DEALING WITH GRIEF AND LOSS

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Dealing with Grief and Loss

When facing the death of a loved one, you may be dealing with tremendous grief and confusion about the changes ahead.

If you are in crisis, call the BC Bereavement helpline:

604-738-9950 or (toll-free) 1-877-779-2223

There are many resources to help you cope with grief, and to help you recover and move forward. There are counsellors who help people deal with grief. You may be more comfortable talking with a spiritual advisor or your family doctor, who might recommend other resources.

The People’s Law School publication A Death in Your Family is available online at Clicklaw. It provides information about preparing for the passing of a loved one and the arrangements after, as well as ideas about where to find support.

Remember that there is no shame in reaching out, and there are people who can help.

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The famous psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying, which was first published in 1969. These stages may apply to someone who is dying, or they may apply to a person who is dealing with the death of a loved one.

Denial refusing to accept death, and refusing to accept that some changes are final.
Anger blaming people, including yourself, for letting this happen.
Bargaining searching for a way to avoid death or ease pain, perhaps by promising to make a commitment or sacrifice.
Depression giving up hope that life will ever be enjoyable again.
Acceptance after recognizing that death brings changes that cannot be reversed, finding reconciliation and eventually peace as it all becomes easier to bear.

Final Estate Planning

Despite your grief, if you can talk about final planning with a loved one who may be nearing death, you might be able to give your loved one peace, and save yourself and the family distress and needless expense later.

Difficult Conversations

There may be matters that will arise after death that the will-maker can help with now:

  • First, is there a will?
  • If so, where is it, and does it still reflect the will-maker’s wishes?

If there is no will, or if it is outdated, take this opportunity to encourage your loved one to make a current will.

The will-maker might want someone else to be able to make financial or legal decisions. In that case, the will-maker should create a power of attorney.

For more information, the People’s Law School has developed an online booklet called Power of Attorney.

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Also, there may be urgent matters that your loved one can resolve now:

  • Instructions about organ or tissue donation,
  • Instructions about health and medical interventions in case your loved one cannot give those instructions later,
  • Preferences about medical assistance in dying, or
  • Preferences about funeral planning.

The will-maker might want to make advance decisions about health care, or might want to appoint someone as a personal representative to make those decisions when the time comes.

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The BC Government Ministry of Health publication My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment is available online. It describes making a living will or advance plan for health care, which may include a representation agreement.

The BC Government also sets out basic issues for representation agreements and advance directives in its page on Incapacity Planning.

This might be a good time to identify the will-maker’s current assets and determine whether they could be owned in a more tax-effective way, or change ownership so that transfer to a beneficiary will be easier.

Certainly if the will-maker’s family includes former spouses where there was no formal divorce or separation agreement, or spouses or children who are not provided for in the will, it would be helpful to clarify the will-maker’s wishes, to avoid costly disputes later.

Having these difficult conversations before it’s too late can make the steps on the journey clearer and ease the will-maker’s mind, and can help the executor manage things smoothly and carry out the will-maker’s wishes.

Resources

Online and Phone Resources

Books

  • Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. 1969.
  • Kushner, Harold. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. 1978.
  • Wylie, Betty Jane. Beginnings: A Book for Widows. 1985.

Legislation

Regulation and Forms

  • Probate Rules (Supreme Court Civil Rules, Part 25, BC Reg. 168/2009)
  • Probate Forms (Supreme Court Civil Rules, Appendix A-1, BC Reg. 168/2009)