Public Release: 

Preparing for the unexpected

University of Utah publishes handbook for dealing with the sudden death of a loved one

University of Utah Health Sciences

(August 28, 2009) - The number of immediate considerations following the death of loved one can be daunting, but the aftermath of an unexpected death can be especially traumatic for grievers. In partnership with the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Caring Connections: A Hope and Comfort in Grief Program of the U. College of Nursing has released a reference guide to assist grievers during those first hours and days following a sudden and unexpected death. The third edition of Dealing with Sudden and Unexpected Death: A Handbook for Survivors written by Beth Vaughan Cole, PhD, APRN, Jan Harvey, MS, APRN and Leslie Miles, RN is now available in English or Spanish for $14.99, plus tax, shipping and handling. The handbook includes a checklist of things to do in the first 24 hours after death, such as: notify friends and family, discuss organ donation, cancel the deceased's credit cards and locate a will and keep it safe. Divided into sections for easy reference, the book also covers common grief responses, funeral arrangements, what to expect out of children at certain ages and resources for survivors to gain support over time in reconciling their loss.

Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) Chaplain Jay Rhodes says the book has been "indispensable" to his department's 12 chaplains representing nine religions. "In the case of a sudden or accidental death, loved ones are often extremely shocked," he says. "At the same time they are abruptly faced with many important decisions that need to be made in a relatively short period of time." Rhodes says the first question SLCPD chaplains typically hear upon informing a survivor of their loved one's death, is "where do I go from here?" The book gives officers "a tool to be able to sit down with a family and say, 'here are some resources; you are not alone.'" He adds that when he opens the book to the "First 24 Hours" checklist and begins discussing the immediate considerations, grievers inevitably respond with "I hadn't even thought of that."

Kathie Supiano, MS, LCSW, director of Caring Connections, says the handbook is the result of a community-identified need for more readily available information to help families facing the sudden death of a loved one. In preparing the guide, she says the authors interviewed police, victim advocates and other grief and bereavement specialists, and have integrated their suggestions into the text, making it a "valuable resource for individuals, families and professionals alike."


Dealing with Sudden and Unexpected Death: A Handbook for Survivors can be purchased by calling Caring Connections at (801) 585-9522. Revenue from the guide helps to sustain this non-profit grief and bereavement support program.

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