Today one of my good friends had to say goodbye to her almost 3 year old little boy as he passed away after a drowning accident. My friend, let’s call her Kate, and her husband tried for years to have children, and after several rounds of IVF, they finally conceived two beautiful and healthy twin boys! They were ecstatic, as you can imagine, and they have loved both of them tremendously over the past couple of years. I don’t know all of the details of the accident, but I know little C fought hard for his life over the past two days before his parents had to make the most difficult decision of their lives: They had to remove life support from their baby. I cannot even imagine the pain and hurt they are experiencing right now. Little Man is only a few months younger than C, and he was even gifted several of the twins’ clothes when he was a newborn so this hits home on many levels for me. My heart breaks for their family today.
I’ve been crying and praying for their family all day long, but this also got me thinking about my own family, and how we would deal with such a situation in our own lives. It’s a hard thing to think about. It makes me cry even more. But I believe it’s necessary to be ready for such an event if it does happen. The pain of losing a family member can either be softened just a little bit if all of their affairs are in order, OR it can make the pain that much worse if you have to deal with a mess of legalities, fees, and expenses related to their death. There are several things you can do today to prepare your family in case tragedy strikes. Don’t put it off. My husband and I have taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University twice now, and it was extremely helpful in motivating us to get some of these things done. Here is what Dave recommends, and what we have done in our family:
Create a Living Will and Power of Attorney
A living will is used to describe your wishes if you were involved in an accident or some situation that renders you unable to express your needs and wants. For instance, I do NOT wish to be hooked up to machines and kept alive by feeding tubes or ventilators if I’m seriously injured. These wishes and more are described in my Living Will. The Power of Attorney is a person you designate to carry our your Living Will. He or she is the person who will advocate for you and make decisions on your behalf in that situation. My husband and I created both our Living Wills and our Power of Attorney through Legal Zoom. With the prompts they provide, it was extremely easy to fill out. They did a great job and it was MUCH cheaper than going through a lawyer, and most of all, we know it was done correctly and in the laws of our state. Once they came in the mail, we took them to the bank to get notarized and then made copies. My husband is my Power of Attorney, but I also made my Mom a back up POA in case for any reason he is injured or dies in the same situation as I. For that reason, my Mom also got a copy of our Living Wills, POA, and Last Wills.
Create a Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is used to detail your wishes after you have passed. If you desire, you can outline your funeral wishes down to the detail of music you wish to be played, what you want to be wearing, and what kind of casket you wish to be placed in for burial. Having your wishes on paper makes it much easier for loved ones to carry out, and there will be no disputes on how you would have wanted things to be done. The Last Will is also how you designate who gets what of your valuables including money, possessions, and even who will become the guardian of your children. You can designate backups and backups for your backups, just in case. We also created our Last Wills through Legal Zoom. As mentioned above, it was quick, easy, and cheaper than expected.
Purchase Life Insurance
Life Insurance can be a confusing topic, but can be an incredible source of comfort after a loved one passes. Even having enough money to cover funeral expenses or debts that need to be paid will relieve some of the burden. Dave Ramsey only recommends Term Life Insurance. I’ll spare you the details and differences between Term Life and Whole Life insurances, but I suggest you look them up and decide for yourself what would be best for your family. Dave recommends purchasing 10-12 times your income, especially if you’re the main breadwinner for your family. That means if you make an average of $50,000 per year, you’ll need about $500,000 in life insurance. Why? Because your family will need money to cover funeral expenses, debts that you owe, and take time to reorganize their finances to fit their needs after you’re gone while trying to replace your income. As a Stay at Home Mom, I don’t make any money. I make a little bit through this blog, but it’s really not much to speak of. My husband; however, would still have a tough time figuring out his finances if I were gone. He would have to start paying for childcare (which can get ridiculously expensive!) and possibly housekeeping or other services to help him out. For that reason, we have purchased life insurance for myself at half the amount we have for him. We also have a child rider on our life insurances that covers Little Man. For most companies, a child rider covers somewhere from $10,000 to $50,000 per child. If something were to happen to Little Man, we would have enough money to pay for a proper funeral, burial, and maybe some medical expenses that could have occurred.
Organize a Legacy Drawer
A Legacy Drawer is Dave’s term for a drawer that contains all of your important paperwork such as mentioned above that your family would need if something happens to you. In our family, we don’t have a drawer per say, we have an emergency binder. It contains all of the things listed HERE, as well as our Bug Out Plans, extra debit cards, extra keys to the house and cars, a flash drive that has copies of every important document, a full home inventory, and more. We keep it in a VERY safe place, and if we are away from the house for long periods of time, we take it with us. Julie from Home Ready Home has a great explanation of her Grab and Go Emergency Binder HERE. The Legacy Drawer or Grab and Go Binder can take a lot of time and preparation, but will make it so much easier for your family if something happens to you. In the words of Dave, “It’s the last gift you will give your family, so make it a good one.”
Preparing for Loss during Emergencies
If and when a complete economic collapse happens, the power grid fails, or any other worst case scenario event happens, illness and death will be much more common than it is today. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom today, but I do think it’s something that at least needs a little bit of attention. Medications and treatment will be much harder to come by, there will most likely be civil unrest, and if people are going hungry there’s a high likelihood they will try to harm anyone who gets in their way of food for themselves or their families.
How are you preparing to deal with loss or extreme illness in an emergency situation? Situations in which a will and life insurance may not be helpful or even available any longer. Here are a few things I’ve come up with for our family:
How do you cope with stress in your life right now? Bubble baths, reading, being alone, exercise, punching bags, prescription medications for anxiety? Any or all of the above are great stress relievers? How can you prepare for them if SHTF? You can stock up a little bit of bubble bath, collect a few extra books from garage sales or Half Price Books, buy some boxing gloves, or stockpile medications. Some things will obviously easier to prep for than others, but by simply identifying your coping mechanisms, you can help yourself be ready to deal with loss. Even if you DON’T lose a close family member or friend, having these coping mechanisms available will be helpful in a likely stressful time.
Your faith can be a HUGE source of comfort when dealing with loss. Praying and reading or quoting scripture is definitely a coping mechanism of mine. If your faith is something that helps you get through hard times, you might laminate some of your favorite scriptures to keep with you, or find a pocket sized bible or devotional book for your BOB/72 Hour kit.
Keeping pictures or your loved ones’ belongings to remember them by is also a great way to honor your friends or family members after they have passed. Choose one of their favorite items or something that just makes you think of them.
Since burial will be completely and utterly different in a disaster situation, there are a few extra things to think about. There will be no death certificates, no family viewings or embalming. Instead of entrusting your loved one to a mortician for burial preparation, this will have to be done yourself. It wasn’t too many years ago that each farm had a family cemetery on the property, and the family buried their own loved ones. If this is something that must be done and none of the usual resources are available (funeral home, medical examiners, morticians, etc), here are a few things you can do to bury your loved one in a respectful manner:
- If possible, take pictures and document as much about the event as possible for records.
- Gather and protect valuables that you would like to keep.
- For public health reasons, it will be best to bury quickly.
- You can bathe the body and dress him or her for burial if you desire.
- Wrap the body in plastic if possible, for sanitation. You can also use a box or homemade casket if materials are available.
- Bury the body at least 6 feet deep and away from water sources so contamination does not occur.
- You can hold a personal service and say a few words about your loved one at the gravesite.
- Be sure to mark the grave in some form or fashion if you plan on coming back to visit.
- Afterwards, clean/sanitize yourself and any clothing or valuables that came into contact with the body.
What About You?
Again, these are hard things to think about, and I don’t wish these scenarios on anyone, but it is yet another thing to be prepared for. What have you done to prepare for a loss in your family today? Have you prepared for this scenario in an emergency situation? How have you prepared?