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The following chapter is the complete text excerpted from What to do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss, by Bill Jenkins.

The Checklist

There are eight things that you need to immediately consider. These essential guidelines are summarized here and are dealt with in greater detail in the next chapter. Go to the page shown for more information on a specific topic. Later, you may want to read some of the other chapters which will help you understand what to expect further down the road.


1.  First, if you have not done so already, start gathering your support system around you. (Page 17)

bulletYou will need to express strong emotions and talk about what has happened and how you feel. It is not healthy to suppress these natural urges. It is important to have trusted friends and family around who can listen to you.
bulletPeople will want to help in many ways. Be sure to set some limits on those helping with housecleaning.

2.  Second, have a support member start notifying the people who most need to know. (Page 18)

bulletNotify those who can most easily contact others for you.
bulletPeople who are frail or may react badly to the news should be notified in person if at all possible.
bulletTalking to children about the death must be handled especially carefully. If possible, read the chapter on "Children and Grief" before talking to them. 

3.  Next, identify those in your support system who will be responsible for protecting your privacy with the media. (Page 19)

bulletYou may be approached by reporters. Determine how you will deal with their questions.
bulletDecide whether you want to watch the news coverage on your case or not.
bulletYou may want to record news coverage for later.

4.  Try to get some rest and start thinking about your health. (Page 23)

bulletContact your family doctor to talk about your health as soon as possible. Meeting with a grief counselor may be recommended.
bulletGet time off from work-related responsibilities if possible. You will be easily distracted. Be extra careful on the job and while driving.
bulletDo not try to maintain an appearance of false strength. Be honest with others about your emotions. Nobody expects as much from you as you do right now. Take it easy on yourself.
bulletRecognize that everyone grieves differently.
bulletDo not fall into the trap of feeling guilty about an event which you could not have affected.
bulletYou will experience physical and emotional effects of grief beyond your control. Be prepared for them.
bulletGet regular exercise, eat well, and get proper rest.
bulletBe wary of those who may try to take advantage of you. Never give out credit card numbers or personal information over the telephone.

5.  Funeral arrangements will need to be made soon. (Page 29)

bulletReligious observances may need to be communicated to the authorities and those handling the body of your loved one as soon as possible.
bulletBe sensitive to the input of those close to your loved one when making arrangements, but keep the number of decision-makers to a minimum.
bulletHave family members request information on bereavement rates for travel on major carriers. 

6.  Talk to the police further. (Page 31)

bulletDiscuss the case with them cooperatively.
bulletTreat the information they share with you as confidential so the investigation is not jeopardized.

7.  Other difficult things you may be called upon to do: (Page 32)

bulletIdentifying the body will be emotionally difficult. Have someone go with you if you have to do this.
bulletIf you are a witness, you may need to be questioned by the police and others.
bulletMake priorities for what is most important right now and don’t do less important things.
bulletYou may need to reclaim personal belongings.
bulletIf you relocate, make sure the police know how to contact you.

8.  Dealing with other legal matters related to the death: (Page 34)

bulletThe funeral director will obtain the death certificate and help you determine how many copies to ask for.
bulletIf a will exists, locate it immediately.
bulletBegin dealing with the associated costs of the death.
bulletBegin filing insurance and other related claims.
bulletDon’t make life-changing decisions right away or without consulting with a trusted advisor.
bulletYou may want to consider a memorial gift or request contributions in your loved one’s memory.


    Each item above is discussed in more detail beginning on the pages given. If you have time, take a look at these now, and read some of the later chapters when you have a need for them. You do not need to read this book from cover to cover in one sitting. Take it in bite-size pieces and take your time. Be gentle with yourself, that is important right now.

    It is time to begin getting to know this new companion called Grief. It will be with you for quite some time. Many people ask, "When will I be the way I was before this happened?" No one can give you an answer to that question right now. You must simply take one day at a time and concentrate on realizing the best possible outcome for yourself using the resources available to you.

    These resources are of two types. Internal, or your personal resources – the ones you bring with you based on what kind of person you are, your beliefs, your strengths and weaknesses, and your personality. And External, or your support system – the people around you, support agencies and organizations, your doctor, your family, your friends, your clergy, the books you read, the meetings you attend, and anything else which helps you with this major transition in your life.

    You will get through this. You will get through the days ahead as all of us have, one day at a time – one hour at a time if need be. You will discover that you have strength that you never knew existed. Don’t give up hope in yourself, your support system, or the situation.

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