any way. This way the person’s DNA will live on as an integral part of the tree. These new kind of trees considered “Memorials for Life” or “Transgenic Tombstones” and seen as an alternative to traditional graves and headstones.
Here is a burial that can be considered environmentally friendly but not recommended for people outside of the Tibetan culture:
Tibetan “Sky burial”
With soil too hard for digging graves and a scarcity in fuel and timber the Tibetans found an alternative way to lay their dead to rest. Sky burial, also known as a ritual dissection, used to be a common funerary practice where a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop which leaves it exposed to the elements and animals such as birds of prey.
Sky burial is a ritual that has great religious meaning which Tibetans are encouraged to witness, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. Most Tibetans are Buddhists and believe in reincarnation therefore consider the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel.
A eulogy is a well-crafted speech intended to commemorate a loved one who has died. It is usually presented at a memorial service or funeral by someone who was close to the deceased and knows them well.
A eulogy may contain:
- a condensed life history of the person who has died
- details about family, friends, work/career, interests, and achievements
- favorite memories of the deceased
- favorite poems, songs, quotes, scripture.
The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from the heart. A eulogy does not have to be perfect. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people in attendance
Choosing a Coffin or Casket
- A coffin has eight sides while a casket has only four. Caskets have become more complex as they have been built to prevent rust, allow for tight seals and create a beautiful effect.
- If you purchase the casket from a source other than the funeral home you are working with, you cannot by law be charged an extra fee for “handling” or other services having to do with receiving the casket.
- Be on guard against sales pitches that insist you should buy a completely sealed coffin or a non rusting coffin for your loved one, or that pitch only high-priced coffins.
- Some funeral homes try to avoid selling you inexpensive coffins by not displaying them. Ask if you don’t see what you want, or request the general price list of available goods or services, which should list everything the funeral home offers – with prices.
Headstones and Tombstones
Headstones are an important part of any family’s grieving process, and are among the most popular and effective memorials in use today. Headstones serve to help families cope with their losses. By establishing permanent memorials, when loved ones die; families can practice the sound advice that psychologists typically give to those going through the grieving process. But, besides their emotional value, headstones are also important for historians. Headstones assure that lives can be documented decades, or even centuries, after death.
The design of permanent memorials has changed substantially over the years. For many years, permanent headstones were usually marked by headstones that were large, up-right pieces of sculpted stone and contained written information about the people whose graves they marked. While these types of memorials are still are used today, they now usually mark groups of graves (such as an entire family). Meanwhile, headstones for individuals typically consist of smaller, plaque-like headstones. In most memorials today, these individual headstones are made of bronze, granite, or a combination of the two and they are displayed directly on the ground at the head of a grave. These headstones typically preserve the memory of one individual or a couple, and they work in tandem with the larger, up-right headstones to create beautiful memorials for entire families.
If the death occurred in the hospital, the attending doctor will issue a medical/death certificate if it was a natural death, you can call you local doctor to issue a medical/death certificate, or you can ask the funeral undertaker to assist you if the person died of unnatural causes, you must contact the police, who will take the body to the state mortuary where an autopsy will be performed before the body will be released to a funeral undertaker
You must provide the funeral undertaker with the deceased person’s ID document, Medical/Death Certificate and a funeral policy if the person had one. REMEMBER: Total Funeral Logistics can assist you with obtaining a Medical/Death Certificate.
Repatriation of Mortal Remains
The Department, in collaboration with its Representatives abroad, provide logistical assistance and advice to the next of kin in the event of the death of a South African citizen abroad.
The Department will assist in the following:
- obtaining a permit for importing mortal remains from the Department of Health
- placing family members into contact with reputable undertakers, and
- obtaining quotes for the transportation of the mortal remains and/or cremation and/or local burial, if so requested by the next of kin.
- providing information on local conditions and procedures affecting the deceased.
Importing of mortal remains to South Africa
Strict laws and regulations govern the transportation of moral remains between countries. The requirements:
Non-infectious mortal remains:
- The body must be embalmed. This must take place within 24 hours. Not all countries have embalming facilities;
- The body must be sealed in an airtight container and placed in a sturdy non-transparent coffin;
- The import permit must be obtained prior to transportation.
Infectious mortal remains:
- The body must be placed in two a polythene bags;
- The body must then be sealed in an airtight container and placed in a sturdy non-transparent coffin;
- The coffin must stay sealed at all times;
- Along with a together with the death certificate a written statement from the medical practitioner stating that the body will not constitute a danger to public health and that the body is screened off according to regulation o R2438 of 30 October 1987, paragraphs 9 and 10 must accompany the body at all times;
- The import permit must be obtained prior to transportation. The South African Representative must provide the following documentation to the Department of Health before an import permit can be issued:
- A letter containing:
- name of the deceased,
- date of death, country of death,
- cause of death, place of burial,
- telephone and area code.
- Embalming certificate
- Letter from attending pathologist or medical doctor to state that the deceased did not suffer from an infectious disease at the time of death; OR
- If the deceased did suffer from an infectious disease, a letter from the medical practitioner indicating that the transportation will not constitute a danger to public health.
- All documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.
Only when all the requirements are met will the Department of Health issue an Import Permit.
- Correspond on behalf of South African citizens abroad with family and/or friends in South Africa;
- Support in evacuation planning of South African citizens abroad in cases of political turmoil, natural or manmade disasters.
- Provide non-financial assistance for repatriation and urgently needed medical or professional attention;
- Liaise with the local authorities in the case of a missing persons and/or determine the whereabouts of South African citizens abroad;
- Provide support services and advice in cases of hostage taking, kidnapping or abduction;
- Support families under certain circumstances by facilitating the transfer of funds to family members in distress abroad.
Legal and Notary:
- Facilitate the serving of legal summons on defendants abroad;
- Convey requests for extradition, rogatory letters and evidence on commission between states;
- Authenticate public documents for use between states;
- Provide non-financial assistance to victims of crime;
- In cases of abduction of South African children to foreign countries, provide guidance and support to the custodial parent/guardian, in collaboration with the Office of the Family Advocate where indicated;
- Supply a list of local lawyers and/or detail of local Law Commissions;
- Supply a list of local translators.
Services not rendered to South African citizens by the Consulate Office
- Pay for cremations, burials or the repatriation of mortal remains to South Africa;
- Secure a release from prison/detention;
- Intervene in court and legal proceedings (in foreign countries);
- Request local authorities to give preferential treatment to South Africans;
- Investigate crimes or deaths;
- Enforce a South African custody agreement abroad or compel a country to decide a custody case;
- Pay hotel, legal, medical or any other bills;
- Obtain accommodation, work or work permits;
- Store personal effects or search for lost items;
- Accept personal mail and parcels;
- Formally assist dual nationals in the country of their second nationality.
Dying is a time of severe stress for everyone involved. Thinking about dying and what will happen after you die is not pleasant. If you do not have a family, your parents or other relatives will likely be responsible for paying for your funeral costs. If you are a parent, your children will be left behind and you do not want them to be deprived of anything because money that was for them was spent paying for your funeral. Funeral insurance can help your loved ones from being free from the responsibility of paying for a casket or other funeral expenses.
Most funeral insurance plans are sold as term life insurance policies. Some funeral insurance policies will expire in as few as five or ten years and others may expire in twenty or thirty years. You may be able to find an insurance company that sells you a funeral insurance policy that will expire when you reach the age of 100. Since you are most likely going to die before you reach that age, most policies are set to expire at that age. However, you should carefully read your policy before you buy it because some policies may expire when you reach the age of 80.
You will have to decide how much coverage you want for a funeral insurance policy. Most policies will be valued anywhere from R5,000 to R50,000 or slightly more. The premiums will significantly increase as the coverage increases because you are not normally required to take a medical exam in order to purchase a policy. For example, your monthly premium could be as much as R100 for a policy worth R30,000. In order to keep the policy in force, you will have to make all of your insurance payments on time.
Most plans will require that you enter the name of your beneficiary. If your beneficiary is deceased at the time of your death, you can elect to enter the name of a contingent beneficiary. You will want to make sure that your insurance policy reflects the correct names of your beneficiaries. Be sure to find out how to change the name of your beneficiary if you need to do that. If you get divorced and you want to make a child or other relative a beneficiary, you should ask about this before you buy the insurance policy. Some companies may ask you to send a divorce certificate and then require that you apply for a new insurance policy.
Ten quick facts about writing a last Will and Testament
- The person who draws up a will is called the testator/testatrix.
- Individuals 16 years old and over are able to draw up a will, granted that they are mentally capable of appreciating the consequence of their actions at the time.
- Anyone 14 years and older, who are mentally capable at the time of the making of the will, can bear witness.
- The testator must sign all the pages of the will anywhere on the page and the final page at the end.
- The testator/testatrix must sign the will in the presence of two or more competent witnesses.
- Those completing blanks in the will or signing as witnesses or their spouses are disqualified from benefiting from a Will.
- When amending a will, it is not necessary for the same witnesses who signed the original to sign the updated will.
- A codicil is a schedule or annexure to an existing will, which is made to supplement or amend an existing will.
- A bequest to an ex partner made in a will before the divorce; will not necessarily fall away after the divorce. The Wills Act states that, unless you specifically provide otherwise, a bequest to ones divorced spouse will be cancelled if one dies within three months of the divorce.
- If the testator/testatrix cannot sign his/her name, he/she may ask someone to sign the will on his/her behalf or he/she can sign the will by making a mark (a thumbprint or a cross).
An estimated 5.7 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2009, more than in any other country.
It is believed that in 2008, over 250,000 South Africans died of AIDS.2 Prevalence is more than 15 percent among those aged 15-49, with some age groups being particularly affected. Almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV.
HIV prevalence among those aged two and older also varies by province with the Western Cape (3.8%) and Northern Cape (5.9%) being least affected, and Mpumulanga (15.4%) and KwaZulu-Natal (15.8%) at the upper end of the scale.
Marking a welcome change from South Africa’s history of HIV, the South African Government launched a major HIV counselling and testing campaign (HCT) in 2010, by raising awareness of HIV the campaign aims to reduce the HIV incidence rate by 50 percent by June 2011.