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Is Bereavement Visible on the Horizon?

Are you preparing for bereavement, here is what you need to know.

If your parent seems to be in serious medical decline, please pay close attention to the facts below. Despite your valiant efforts and those of the doctor to keep your mother comfortable and pain free, you will feel compelled to take action once you know about the cost of dying.

Goldman Sachs issued a report in March of 2022 called Empathy: The Cost of Dying based on research on the true costs incurred when a loved one passes away in the US. The 2,000+ participants in the survey consisted of family members who lost a loved one in the last five years and took part in winding down their loved one’s affairs. Qualitative and quantitative data from probate and estate settlement professionals rounded out the findings.

There are significant financial costs to the family, which we will talk about later in this article. There are strains on time, mental health, physical health, relationships, and job performance. These cost money, too. Moreover, they affect an average of four family members per deceased individual.

The actual, practical burden of dealing with all the logistical details of funerals, paying debts, and administering estates require people to spend time, effort, productivity, and mental energy, as well as significant sums for months.

These are some key findings.

Burden on the Family

Everyone in the family is affected, even if an average of four family members are involved in the various responsibilities involved in settling a loved one’s affairs.  Different family members take on specific tasks such as funeral planning and arranging, bill and tax paying, and engaging with other service providers. Women are 42%  of those that take care of these tasks. 36% are men. Men are more likely to be involved in financial matters such as property, will, and probate.

Nearly 42% of bereaved people turn to family members, friends, fellow congregants, and community members to help them with these tasks, even if there are several other family members involved. In other words, the burden tends to be shared.

Since the burden is more than any one person can handle, yet our society doesn’t talk about this, experts say that we all should be encouraging family members and community members to talk more openly about this time of life and share the relevant information. Saying I know someone who is good with dealing with bill paying for the deceased, or I had a good experience with this lawyer, will be very helpful. All members of the community should try to see how stressed, busy, and in need of practical guidance the family members are.

Financial Cost

The total financial cost of dying is $12,702 (including funeral and professional help) with 79% of family members using funds from their own bank accounts, credit cards, or cashed-in investments to cover expenses.  Only one in seven families had their immediate funeral costs prepaid or were able to use inherited funds.

More than 50% of families had to deal with estates with debt. About the same number of these estates were able to pay their debts. Others went into personal debt if they were unable to pay off the debts of the deceased.

All this is in addition to the financial burden remaining for the time prior to the death of the family member. According to, family caregivers spend more than $7,200 a year on out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving while the patient is alive. Families often spend months or years terrified that a wrong move may wipe out their inheritance or even their own savings. All these costs cause a lot of stress.

Time Cost

Family members spend 13 months after their loved one’s death completing the necessary task. It takes another seven months if the estate goes through full probate. Most participants are not prepared for how long the process would take. On average, it takes 420 hours of work to handle the average estate with five phone calls per week. Nearly half of the family members take on three or more very time-consuming tasks. The time is chiefly spent on phone calls with several phone calls per week.

Impact on Work

All this time spent has to come from somewhere. There is no time bank from which you can take big withdrawals. There are only 24 hours per day. There is, therefore, significant loss of productivity at work, in leisure time, and in family time. Add this to the emotional toll of the loss of a loved one, the stress is very high. Nearly half of employed participants in the survey said their job performance was negatively affected by loss with 31% reporting difficulty in focus and 25% reporting constant distraction. The numbers of those who reported the effect of bereavement on work productivity and job security were significant-52%.

Cost to Mental Health

The loss and the stress of the necessary tasks take their toll. 57% of participants suffered from clinical mental or physical health symptoms with most experiencing three different symptoms. 80% said they did not know what to do, lacked guidance, or were afraid of making mistakes.

The process of loss exacerbate issues both interpersonal and personal, weakening the family unit and piling on the stress.

What Can I Learn from These Alarming Statistics?

  • Plan and budget for a funeral. Consult professionals and compare costs. Prepaying from the resources of the dying individual is smart and saves stress, cost, and taxes.
  • Organize finances and gather wills, financial documents, bills, trust information, titles, and legal documents.
  • Make sure beneficiaries, executors, and power of attorney are in order (as well as advanced directives).
  • Talk over end-of-life matters including palliative care, hospice, DNRs, and more with family members and supportive community members (clergy, friends, and professionals).
  • Communicate with key family members and get professional help to do so if necessary.
  • Be prepared for the time, financial, and emotional cost of the passing of your loved one.

Other articles of interest from Caring Professionals Home Care Agency



About the Author

Picture of Faigie Horowitz

Faigie Horowitz

Faigie Horowitz, MS serves as director of communication at Caring Professionals. She advocates for the senior population on the state level and writes about senior and caregiver issues. She is a columnist for several periodicals. She has spent decades in nonprofit management and serves as a lay leader and founder of several community organizations.

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