When Death Occurs

No matter if a death is sudden, or if it something that was a long time coming, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem staggering.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within the first 24 hours after death.


The main principle that governs the care of the deceased immediately following death is the sacredness of man. Man is created in the image of G-d. Although the deceased no longer has a pulse and seemingly serves no purpose, the body must be respected for having embodied the spirit of G-d, and for the character and personality it contained. The following is a basic guideline for the care of the deceased at the time of death according to Jewish tradition.  

  1. Notify your Rabbi, and Funeral Director, and ensure a Shomer is arranged for.  
  2. During the last minutes of a persons life, people in the room should refrain from leaving, unless their emotions are uncontrollable or they are physically ill. It is considered respectful to watch over a person as he passes from this world to the next. 
  3. After death is confirmed, the children, relatives, or friends of the deceased should close the eyes and mouth and draw a sheet over the face.  
  4. The body should be positioned so that the feet are oriented towards the door. Other than that, the body should not be disturbed, except for the honor of the deceased if the position is awkward, or in a place not respectful to the deceased.  
  5. A candle should be placed near the head of the deceased. Another custom is to place many candles around the person. 
  6. There is a moving custom that relatives and friends use this time to ask forgiveness for any harm or discomfort they caused during his lifetime.  
  7. Psalms 23 and 91 are recited 
  8. Personal behavior in the room should be conducted with the greatest respect and honor. There should be no eating or drinking in the room, although they are permissible outside the room. Discussion should be solely pertaining to the deceased and his personal qualities or to funeral arrangements. No derogatory remarks about the deceased should be voiced, even if they are objectively true. There should be no singing, playing of music, or words of Torah. 


When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the person was not under hospice care, the police will have to be notified immediately.  The police will be dispatched to the home and call the doctor if the deceased was a patient at the time of death. The doctor can sign the death certificate and release the body to the funeral home. If the deceased was not under a doctor's care, the police will call the coroner/medical examiner. From there the coroner/medical examiner will take the body and determine whether further action is necessary.  The coroner/medical examiner must release the body before a funeral home can do anything.   If the person was under hospice care, contact the hospice representative if they were not present and they will notify family members what the proper procedures are to follow.

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home/hospice facility

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you and the necessary authorities immediately after a death has occurred.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If you are present at the hospital when the funeral director arrives, they will ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and set up a time to come into the funeral home to make arrangements, however, if you are not present a funeral director will contact you by telephone to discuss these arrangements.

Informing a Funeral Director

Once everything has been cleared with the proper authorities, the next call you place should be to a licensed funeral director.  Funeral directors are here to help you obtain a death certificate, transport the body, and in the event pre-planning was not done, select a casket and arrange the funeral service.  The funeral director will also help you notify the insurance company of the deceased to assist with those arrangements.  Funeral directors are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in funeral planning.

If unsure who to call first, call our office and our experienced staff members will help you along in this difficult time.

Meeting a Funeral Director

You should meet with a funeral director as soon as possible to begin to make final arrangements for your loved one.  Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when you are in heightened emotional state, but, funeral home staff have years of experience dealing with these issues, and strive to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Making Arrangements

First the Funeral Director will gather information required for the death certificate.  This includes:

  • Full Name and Address
  • Marital Status
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Date and City of Birth
  • Highest Level of Education
  • Father’s Name, Mother’s Name (including maiden name)
  • Name of Spouse (if married or widowed)
  • Occupation

The funeral director may also need pertinent documents required to do all the legal paperwork.

If no pre-planning has been done, necessary arrangements need to be made for the funeral service.  These include:

  • Scheduling the location, date and time of the funeral service
  • Selecting a burial package
  • Choosing Funeral Products
  • Arranging a cemetery plot
  • Preparing an obituary and shiva notice
  • Scheduling transportation arrangements

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a memorable funeral for your loved one. 

Have a question? Ask the Director