DeathSucks.pdf (also known as SayingGoodbye.pdf)
July 1, 2022 9:37 AM   Subscribe

A free "workbook on the kind of bullshit you need to do when someone you love dies", available as a "version with lots of swearing at the useless, shitty situation you're in" or a "version with a fair amount of black humor but no cursewords". Including "Prepare to spend a long and miserable time on the phone," "Depressing Mad Libs" (obituary templates), "So You Suddenly Have To Become Some Kind of Hacker," and "How to plan a non-religious death party". Published 2019.
posted by brainwane (28 comments total) 210 users marked this as a favorite
Consider a living trust for any real estate you plan to leave behind. A trust avoids the problem of going through a probate court, so that's one less problem you're leaving to your executor.
posted by SPrintF at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

If you live in New York State (and you have made certain choices) be prepared to have a very serious funeral-home-man with excellent hair, an impeccable suit, and a caring demeanor hand you a form that you are required to sign and initial in several places stating, in very clear language, that you absolutely understand that CREMATION IS IRREVERSIBLE.

No matter how terrible you are feeling -- and this will occur at a moment when you are feeling very terrible -- you may, if you are a certain kind of person, have to laugh. The man may then apologetically explain that this form is required by New York State law.

Later you may get to wondering how many people had to show up at funeral homes, urns in hand, demanding that their loved-ones be reconstituted before the New York State legislature saw fit to pass a law about this.

Again, it is not inconsistent with mourning to have these kinds of thoughts. Or even to smile when you do.
posted by The Bellman at 11:24 AM on July 1, 2022 [50 favorites]

Where was this a week ago when my dad passed?

Admitedly the hospital and funeral director gave me some handy checklists, so all the logistical/government things are now taken care of. Got the temporary urn and certificates yesterday (mandatory waiting period of a minimum for 48-hrs after death before they will cremate in BC - and then there were financial/legal things to arrange).

While the funeral director was very helpful, I am still a bit miffed about the absolute flimsy cardboard temporary urn... for $65... What a racket.

This is a bittersweet thing, so please don't flood the thread or PM me with condolences - my father and our relationship was "complicated" to say the least. We did manage to re-connect over telephone the final week of May, and I was making plans to come see him for a final visit where he planned to have "MAID", as he had chosen not to get chemotherapy for his pancreatic cancer. Then he had a stroke. Lesson learned - get your plans and wills in-place well before you have extra medical complications.

There has been alot of morbid humour with my uncle, my sisters, my aunts and myself - because, if you aren't going to laugh, you will have to cry. And - even on my dad's part - we spent our last father's day planning what to do with the dispersal of his ashes. (Even with his limited communications ability after the stroke, he was thrilled with the plan... There are many steps that I have to do, first... get my ham/amatuer radio license...)
posted by rozcakj at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2022 [18 favorites]

Thank you, this is exactly what I need right now.
posted by rednikki at 12:29 PM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wow 🙏🏼, this post feels tailored-made for me.
posted by flamk at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Where was this a week ago when my dad passed?

By that, I meant to say thank-you, these are very nice to read - and I wish I had them sooner.
posted by rozcakj at 12:35 PM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

that you absolutely understand that CREMATION IS IRREVERSIBLE.

You know darned well that people are stoopid and SOMEONE had to have asked for this to have become A Thing.

The theater I perform at has everyone sign a 2-page contract of Things You Will Not Do here. They assure you that every single darned thing on the list has been done by someone, from not wearing undies/deodorant to spraying hairspray indoors to showing kids porn.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:23 PM on July 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

While the funeral director was very helpful, I am still a bit miffed about the absolute flimsy cardboard temporary urn... for $65... What a racket.

What happened to my family once upon a time is they refused to pay, so they just handed us a baggie full of ashes. The receptionist had to scramble around for a rubber band.

If you do Science Care, who are really nice by the way, they will FedEx you the ashes that are left. Which is kind of depressing/hilarious. "A package? For me? ....oh." But the box and shipping are at least free.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:45 PM on July 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

My parents both planned their "funeral" with the Memorial Society of British Columbia.

I put funeral in quotes because neither wanted one. What they did want was for their no longer living bodies to be dealt with in as stress free a manner as possible.

And it worked out that way.

They filled out some paperwork in advance (yes to cremation, no to anything but the most basic casket etc), paid a few bucks (the society is a non-profit), and when they died ...

The first and most important action following the death of a family member is to call the MSBC office. We will help you with this seemingly difficult task.
posted by philip-random at 2:07 PM on July 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

^^ the one time fee is for a lifetime membership, and that made me chuckle.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:27 PM on July 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

Yes, unfortunately, because of the bleak nature of this topic, the people who would most benefit from this knowledge are unlikely to casually drop into this thread.

But I like the cut of this author's jib. My mother passed away in March, and as an only child and executor, there are a few other things I would put in there. I suppose this mainly applies to people who are legally "in charge" as an executor or otherwise legally responsible. Also, IANAL, so double-check any and all of this advice in your own state, etc. etc.
  • The death certificate deal: It's much cheaper to order a dozen (or more) at the very beginning of the process versus going back later and having to order more. So overestimate how many you will need.
  • In the US you are supposed to notify the social security department ASAP. However, this has as much to do with trying to prevent identity theft as anything else. You will not get in trouble if you delay it for an extra month or two. Why would you delay it? Because some (not all) credit card and banks subscribe to a notification system and will automatically cancel and/or freeze accounts once they learn of the death. This could screw up things like auto-pays, access to cash, etc. Social Security may end up taking money back out of the account once you officially tell them of the date of passing, but at that point, you will hopefully have had time to deal with things.
  • Think carefully about which accounts you close immediately and which you leave open. I suggest leaving cell phone accounts open as long as possible: so many two step authentication systems rely on the phone, it absolutely was my golden key to a lot of access to online systems.
My last piece of advice is to think very carefully about which representatives of official organizations you inform of the death.

My mother's official will was in a safe deposit box that also had my name on it. However, a friend of mine with experience said "Whatever happens, do *not* tell the bank that she has died. Simply clear everything out of the box, take it home and close it whenever it comes time".

The reason for this is that in some states, if they know the primary owner of the box has died, even though there is a secondary name, they will not allow access until they get a death certificate. In my case that would mean waiting another 2-3 weeks and additional paperwork until I could get the official will out of the box. That's 2-3 weeks of stress and inconvenience I did not need.

Armed with this knowledge, I went into the bank the day after my mom passed, and it was located in a VERY small town, so of course, when I requested access, the manager innocently asked how my mom was (because she knew her personally). I calmly lied to her face and said she was fine. Got access to the box, and cleared the entire thing out, will and all.

It's been 4 months, and I am far from closure both from a practical and emotional sense. So if you're in this place too, be kind to yourself and do your best. This too, shall pass.
posted by jeremias at 3:00 PM on July 1, 2022 [33 favorites]

Some of this may be cultural/not travel well internationally... YMMV, and I’m sure this will be very helpful for some. Do be aware that there’s an f-bomb on page 8 of the “clean” version (unless Dickens had a middle name I was previously unaware of, in which case obviously please disregard…).
posted by breakfast burrito at 3:47 PM on July 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

That is incredible advice and I wish it had been available when my mother died. As it was, I was very glad I'd read Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death and knew to say "no, we are cremating; we will take the legally-required $5.00 cardboard pre-cremation coffin, please. And we want the least-expensive post-cremation container available."
posted by Lexica at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

And we want the least-expensive post-cremation container available.

Ask for their most modestly-priced receptacle.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:00 PM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Well, this comes in handy for me right now.

My kid inquired delicately if I was all right because I was talking about their father's death in a planning-sort-of-way and I told them I was much better, thank you; he's feeling decent right now so I can stand to think about it and I would like to get it all squared away before I actually need it when he dies any time in the next couple of years. And before I am too upset to deal with it.

While I was my mother's caregiver, I had a friends-locked LiveJournal where I wrote about all the hilarious awfulness of walking through illness, dying, and death. It is funny as hell.
posted by Peach at 4:03 PM on July 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

This is so great, thanks!
posted by Glinn at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2022

This is so, so useful. Thank you for posting it.

My dad had his papers in pretty good order when he died a few years ago (in the before times), and this is a good reminder that I'd like to leave my loved ones something similarly negotiable.

No matter how terrible you are feeling -- and this will occur at a moment when you are feeling very terrible -- you may, if you are a certain kind of person, have to laugh.

In the days when my mom and I were calling around to cancel my dad's accounts, I called the pharmacy where his prescriptions had been on auto-refill. I told the person who picked up the phone that Customer Name had passed away and they needed to cancel his refills. Pharmacy Guy answered that he would pause them and the client could re-enable them at any time. I said that won't be necessary, Customer Name had died, please cancel all of them. Pharmacy Guy repeated his assurance that it would be better to just suspend them so they could be restarted when needed again. Finally I blurted out: "He's DEAD. The man's DEAD. He won't need any more medication." There was some stammering followed by reassurances that the account would be closed.

On the one hand it was a shock to absorb the reality of those words as they tumbled out of me, but on the other I still find that conversation terrifically funny.

Anyway, if it's useful for anyone reading this: the mortuary actually reported my dad's decease to Social Security. I don't know if that's standard for the state, or a courtesy, or what, but by the time my mom got around to going to the local SSA office they told her everything had been submitted by the funeral home. Just a consideration for the order of operations.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:10 PM on July 1, 2022 [9 favorites]

Thanks, I hope I can find these saved files on my computer when the time eventually comes.

Death is, well, expected and normal and no one should have any illusions that they or their loved ones are going to live forever. But paperwork - paperwork is where other humans and bureaucracy create their own special kind of misery.

My parents could not be farther apart in their perspectives to dying. One has already handed me a living will with a signed power of attorney, and made it clear that it is my responsibility to give them a dignified death, instead of living as an empty shell as did their own parent for years and years. The other won't even talk about death because talking about it is apparently bad luck.
posted by meowzilla at 10:26 PM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

It is salutary to note that 30% of the advice given is about the on-line world which was irrelevant when my parents died. NoteToSelf: share 50+ passwords with kids now. Thanks for the headsUp.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:54 PM on July 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

When my mom died, I was going to notify SS but put it off for about a week because of other pressing concerns. By the end of that week, I received a letter from them. They already knew and were going to stop benefits. However, they were going to give her one more monthly payment and expressed hope it would help with the inevitable end-of-life expenses. I thought that was surprisingly humane. I didn't need the money but it was a very kind gesture.

There's one memory from all the hectic work after her death that still sticks with me. Mom put a lot of cash in the freezer. She also used banks but her depression-era thinking wanted a backup in case the banks failed.

The day after her death, I'm taking this cash to the bank. I was her primary care giver in her final weeks. I'm looking extremely tired & rough that day. Holding a box full of cash that's just below the level for automatic reporting. Around $9,000 in $20s. The money just reeks of freezer burn.

Teller at this national bank in a mid-sized Arkansas city greets me with a professional flat tone and more than a little suspicion. Can't blame her for that. My appearance + a ton of stinky cash was more than a bit weird. When I noticed her flinch slightly at the strong odor coming from the box, I had to explain why. "Mom just died. She kept a ton of money in the freezer. I'm really sorry about the smell. I know it sucks having to deal with this."

Teller suddenly melted. Her professional cold tone switched to a deep and sweet Arkansas accent: "Your mama died?!?" "Yes, ma'am". We shared the briefest of cries together. I think she might have lost someone recently too.

I can't tell you how much this kindness from a stranger helped.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:38 AM on July 2, 2022 [27 favorites]

As a non-American living in the US, I find the approach the majority of people here have a rather confused/confusing relationship to 'bad things'

I think you're confused about what this thread is about and who it's for. Maybe save your semantic pet peeves for another time.
posted by jeremias at 5:41 AM on July 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

I've already lost two husbands and both parents, plus various in-laws, so the funeral planning part was pretty automatic when my mother died in March. But this is the first estate I've had to deal with. I was already taking care of her affairs as she declined, so some parts are easier than others. Everyone should have a second name on their checking account- I added a kid to mine "just in case I'm in jail or the hospital." I've been on Mom's account for many years, since she traveled a lot. I'm also lucky she didn't do much on the internet.

But Mom was quite diversified. So far I'm dealing with her savings account, IRA, two mutual funds, pension benefits, house , car, insurance, credit card, mineral rights from my father's side, furniture, old coins, jewelry, family heirlooms, photographs, and land that belonged to her parents. Oh yeah, and next year's income tax returns. So far no fighting within the family, for which I am grateful. My kids are scarfing up the furniture, which is okay with my brother because he has a house full of inheritance from his mother-in-law. I know, first world problems. If my parents hadn't been so forward-thinking, we could have ended with Trae Crowder's inheritance.
posted by Miss Cellania at 6:55 AM on July 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

NoteToSelf: share 50+ passwords with kids now

In the name of all that's solemn and good, do this.

Three years ago, my dad was a spry octogenarian former knowledge worker, with four rounds of golf a week and glowing health. He managed my parents' affairs entirely online: early adapter, tech nerd, all good. Just over two years ago, he started to find walking difficult and became slightly forgetful, but still did everything online.

In the last year, he hasn't opened the computer. He still thinks he knows how to use the iPad, but gets locked out by too many retries. He tries to operate the television, but can't, but still hangs on to the remotes and yells at Mum about how he knows how to use them. He's now totally deaf but won't wear hearing aids ("I just had them repaired!"). He forgets the way to the bathroom, with predictably sad results.

I'm going back to see him one last time this summer, if he makes it that long. Fuck vascular dementia.

(His estate planning, though, is beyond compare. When Dad retired, his solicitor sent each of us a contact plan, who the executors are and an outline of the beneficiaries of the will. We've had that for nearly 20 years, ready to go)
posted by scruss at 4:05 PM on July 2, 2022 [9 favorites]

Thanks for posting (both versions).
posted by winesong at 7:53 AM on July 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really am shocked at how much the costs are. My mother pre-paid for her cremation, and it was over 9000 dollars with a cardboard box. Out of curiosity I spoke to a different funeral home about costs to add a marker with her remains to her husband's grave plot, and it was over 8000 dollars. Just to lay a marker down. No scattering gardens in the area. My brother and I are not "keep ashes around" type people, but we're at a bit of a loss for what to do with her remains. All the research I did indicated it would be expensive, but something like a quarter of all the numbers I've been quoted.

My mother is not in the ashes and even she didn't want us to think so; the spirit has flown. But it feels so high-stakes, like the last chance to do right by her. It's tough.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 1:15 PM on July 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

My mother pre-paid for her cremation, and it was over 9000 dollars with a cardboard box.

That sounds wrong - like someone "preyed-upon-the-elderly" level of wrong. My cost in CAD, all-in was about $1400, last minute with no planning.

My brother and I are not "keep ashes around" type people, but we're at a bit of a loss for what to do with her remains.

Neither am I - it would be completely antithetical to my dad's ethos and wishes to sit around on a shelf or be placed in a mausoleum forever.

However - this ended-up being a "nice thing" that my dad and I were able to plan on our last Father's Day... *

He was a hang-glider pilot, and always talked about getting serious altitude when I was young - high enough that he would need oxygen tanks.

Well... For his final flight, we are going to send him to the edge of space, somewhere above 70-80,000ft and do the dispersal there. (There is, apparently a commercial service that one can pay for - but, my dad was a "DIY-kinda-guy", so we are going to do it ourselves.)

* (Even through his limited verbiage/aphasia he was so excited watching DIY high altitude videos and putting together a cost spreadsheet, he kept asking: "How much?")
posted by rozcakj at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2022

Yes, this is why I've already arranged for my own cremation: it's hard to argue with my intentions while I'm still alive. I can't be certain that folks will follow through, of course, but I've definitely made my wishes known.
posted by SPrintF at 9:00 AM on July 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

My brother and I are not "keep ashes around" type people, but we're at a bit of a loss for what to do with her remains.

We've buried all the ashes of deceased family members on one side of my family. I believe my grandparents bought 5 plots all together in one spot, and now there are 3 boxes of ashes there with room for more in just one of those plots.

You may want to ask the cemetery directly to see if they'd charge less.
posted by soelo at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

« Older We're having special hotdish tonight   |   Scenes from an Open Marriage Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments