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Home > Patients & Visitors > Support Services > When a Loved One Dies

When a Loved One Dies

When a loved one dies in the hospital, we are here to help. 

Dealing With Loss

When someone you love dies, you may experience shock, grief and sadness. You will need emotional support as well as other resources during this difficult time. Learn more about the grief process.

You may stay at the bedside with your loved one for a short period of time if you wish. When you are ready, you will need to find support and make decisions.

Finding Connection

Gather a circle of people who will provide emotional support. You might reach out to:

  • Family members and close friends. 
  • Your spiritual leader and community, like a church
  • A hospital chaplain, who can provide a prayer or other spiritual support when your loved one is dying or has died, giving bereavement support
  • Social workers in the hospital also offer help with a range of issues, from emotional strain to logistical matters

How Can They Help?

You may find it useful to have others:

  • Answer the phone or door
  • Notify others of the death
  • Make a list of phone calls, letters, flowers, food donations and other gifts
  • Help you make funeral or memorial service arrangements
  • Accompany you to the funeral home

How Do You Deal With Loss? 

Find some answers about:

Decisions About the Deceased

You will need to make some decisions, including:

  • Where your loved one will be buried or cremated
  • Whether or not organs will be donated
  • If you want an autopsy

Find a funeral home.

Donate Organs

If the deceased person chose to donate an organ, tissue or eyes, let hospital staff know right away.  

We will then notify LifeNet Health, the organ procurement organization that serves the hospital. Later, a Lifenet Health care coordinator or representative from the Old Dominion Eye Foundation may approach you to discuss donation.

Learn more about organ donation:

Consider Donating to Scientific Research 

You can donate a whole body for scientific study, if it meets necessary standards. To learn more, get information from the State Anatomical Program.

Decide If You Want an Autopsy

An autopsy helps determine the exact cause of death. The next of kin or legal guardian may give consent for an autopsy or partial autopsy.


  • Are performed at the hospital
  • Will not delay funeral arrangements
  • Are a free service for hospital patients

Death Cases Referred to the Medical Examiner

If the death was caused by an accident, injury or suspicious circumstances, we will notify the Office of the Chief medical examiner. We are legally required to do so by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A medical examiner will investigate the death, usually at the hospital. However, if the investigation requires an autopsy, the investigation will take place at the Central District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond.

Learn more about the State Medical Examiner.

Contact Decedent Affairs

When someone dies, we can walk you through the logistics and help you find the information you need.

Contact us anytime by calling 434.924.5018.

Hospital Support

We have a number of people at the hospital ready and willing to offer support.

Not sure who to contact? Any one of our nurses can help.

Send a Gift or Card

Send flowers, candy or gifts to a patient in the hospital:

Call: 434.924.2447

You can also select a card to be printed and hand-delivered:

Send a card