In Between Grief, The Practicalities of Death

Bruce passed away on Saturday.  His health continued to rollercoaster in the weeks since my last post and then everything suddenly took a turn for the worse on Thursday. In the end we had to make the difficult decision to take him off of life support.

His passing was peaceful. He was surrounded by love. It was the right decision. Still, it was incredibly hard.

practicalities of death
Our wedding day, exactly a year ago yesterday. Bruce is on the right. So much can change so quickly.

And now we’re suddenly inundated with the practicalities of death. In between the sadness and emotions, a giant list of to-dos has emerged. Make arrangements with a funeral home. Call the insurance company. Find an attorney (how? who? what kind of attorney?) Figure out how to not go broke paying for his final expenses.

Real talk: dying is expensive for the ones you leave behind. We are incredibly lucky because Bruce was pretty financially savvy and left us some money to help, but that won’t come in for at least a few weeks and arrangements have to be made in the mean time. I really really really hate spending money we don’t have, but our backup credit card is going to be invaluable in getting us through the transition period.

Bruce asked to be cremated and wanted us to scatter his ashes in a forest that he loved, which means that we get to skip a lot of traditional funeral costs. Still, we’re expecting to spend around $3,000 on final expenses and services. It is what it is and while it’s stressful because we’re still worrying about renovation money, I’m grateful that we’re in a position where we can make things work. It suddenly gives me a lot of compassion for anyone who has ever had to crowdfund funeral expenses.

This country’s relationship to death and dying breaks my heart, but I’ll save that for another post.

In the whirlwind of the past few days, I’ve learned some interesting lessons about the practicalities of death, such as:

  • If your ailing loved one lives in Maryland, think twice about transferring them to a facility in D.C. Funeral fees are higher in DC, but if you work with a funeral home in MD then they’ll tack on an extra charge to transport the body over district lines
  • Funeral expenses are absolutely bonkers. Direct cremation alone is going to cost us more than $1500, and that’s not counting the costs of legal fees and the memorial services
  • I get that some people really hate the idea of cremation, but y’all, BEING BURIED IS SOOOOOO EXPENSIVE! We were going through price lists when comparing funeral homes and the costs¬† are just bonkers. Mid-range casket? $6000. Doing your loved one’s hair and makeup? $150. Gravesite service? $300. I don’t even wanna know how much a headstone costs
  • Dying is not considered a reasonable excuse to end a car lease early. Your estate is responsible for all early termination fees (which are no joke). #Capitalismiswhack
  • Collections agencies will use some unscrupulous practices to make you think you are responsible for your loved one’s debts, but so long as you didn’t cosign on a loan then you are not legally liable
  • When I die, just donate my body to science and then throw a big potluck party. I want to avoid as much of the death industry as possible

I wasn’t very close with Bruce, so please forgive me if I’m coming off like an unemotional sociopath. Conrad’s been having a tough time and one of the best ways I can support him is by helping with the logistics as much as possible, so that’s where my head has been.

Have you ever been responsible for a loved one’s estate? Do you have any tips or insights for navigating this process? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.



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