New apps, websites help those dealing with the logistics of the death of a loved one

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What do you do after someone dies? Most people expect to experience intense pain, but may not realize how many logistical details arise after a death. These tasks can seem overwhelming: deciding who to call, learning where to get death certificates, planning memorials, and navigating finances.

“It’s so daunting … figuring out where to start,” says pain therapist and author Claire Bidwell Smith. Bidwell Smith’s mother died when she was 18 and her father died when she was 25.

Shortly before her death, he helped her make a list of all the things she should have done: call the morgue, social security, and the bank; she orders so many death certificates; plan what to do with her stuff. “I sat there with tears dripping, saying, I don’t want to do this,” says Bidwell Smith. “But the moment he died, I was so grateful to have that list.”

There are now new apps and websites with names like Cake, Lantern and Empathy to help people navigate the turmoil and confusion after a loss, offering tools ranging from organized checklists for the first few days of funeral planning to resources for concerns. such as closing a deceased person’s credit card account or finding a home for the deceased person’s pet.

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The creators of these apps and websites say their goal of providing easily accessible and organized help to people in need has never been more necessary. “The pandemic has increased people’s understanding of why this is important, as well as the actual need” for services, says Suelin Chen, co-founder of Cake in 2017.

Cake, which claims 40 million people a year visit its website, provides a list of tasks people need help with and then creates a checklist, as well as offering guides for tasks like creating a online memorial page for a loved one. The website hosts a library of thousands of death-related articles, including how to express condolences to a friend and how to plan an eco-friendly burial service. Cake, which is free to users, also provides help with other end-of-life needs, such as tips for talking to elderly parents or how to create a will.

The Lantern website, founded in 2018, and Empathy, founded in 2021, also provide guides on what tasks need to be addressed after a death, with information on options at each stage and timing.

Lantern, whose co-founder Liz Eddy was inspired to create the website after her grandmother died and ended up Googleing what to do next, aims to be a one-of-a-kind resource for bereaved people. Among other things, it provides information on how to write a eulogy and “do an ash-scattering ceremony” and offers a list of “best funeral songs”, with traditional / religious possibilities, gloomy and joyful. Empathy’s “Obituary Writer” feature, meanwhile, promises it “can create a ready-to-publish tribute based on your answers to a few questions.” For a fee, it also offers one-on-one support from a professional post-loss consultant who essentially serves as a concierge for post-loss activities.

“We connect people with services and provide them with tools, but most of them are truly an educational platform,” says Eddy.

Other companies are working to go beyond simply providing information to creating tools that will handle some of the post-death logistical load.

Kat Reed founded EstateGrid after publishing a work book titled “Start Here: Helping Survivors Manage” to help the father manage his mother’s death.

EstateGrid is working on creating a service that will automate much of the bureaucratic consequences of death. It starts with the automated discovery of assets, liabilities and accounts, using the deceased person’s identity and death certificate to generate a list of what needs to be done. The platform will offer tiered service levels, such as free tools and paid options, for automation processes.

“Every life leaves a mess,” says the website, which also offers help with selling a home, finding investment accounts, evaluating valuables and finding a new home for a pet.

The Empathy mobile app, which also features an easy-to-navigate checklist, offers premium services such as an obituary writer who promises to create a refined obituary based on answering a few questions from the bereaved person. The paid option, which costs $ 8.99 for a month or $ 64.99 for a year, also includes tools that automate the termination of the deceased person’s accounts, subscriptions, and subscriptions. The app uses software to pre-fill forms and streamline processes that usually require dozens of separate phone calls.

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However, companies are not just about logistics. They also include pain relief resources as part of their tools.

Experts say it makes sense. It’s hard to separate the logistics after a death and the pain people face. The logistics “can be so overwhelming and terrifying, and actually sometimes interfere with the grieving process,” says psychologist Jordana Jacobs. When the tasks following a death take so much time and energy, it can shift attention away from pain, at least temporarily. As psychotherapist Megan Devine states, “Logistical support does not change pain, it reduces suffering.”

Empathy provides pain meditations, journaling, and chat support (which is another premium feature). Empathy co-founder Ron Gura says his company has focused on helping people deal with both problems. “We don’t think you can decouple them,” he says.

Textual company Grief Coach focuses on the emotions that follow a death, using advice from pain experts to send personalized messages to your phone. These messages, ranging from descriptions of breathing techniques to use when feeling overwhelmed, to reminders that pain is not a linear process, are designed to provide extra help that family and friends often want but don’t know how to give. .

Founder Emma Payne created Grief Coach after her husband committed suicide and stopped hearing from many friends and families. Ten years later, she went to a friend’s funeral and learned how devastated many of her people were about losing contact with her – they just didn’t know what to say. Grief Coach costs $ 99 per year, which includes up to four friends and family who also receive messages with tips on how they can support the bereaved person, as a reminder of the deceased’s birthday.

Grief Coach does not replace human support; instead, teach mourners how to find and ask for support, and help their loved ones manifest in meaningful ways. Experts say that the technology’s logistical support can be useful as a standalone, but that digital pain support is best used as a supplement to the personal support or therapy that is often needed to process and move forward from a deep loss.

“My hesitation about the technology is that we just need to make sure we don’t lose the inherent intimacy of what’s curing the connection through pain,” says Jacobs. “We have to make sure that we still make these technological products very human, because it is through that humanity … that we actually best heal the loss.”

Bidwell Smith, whose father created that critical checklist for her, says she believes that while technology can’t replace those healing connections, it can allow people to connect with each other.

“The pain is so lonely and can be very isolating,” she says, but she is encouraged to see people with similar experiences being in online communities like social media and new post-lost websites and apps. “I think anything where someone can feel more connected and less alone in what they’re going through is a good thing.”

There is no easy way to deal with what happens when a loved one dies. But by helping demystify essential tasks and offering resources for both logistics and grief, these digital service leaders say they hope they can help lift some of the burden from bereaved people, giving them a little more room to heal. and connect with the support they need.

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