Unfortunately, death is part of life.
From time to time we find ourselves having to say goodbye to people (or even animals) we have grown to love and respect. Sometimes it’s traumatic, sometimes not, but at all times it feels sudden. Death, however inevitable, is always a shock, a reminder or how frail this miracle called “living” is.
Because of this, a death within a home can completely dismantle the value of that home. Not only the actual monetary value but the perceived value of the home to its owners’ hearts. In this article, we’ll talk about this delicate issue and how to maintain a solid household once a death occurs within the home. Money-wise and psychologically wise too.
Death in a house: logical measures
Let’s start with the easy part.
Do you know what to do if someone gets injured in your home? When someone dies, the first steps are basically the same, but the aftermath is much worse and requires a lot of empathy and serenity from the owner of the house.
Say someone died in your home. The family of that person might hold you liable to it if they think the accident was caused by your house and the difficulties associated with it. Practical logical measures must be taken. The most important is calling your homeowner’s insurance company to make sure everything is taken care of. If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover death benefits to the family of the deceased, you should definitely talk to the insurance company and ask them to include it. Trust us, the guilt alone can never be repaid and one life can never be restored; the least you could do is have the insurance company help the family with this benefit. There will be a bit more added to your monthly fees but can make a difference for a family who, besides everything, will be one possible provider short.
And, of course, depending on the nature of the death, you need to hire as soon as possible the appropriate cleaning service to completely eradicate the signs of death in the house. Overall, that’s the main concern/logical measure when a death in a house occurs. So much so it’s something that is at the same time a logical and a psychological measure. Which leads us to the more complicated point next…
Death in a house: psychological measures
Because of the way we perceive things, a death can be troublesome for residents that decide to stay and also for homeowners who decide to sell the house.
For both, a home renovation is demanded. For residents staying put, the remembrance of the death or the absence of that person or animal creates a void in our life that is especially noticeable within our home - after all, those beings were an integral part of the household. If Nana died in her bed, every time you walk by it, you might get teary eyed. Even if she didn’t die within the house, passing by the chair she always sat in might make you cry. Decluttering your house is, after all, an energy cleansing routine as well. By removing objects that now are attached to a deceased energy, you will be able to nurture new ones - hopefully, happy ones.
So, although it is hard to give away things from late people because it may feel like you are forgetting them, let’s use Antoine Lavoisier’s phrase for a bit: “In nature, nothing is lost (…) everything is transformed”. We owe to the deceased that they live on by transforming into the new. Decluttering can be an important rite of passage and way to overcome the grief and move on in a healthy manner.
The keyword here is: re-purpose.
Especially for kids, if you manage to re-purpose the room where it happened, it will make for an important lesson of how life is a moving train that stops for no one. Don’t think that this is a way to not talk about it and shove your feelings away – it’s quite the contrary. If you can find some DIY Home improvement ideas so you and the kids can change the tune with your bare hands, the lesson might be even deeper and efficient. You will be, literally, building a new scenario for you to live on. And metaphorically – but almost literally – changing that reality. Teaching them that to overcome obstacles you need to take action. No hurdle is won without effort.
Back to the money aspect of a death in the house – and here is the part where it’s both logical and psychological – that re-purpose of the home needs to be made even if the plan is leaving the home. Although – or maybe because - death is the only inevitable thing in life, most people are really freaked out by it, and if you’re wondering how a death in a home affects its home value, it can be something like 25%! That worrying about deaths in a house is so serious, a lot of states demand that information to be included in the seller disclosure, and most real estate agents include it, even if the state doesn’t ask them to, in their Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listing. For reference: Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia require neither Real Estate Agents nor Home Sellers to disclose that information.
And, even though those states do not obligate people to disclose it, home buyers still use online services specialized in finding out that kind of records and information or even play detective reaching out to neighbors and asking them about it.
So, as you see, it’s important to be ahead of it and make the information that a death has occurred in your home as meaningless as you can by re-purposing the house so much, that information doesn’t even fit in there.
Alternatively, there’s a middle ground for the ones who don’t want to sell the house but are not ready to deal with the absence of that person: you can rent the house with everything in it and move for a while someplace else. If that’s your option, it’s important to note that you might have the unpleasant (or pleasant; it depends on the person) surprise of returning “home” and finding the whole place repurposed without your input. That may be a blessing or a curse depending on how far you and your family have come with the grief of dealing with the departure of your loved one.
Helping a child deal with death
Lastly, this may seem like a 180-degree turn but, if you’re staying, it’s important to honor the dead in order to maintain a solid household once a loved one has passed away. Especially when there are kids involved.
Kids can be quite sensitive but their emotional and logical understanding of things is still in development. So we can’t let the repurposing of the home be confused with the erasing of the facts. Decluttering is important, but you should keep one or two items - like pictures - of that person that wasn’t present at the time of death. It’s a way to show kids that the deceased will always be there with us, only in a different form. If your child is really young, a movie like Disney’s Coco and several other books might help you with it.
Most importantly: get professional help! Therapy can be of the utmost importance when helping a child deal with death. Group therapy, especially, can be a nice way for them to see they are not alone in the grieving and confusion of feelings that is a death in the family and will be an important tool to help the healing. Not only the kid’s but yours.
Parents that are constantly out of home should try to be more present but should also beware not to “suffocate” too much with the “I’m here for you” attitude. Sometimes kids are not even that shaken by some things but the parent’s overbearing worrying makes them aware that there’s something to be sad about, which leads to guilt, which is especially bad when connected to a death. So try to find the right measure between not giving a damn and being there for support.
And one still new tradition that is definitely interesting is celebrating life instead of mourning death. Yes, that old funeral idea of having the deceased in the casket and people crying in silent, saying words of sorrow… some people have been changing that. While we can’t call it a “party”, they have tried to make it a more joyous occasion, remembering fun stories about the deceased, sharing unknown bits of what made that person great and what about them is going to be so missed by all. Sure, it’s still sad because we’re talking about qualities that are no longer going to be around, but if done in a nice way, it can be a great way to deal with the trauma that is to lose someone. Sharing is caring and if we always talk about that person and fond memories of her/him, in a way, that person becomes eternally present on the minds and hearts of everyone attending. If you think about it - unless the person in question was all about death - a mopping funeral is not the more apt way to celebrate their passing. Let’s celebrate the aspects that made the person great - the joy it was having them by your side.
If you are dealing with this right now, we are really sorry and wish you and your loved ones all the strength in the world. Remember that, regardless of our beliefs, it’s a fact that death is part of this experience called life, and, though we may miss the ones that went before us, we are still here with a lot to live and learn. Whether a curse or a blessing, adaptability is one of our biggest traits and we cannot change that. Let’s make the best use of it!