Oamaru Marriage and Family Celebrant

Go to guide to help you when someone you love dies
Categories: Funerals

What to do when someone you love dies. – Part 1

One of the most difficult times in our lives is when we experience the death of a loved one. We are not only having to deal with our grief and the sadness  of those around us, we also have to try and organise all the things for the funeral service. Read my easy go to guide that helps you navigate and demystify these first hours and days. Helping you work through all the steps to saying goodbye. 

Did you know that there is No Legal requirement for you to use a Funeral Director. You can do so much more for your loved one than you may not realise. The satisfaction that you have done something very special to honour the person you love is so rewarding.  You can plan and achieve an affordable alternative to using a Funeral Director that can be far more meaningful for you and your family in your time of grief.  

I will take you through the steps and need to know when someone you love dies. This four part blog is a guide covering natural and explained deaths. 

When someone dies at home you’ll need to:

  • Call their doctor if the death was expected – this can wait until morning if the person died overnight. 
  • Call 111 and ask for an ambulance and police if the death was unexpected. (In another blog I will guide you through what to do when you are faced with an accidental or unexplained death or death by suicide.)
  • A doctor will check to confirm the cause of death. If the cause of death is known and from natural causes they’ll be able to complete a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.   A MCCD is legally required before a body is buried or cremated – unless the death is being dealt with by a coroner. The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (HP4720) form is completed for deaths of persons over 28 days of age. The requirements for completion of certificates are set out in the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 sections 46B and 46C.
  • If you’re using a funeral director, they’ll deal with the MCCD for you. They’ll usually add any costs for the form to their service charge.
  • If you’re not using a funeral director, then you must deal with the MCCD. You, or money from the person’s estate, will need to pay for any costs for the form. You’ll need to post the MCCD to the Ministry of Health after you’ve registered the death – you’ll find these instructions on the death registration form.

You must have this certificate before you or a funeral director can go ahead with a burial or cremation. Usually you’ll be able to stay with the body at home until you feel comfortable to call someone – for example a funeral director of your choice.

What to do in the first days:

  • Let the authorities know
  • Take time off work
  • Determine the costs involved and how to reduce them
  • Look for a will
  • Organise the funeral, burial or cremation

Choosing a funeral director is an important decision to make after someone dies. You don’t have to use a funeral director if you don’t want to.  A funeral Celebrant can help guide you through these steps and also help you prepare for the funeral service, working with you, finding solutions for your casket, coffin burial or cremation.

What to do when someone you love dies. Part 2

Read on to find out the difference between a Coffin and a Casket, transporting the body. Embalming, care and presentation of the body. Cremation or Burial the choice is yours. 

If your family member has left instructions of their wishes once they die it will be easier for you to make some of the decisions. Like for instance , burial or cremation, funeral or private cremation, flowers, content of funeral service. I will talk about this more in part 3 of this series. 

A celebrant and a Funeral Director or your chosen spiritual leader will work with you to organise the funeral. They can help you deal with the legal requirements if needed. 

You can take care of most legalities and transportation of your loved  one or you can ask the funeral directors to help. 

Transporting the person’s body. – Anyone with a valid driver’s licence for the class of motor vehicle that the deceased is being transported in can transport a body in a casket or coffin within New Zealand.

The Health (Burial) Regulations state: “No person shall remove a dead body from a mortuary except in a coffin or other suitable receptacle of a kind usually used by funeral directors.” Thus even if you are picking up a body from a mortuary and travelling straight to the cemetery or crematorium you will need a casket or coffin. Regulation 38.

  • When picking up the body you will be asked to sign a Transfer of charge of body (BDM39) form (the morgue will normally supply it). Have some ID (such as a driver’s licence) available, and you will be required to view the body to identify that you are picking up the correct body.
  • If the body has been stored at a funeral director’s premises then you should expect to use a casket or coffin to remove it from there. Examples of such situations may be that you are transporting to another part of the country, or are transporting to the cemetery or crematorium yourself.
  • A body should not be “on display” while being transported and placement of the body in a casket or coffin covers that situation.

Funeral Directors or a Celebrant will: 

  • meet the family and whānau to understand their wishes
  • embalming, care and presentation of the person’s body 

Embalming is not a legal requirement if the body is to be buried/cremated within three days after death. You may want to consider it if there’s a long delay between the death and the funeral or for an open casket viewings. Embalming isn’t permitted at “natural” cemeteries because it use hazardous substances, such as formaldehyde and para formaldehyde, to preserve the body. 

Organising the burial or cremation.  

For burial in a public cemetery, you will need to contact your local authority to purchase a burial plot in the local cemetery. 

If using a funeral Director they will arrange this for you. 

  • If you wish to arrange a cremation of your loved one. You will need to contact the Crematorium and arrange directly. 
  • Your Celebrant can help you. 

What to do when someone you love dies. Part 3 

When to register the death. How to organise your funeral service.

Whether you are organising the funeral service or are not holding one, then you must register the death within three working days of the service being held or as soon as possible following the death of your loved one.  You’ll have to fill out a Notification of Death and you will need to provide some personal information about the deceased,  the Registration form (BDM28) you can get from Births, Deaths and Marriages.If using a Funeral Director, they will arrange this for you.

If you’re using a funeral director, they’ll register the death for you. Here is a copy of the form that they fill out. This includes some personal  information that you will need to give them about the person who died. https://www.fdanz.co.nz/assets/Uploads/Knowing-what-to-do-when-someone-dies-Insert-6.7.16.pdf

The form will ask for information about:

  • the person who died
  • their parents and children
  • their relationship status
  • how they died
  • when and where they were buried or cremated.

You’ll also need to provide some details about yourself.

How to arrange a funeral service and refreshments, wakes or teas can be a bit overwhelming and daunting. In this part two of my series on what to do when someone you love dies.. I give you some tips and advise to help you get through these next few days and weeks following the death of a loved one. There are also some useful links for you to find help in your grief.  Your funeral service and function can be held anywhere. There are no restrictions or rules that you have to follow. Whether you want a quiet intimate ceremony for a small number or a larger community focused celebration your celebrant will advise and help you organise a very suitable and personal farewell wherever and whenever you would like to hold it. Your celebrant will work with you to personalise your farewell service. We will talk about the life of your loved one and create together a service that is a fitting ceremony for you and your family to say goodbye. I can also provide you with names of local catering suppliers that you could use at the venue of your choice. Funeral Directors can also assist with the service and catering requirements as quite often they have their own function room which can be used to serve refreshments following the service. 

What to do when someone you love dies. Part 4

Obtaining a Death Certificate and other useful information. 

A New Zealand death certificate is an official document of registered information about a person’s death. You might need a death certificate if you’re:

If you’re using a funeral director, they can order a Death Certificate for you when they register the death.

If you want to order one yourself, you’ll have to wait until the death has been registered. You can then order online, over the phone, or by post.

Grief Support following the death of a loved one. 

The days, weeks and months following the death of a loved one are often the most difficult for people. The first week or so you are busy preparing for the funeral, organising legalities and sharing time with family and friends. Once this is all over you may need some support with coping with your grief. There are many forms of grief, some are expressed with the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These happen in any order and at any stage. Sometime you feel confused and helpless. A councillor or someone to talk to that is impartial can be helpful for you to let out some thoughts and understand the reasons that you are feeling the ways you are. Please reach out and ask for some support. You’re not alone in your grief and you can get some expert support and help during a most difficult time. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve your way. 

Some useful links to help you.





I do hope that you have found some facts and help in these blogs. Please contact me if you would like to find out how I can support you at your time when you are faced with the death of a loved one.