You Can't Die Yet, It's Not in the Budget

Kristi Keller

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

I feel like very few people in their forties have budgeted for death. It probably hasn’t even crossed their minds, never mind entered their monthly financial spreadsheet. Least of all during a pandemic when you may have been laid off from the same job twice in the one year. *Raises hand*

Nobody in the prime of their life has a jar full of change under their bed labeled, “In case someone dies, use this.”

It’s kind of sick to even touch on this subject but having very recently been on the butt end of ‘the cost of death’, it has blown my mind how expensive it is. It’s almost insulting.

Some days I have my wits about me enough to consciously take stock of what’s actually happened in the days, weeks, and months following the death of my loved one. Not just any loved one, but someone I was solely responsible for, aka my child.

When you don’t have much for extended family to fall back on, the burden is yours alone. The duty falls squarely on your financially unprepared shoulders.

Nobody should have to trade in precious grieving time for trying to figure out how to finance some dignity for your departed loved one.

Basic Death Costs

This applies if your lost loved one conveniently lived next door, or up the street, or in the same city.

A basic death will run you at least three grand. This price tag applies when there are no complications, no special circumstances, you choose cremation, and you purchase your urn on Amazon.

Pro Tip: Amazon sells beautifully crafted urns. Don’t knock it until you check it out.

Although coroners are free (bless their hearts), once your loved one is released the sands in the hourglass start dripping and each grain of sand costs you another dollar.

Getting your loved one out of the coroner’s office is like posting bail. Pull out your checkbook because they don’t just lift a body into the back of Hearse for free. The lifting costs money and so does the turn of the key in the ignition.

The ride to a funeral home alone is enough to buy an airline ticket. True story, it’s in black and white on the invoice.

Once your loved one resides at a funeral home it’s like a vehicle impound. Taking up space in a refrigerator costs money. They call it “sheltering remains.”

If you’d like to see your loved one, one last time, that too will cost you. For around five hundred bucks you can get thirty minutes of alone time in a private room to view your unembalmed loved one. I wouldn’t know how much embalming costs, it wasn’t in my budget.

A funeral home will graciously do the nitty-gritty work of registering the deceased and obtaining death certificates for you — for a price of course. A price I was willing to pay because who wants to do paperwork?

And finally, if you choose cremation, firing up those jets only amounts to a small fraction of the grand total of three thousand dollars. I guess fire is cheaper than refrigeration.

I can’t imagine how much more it would have cost to purchase a casket, a plot, and bury my son.

Add-ons: Did you know that for an extra cost you can request your person’s fingerprints and DNA? I didn’t know until it was offered. Yes, I opted for his fingerprints for eighty dollars. I’d heard from another mother that she did the same and the entire family got matching fingerprint tattoos. I want that.

Costs of a Complicated Death

This includes but is not limited to if your loved one lived in another province and you want to bring him home where he belongs.

Checklist of costs for an out of town death:

Airline tickets (plural because you can’t emotionally do this alone).

Hotel rooms.

Rental car.

Meals while away.

Doggy daycare while you’re away.

Add shipping of remains unless you decide to stay in the other province for the amount of time it takes to wait for cremation. It’s cheaper to have the urn shipped than wait, believe me. Funeral homes don’t work on your schedule.

If you choose to ship a whole body that’s roughly another three thousand dollars. I can’t fathom it.

Other mandatory expenses: The future cost of shipping your loved one’s vehicle home. You can’t begin the process of taking ownership until it’s in your possession. In the meantime, you’ll need to insure it while it sits.

Total price tag? Several thousand dollars more. I lost count.

Having been through all this within the last couple of months I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how those worse off than me, accomplish any of it. And believe me, I’m not well off by any means. Certainly not this year…thanks 2020.

We, the grieving, truly appreciate your kind thoughts and sentiments but we don’t know how to ask for help. We don’t even think of asking for help because we think the burden of loss is our own to deal with.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned throughout this process is that people are inherently good. They want to help. They want to do more than say, "I'm sorry for your loss,” but they don’t know what ‘more’ looks like.

How To Help Ease Someone’s Cost of Death

If not for the kindness and concern of hundreds of people I would have never made it through this. But I was fortunate to have been on the receiving end of incredible generosity from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.

So here’s one more checklist for you:

  1. Start a GoFundMe page for someone who has lost a loved one. They are highly unlikely to ask for help but they need it. Trust me.
  2. If you’re a coworker of someone who lost a loved one, take up a collection at work.
  3. If you have frequent flyer points, offer to cover their airline tickets.
  4. If you have hotel perks, offer to cover their rooms.
  5. If you have none of the above, share their fundraising campaign to a wider audience. You never know what miracles can happen with the click of a ‘share’ button.
  6. If you can’t do any of the above, offer a compassionate ear. You may not be able to ease their financial burden but you can certainly ease their emotional burden. It’s free.

Having been the recipient of ALL these checklist items, I can tell you with certainty…IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE during a time when we need it most. Nobody should have to take this on alone.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.


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