comforting hands

Bereavement: When a Loved One Dies

Contact Us
When someone dies at the hospital, call us.

When someone you love dies, you may experience shock, grief and sadness. 

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.

Support After Loss

We have a team, Decedent Affairs, dedicated to helping you navigate the emotional and logistical challenges following a death. When someone dies, we can walk you through next steps and help you find the information you need.

Overwhelmed? How We Can Help

  • A hospital chaplain, who can provide a prayer or other spiritual support when your loved one is dying or has died
  • Social workers can help with a range of issues, from emotional strain to logistical matters

How Others Can Help

If people want to help, you can ask them to: 

  • 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
Organ Donation

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

The Choice of 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. Autopsies:

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

You'll need to choose where your loved one will be buried or cremated. Then, the funeral home will need to contact Decedent Affairs to arrange for the release of the deceased.

Search for a funeral home:

Deaths 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.

How to Prepare for a Funeral or Remembrance Service
  • Choose funeral and burial options. A number of options exist; ask for descriptions and costs.

  • Write an obituary. Information could include full name and nicknames, date of birth, occupation, father's and mother's names, list of relatives and relationships and any military service. Include a list of church, professional organizations, clubs or other memberships held.
  • Decide about donations. Bring the names of organizations or charities you wish to have donations made in memory of your loved one.
  • Dressing the deceased. Select and bring the clothing in which your loved one will be buried.
  • Plan a reception. Make arrangements for food or a reception after the burial service. 
  • Choose pallbearers and speakers. Be thinking of individuals who might be available as pallbearers and/or persons who may speak about your loved one at the service.