How to prepare for the loss of a loved one

I was on Facebook today and saw in another prepping group a nice older lady with a sad message —

“My partner in crime, my biggest fan, my prepper leader lover, my husband passed away a week ago. I did not prepare for that… I feel rudderless. Now what??”

This got me thinking about the loss of a loved one and how that can affect the survivors. Let me ask a few questions to spark some conversation:

  • What are your thoughts on how a death can affect people? Mentally, emotionally, etc…
  • Think about what it would be like for your spouse or children if you died, or how would it affect you if they died?
  • What things do only you/they know how to do and your/their death would leave them/you in a bad position?
  • How can you comfort those who have lost a loved one?
  • What can we do now to prepare ourselves to not be hit as hard when someone dies? Because it will happen.

I hope this topic doesn’t come off as insensitive, but death and loss will happen and we/others fill a vital role in lives of people, and when that is taken away it is damaging and hard to recover.


  • Comments (25)

    • 2

      From purely a prepping standpoint—My husband is obese and has heart disease. He’s not a prepper, so although I’ve put together a go bag for him, if/when he dies it will not affect my preps. If I were to pre-decease him, he’d freak out in an emergency, as he does now. 

      As far as the emotional issues are concerned, from experience, there’s no way to prepare. Grief hits as it will and the timing is weird. The very best prep for that is a group of solid, caring friends.

      This book is terrific for practicalities—

      When Someone Dies: The Practical Guide to the Logistics of Death 
      by Scott Taylor Smith

      • 1

        That would be a good book to read BEFORE it happens huh? Will be looking into this. 

        I’m much younger and am in relative good health so I am not planning on dying soon. Accidents happen and it would be beneficial to be prepared but the likelihood is my parents might die before me. With that said… How do I gracefully go to them and help them set their affairs in order to make things easier on me for when they die? It’s much easier to get their bank account locations now then rifling through a mountain of bills and old paperwork in the den right? I don’t want to sound like the spoiled kid saying oh what do you have dad? When are you going to die so I can have it?

      • 2

        Depends on your parent’s psychology and your relationship with them, I’d think. My mother wouldn’t talk about ANYTHING until she was very very old, and it still makes her cranky.

        Making sure their wills are in order is a good start. Also that book I mentioned is super helpful. 

      • 1

        Thanks for sharing that book recommendation. My local library has a copy of it so I’m going to check it out next time I’m in town.

      • 2

        Excellent, Gideon. I’ve shared that book with every one of my friends with elderly parents and also with the ones who have recently lost a partner and are in a world of confusion.

        And I’ve used it myself for getting my elderly mother’s affairs in order, as well as for my husband and I.

    • 2

      Getting my Will in order is something I have put off for some time now. I have an older one but it is so out of date that it is pretty much useless at this point. 

      Throwing in your account passwords and credentials for utilities and other services will help others after you close things out and not have to wait on the phone for an hour with some telephone tree trying to turn off your electricity bill. Do them a favor and be prepared with all the things they need to shut things down. 

      Another thing I would like to add in my will, but still haven’t, is listing where all my assets are located. Just a simple paragraph saying, I own everything located in this house, this car, this and this bank account, this retirement fund, and this safe deposit box. That way people aren’t looking around for some mysterious account that they heard you mention two years ago.

      • 2

        I update my will whenever something substantially new happens (new house, large asset, etc.). I have a spreadsheet with assets, accounts, passwords, etc. It’s password protected and only my husband and executor have the password. I also have that spreadsheet, photos of all important paperwork, etc. on a thumb drive in my go bag.

    • 3

      Good evening Gideon,

      Most appropriate topic.

      Re the “what can we do now … ?;

      Get copies of birth certificates, marriage certificate ( if applicable), wills, living wills, any advanced directives, any current burial plans and documents telling of specifics. Won’t waste anyone’s time with “Discuss with …”.  It doesn’t work here.

      I’m 74 now. A few years ago I dragged Madam to Quantico Veterans Cemetery, Northern Virginia Autonomous Oblast, to meet with and discuss mechanical arrangements with a senior VA rep there who does this stuff as part of job. It’s really like prep of something for delivery to FedEx or UPS. 

      Burial in a veterans cemetery requires embalming … I’m a conversationist and don’t like this but no choice. Had to make these arrangements more than once – Was watching costs change and won’t accept the nonsense.

      Much of end times really does require school education involving this.  I don’t like wills because they are EXPENSIVE to process and then the headache of taxes. For younger folks here, it well worth researching how to transfer property PRIOR to vacating planet. For the literary folks here, my draft obituary will win awards in small circles of the real knowledgeable.

      Very few in family appreciate my comments like “Definitely want the embalming fluid to be  boysenberry liquified incense or espresso aroma”. With Madam next to me, I told the VA rep that would like to walk over/drive to some pending plots. Mentioned that will not need a good web connection  but definitely need good location for shortwave listening.

      I really have no answers that work.

      • 2

        Good morning Bob,

        How will Madam cope with your passing? Is she aware of your preps and how to use them all?

        Fun fact — Arnold Schwarzenegger is also 74

      • 3

        Good evening Gideon,

        She’d either have a catered celebration or a traditional “hurricane party” with my apex level of survival food and drink.

        Yes, she knows of my preps but could not use the instruments for land navigation nor the field emergency dental apparatus. She is conversant in the several cartridge stoves here.

        We have a small group so there might be someone else here. Actual burial arrangements anticipated to be accomplished by son in law and daughter. They have power of attorney and know contacts at VA cemetery.

        Didn’t know about the Governor. We were products of the official end of the Great War Part 2.

    • 5

      Good questions, Gideon, about an appropriate topic. Prepping for the practical aspects and prepping for the emotional aspects are both important. A few random thoughts — It seems to me that many people tend to lose cognitive function as they advance in age. Make sure that they (we) name a financial power of attorney sooner rather than later so that there’s a smoother transition to having someone else stay on top of financial matters and having someone else know where the accounts are. The financial power of attorney process is relevant in the U.S. I don’t know how things are handled in other countries.

      Emotionally, they (we) can develop inner resources for handling change, grief, loss in small things first and also develop a philosophy that includes a way of making meaning in life and finding some degree of equanimity with death.

      Caregivers might find value in caregiver support groups, in person (pre covid) or online / Zoom these days. Talking with peers about not just death and dying but also very human frustration and disappointment and anger and grief before someone’s death might make it easier to feel peace after their death. This assumes a decline in the person’s health over time rather than a sudden death regarding my caregiver comments.

      It would help them / us to also have a generalist’s understanding of “trauma-informed care.” There’s more trauma around and in people’s past than one might think. Someone who’s experienced past trauma may respond differently than someone who hasn’t.

      That’s all I have time to write at this moment.

    • 3

      As I have gotten older, I have seen many friends and family come and go. Providin a simple dinner for them is a huge help because it keeps their energy up, a tasty meal will boost their mood, and that’s the last thin they want to be worryin about.

      My wife and children are aware of our will and trust and should be fine if I pass. The grandkids will probably miss me most of all though. I’m takin grandpa’s ribs recipe to my grave though. It’ll force em to miss me every 4th of July.

    • 5

      Forgot this very important issue—Clean your houses out *now*. 

      Don’t leave it for grieving family members or a devastated partner who must now wrestle with mess, collections, and general hoarding before they can sell the house.

      • 4

        Good morning A2,

        This is an excellent point.  Thank you for adding this to thread.

        My experience with this subject involved inlaws when my father died (not here in Virginia). I was in charge per will to get him to Arlington National Cemetery. What would otherwise be a mechanical application involving some docs at house …… if I did not have prearrangements in place and notorized “duplicate originals” docs, besides my fatigue, the costs would sky rocket. Must omit specifics because document case – a mini portable file case had some collectors money from WWII Philippines.

        Get the house READY and forget the low value garden tools and shovels.

      • 3

        I absolutely second that, A2!

        I’ve personally had multiple relative’s hoarded houses and outbuildings to clear (argh!), and as a Realtor just closed escrow with yet another hoarder (nightmare for me and his family.) This guy’s movers more than doubled the cost when they showed up; $13k estimate went up to $30k when they eyeballed his mess. His daughter was outraged at him repeatedly choosing stuff over her as she saw it. I finally sent them to an estate attorney to keep things together. Sadly, it’s a common scenario in my business.

        My new rule is: if I wouldn’t buy it again today, it can probably go to donation or trash. An exception is made for some limited memorabilia of course. This ongoing purge can really reduce future headaches for loved ones, & will make our home much more livable and easier to maintain ongoing.

        Most of the homes I tour for work would look and function much better with a good clear out.

        As preppers & living in the country we have a lot of essential stuff anyway, but it can be well organized & free of trash/clutter.

        Excellent topic Gideon, thanks for opening the discussion!

      • 1

        Seconded A2 for clearing out the house now.  Not just excess stuff.   It is effort to get papers in order for yourself, but upon your demise, others must navigate it and have little hope of succeeding if you didn’t.  I have had to help my husband’s family with this which inspired me to get our papers in better order.  Not as well as some here, though.  Luckily, my parents considered this when they retired.  They ensured all accounts and properties were in both names so nothing would be ‘frozen’ by escrow which turned out to work smoothly after my father passed.   Thanks for the book recommendation.  I’ll check it out. 

        And also seconded, CR.  Great topic, Gideon.  This is sometimes the hardest prep to do.  

    • 3

      I have and will always mourn the loss of those I care about. Personally, I don’t believe in an afterlife, so, the absence and loss seems to cut more deeply because, for me, there is no afterlife in which we will reunite or whatever. Simply put, I will never see that person ever again. It is an immutable fact. I may catch myself acting out of habit (to reflexively call or visit that person) and will feel that sting of loss. Over time, the pain will diminish, but the loss will always be there.

      I have considered what it might be like for my loved ones if I predecease them and can understand their loss and grief. As for me, personally, I’m not too worried about dying. I mean, I don’t want to, but it’s a fact of life, isn’t it? I worry no more about the void at the end of my life than I do the void that existed before my birth.

      • 2

        I totally respect your beliefs of there not being an afterlife, and haven’t considered how someone who believes that way must feel about death. It seems like it would cut and hurt much more than for those people who just see death as a temporary state until you would be reunited with them again. 

        You probably will cherish life and time with others more if you didn’t think that you would ever see that person again after either of you passed. 

        Thank you for sharing Matt. 

      • 3

        I have the same beliefs. It makes my time with others especially poignant and important.

    • 2

      my parents are both dead, I will never forget them but we all have to move on with life or else nothing would get done, I’ve lost many others along the way since then but I still keep going.

      • 1

        What are some of the things that helped you to move on after their death? I agree with you that it is imperative that we move on, but many struggle to do so.

      • 2

        I dont know really, my parents always taught me to stand on my own two feet, not to rely on others, being an only child I spent a lot of time alone both man and boy and I suppose that coloured my outlook on life.

    • 1

      Hi Gideon, thanks for creating a thread on this. This is good topic. Preparing for our own death or the death of someone we care about is important, because any help we set up beforehand can have a big impact (positive or negative) on those left behind.

      The logistics of what to get ready and how is definitely something good to take care of.

      I was re-reading the blost post on cultivating a productive mindset, and this triggered some thoughts on the mental preparation side. I believe there are also some mental and emotional steps we can take to try and make dealing with death or loss easier.

      I linked to this thread from my comment there, but I will also post my comment here. I would like to mention one specific practice from psychology and ancient philosophy that perhaps some people already do to help them deal with loss or death.
      It is called negative visualization.

      Negative visualization is thinking about “what is the worst thing that could happen?”. And then mentally and emotionally embracing that outcome, thinking on it, and living in that reality for a moment.

      While this might initially sound like a bad thing, practicing negative visualization can be positive and have several benefits.

      One first benefit is practical, and likely familiar to many preppers: thinking about bad outcomes and events beforehand can help us to get ready for them, and prevent or mitigate.
      If you know what documents, gear, practice, or resources you will need before a fire, flood, or other disaster happens, you can get ready beforehand and gather supplies or practice your actions.
      This a central part of prepping.

      A second benefit can be getting ourselves more mentally prepared, and ready to accept or deal with events if or when they happen.
      This way, it is less of a surprise.
      For example, thinking ahead about dealing with the loss of a loved one, or even our own death.
      All of us are going to die some day. Getting ready for that so it is less of a shock to our friends or families is prudent.

      Even if we cannot be totally mentally prepared for some events, at least considering it beforehand may help to reduce some of the sting, or may let us be a bit less surprised or shocked.
      That may help us to deal with the actual situation when it arrives, rather than being caught mentally flat-footed.
      No matter how much time or effort we spend preparing, some bad things may still happen. Life is unlikely to be perfect or easy all of the time. So being better mentally prepared can help us deal with events that still happen, despite our other preparations.

      Thirdly – practicing negative visualization can help us to be more grateful for the things that we do have. It helps to readjust our expectations, which can actually help to boost our happiness. This practice has some scientific evidence from modern psychology that it really is good for brains, and helps us to feel better and happier.

      We humans seem to easily fall into a trap called the “hedonistic treadmill” – always wanting more and better things. You finally get a car. Now you want a fancier car. You lust and dream over the best Go Bag. Then when you finally save enough to get it you start wanting a better Go Bag. It is hard to stay happy when your expectations for what makes you happy keep moving and increasing.

      Author William Irvine says: “The easiest way to gain happiness is to learn to only want exactly what you already have”.
      Practicing negative visualization can help us with this.

      • For example: Think of one thing that you currently have or do that you really like, and really enjoy.
      • Now imagine: What was your life like before you had that, or what would life be like without it?
      • Probably worse. Right?
      • Now: return to your actual life. You have that thing. Does it feel better and good that you do?
      • Congratulations! That’s negative visualization.

      Practicing this, even for a few moments, can help reset our brains and help us to feel grateful for the things we already have. This can lead to increased happiness.
      If we think of our families, friends, or strong positive relationships and realize that they are temporary things that could disappear, we may appreciate them more, and be able to spend better quality time with those people (or pets!) while we can.
      This also helps to exercise the mental muscle of letting things go, or dealing with loss. And that can be a very useful ability.

      The Stoic author Seneca says “Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect only good fortune” (“On Tranquility”, XI.6). Many of us in the prepper community have accepted taking actions to be more prepared as part of our lifestyle. Including the action of mental preparation – and negative visualization – as part of that can be useful.

      (A good book I enjoyed on this is “A Guide to the Good Life”, by William Irvine)

      • 1

        Good morning Brownfox – ff,

        I’m CURRENTLY doing this stuff for my own relocation from planet.

        Must keep key people briefed and given required documents NOW. A copy of each doc to each person is super “built in redundancy”.  Definitly spend the extra photcopy costs and certified mail so each has a set of docs.

        One “worst” negative visualization is driving out of area and traffic accident occurs. Must be on alert that some docs will arrange to be “out of network” and not accepting Medicare so as to legally tap into one’s estate.

        We just had our statewide free dental clinic cancelled dut to a large outbreak of COVID-19. These events distill the senses and gives geometric reminders to do this utmost or preparedness.

        Already got a place selected at Quantico VA Cemetery.  Great shortwave reception and don’t need wi-fi.

        You’re doing something much more important than resharping the knife blades.

        All the best in positive outlook doing planning.

    • 1

      Just two weeks ago my daughter returned back to the UK with her family after completing their regular summer holidays in the Caribbean for six weeks.

      Both my wife and I who are retired and in good health……had decided to leave our home to her as she has spent so many years of the last 20 at our home…she loves it!

      Just before she left we wanted to know whether she would like it at the end, otherwise we would sell it and she can have the money……

      The reaction we got was it so upsetting for her to even think about the event. We will never mention it again…….

      Just put it in the will!……….