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What to do when a loved one dies

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Death is one of the hardest things to deal with in life. However, when someone close to you or a loved one dies, it can feel even more devastating. You may or may not have an idea of what that needs to be done when death comes knocking.  In this article, I will cover a step-by-step checklist on what to do when you loved one passes away.  This is specifically for non-Muslim Malaysian, and is written based on my experience as a Nirvana Service Advisor handling customer’s cases in Selangor & Kuala Lumpur.

How do I go about arranging a funeral?

Below are step-by-step in arranging a funeral when a loved one dies.

Step 0: Select a good bereavement care provider & final resting place

It would be best to speak to a trusted bereavement care provider before the death of a loved one. Get an idea of what to expect, how to reach out when it happens, what needs to be done and more. You would also want to know the cost of a arranging a funeral. 

Here are a few tips for choosing the best-fit provider:

  • Official price list of each funeral service package
  • Corresponding list of items for each funeral service package (this has to be legally binding to avoid dispute)
  • Experience and testimonials in the industry
  • 24-hour customer care
  • A well-established company with a good track of record

You do not want surprises when you are going through this tough moment. Choose a provider that can give you peace of mind, and the opportunity to grieve and mourn with your family. 

Choose a funeral service package that fits your requirements and budget. As a note of advise, don’t go for the cheapest or most expensive – understand your exact needs and choose wisely. Get a quote which fulfills the above mentioned criteria. It would be helpful to share your current situation and requirements with the service advisor. This helps the service advisor to provide you with an advice and suggestions tailored to your situation.

If your loved one do not have a final resting place, check out Nirvana’s Memorial Park for various burial and columbarium options. Let me know your criteria and I can assist in narrowing down final resting place options for your selection. There is also an instalment option plan for pre-planning.

Step 1: Call the bereavement service provider

Once you have selected the bereavement service provider, inform your Service Advisor to give them ample notice. Give the bereavement service provider a call and let them know what to expect. Some information that will be helpful:

  • The location of your loved one
  • Health condition and current situation
  • Any health complications to be aware of (e.g. Covid, Tuberculosis or any infectious disesase that require special handling)
  • Religion and any special requirements. Remember to be clear on all special requirements for ease of planning.

As a Nirvana Service Director, I support families throughout the bereavement process. It is a privilege to work with families as they mourn the loss of a loved one. Please reach out if you need clarification on the process.

Step 2: Certifying the death

When a loved one passes away at home, the death needs to be certified by a medical professional. We would advise you to call the local ambulance by dialling 999. The emergency hotline will get some clarification and arrange for the necessary ambulatory assistance.

If your loved one passes away at a medical facility (medical center or hospital), the attending doctor will do the necessary.

NOTE: Make photostated copies of the deceased’s Identification Card (IC) and medical reports for your safe keeping. The original IC should be kept properly for next steps.

Step 3: Reporting death at the police station

For death that happens at home, the next step is to report the death at the police station. The death certification provided by the medical professional or paramedics (from the ambulance service) is required for this. Bring along other additional documents such as medical reports or letters from the doctor (certifying the medical condition of the deceased). The police will issue a burial permit and give it to you.  The burial permit is required by the bereavement service provider to transport the deceased to their facility.

This step can be disregarded if death occurs at a medical facility. The medical facility will issue the burial permit upon full settlement of the bills. Liaise with the medical facility personnel to ensure that you obtain all the necessary documents prior to the transportation of the deceased.

Step 4: Transporting the deceased

The bereavement service provider will arrange for the transportation of the deceased to the funeral wake location of choice. They will liaise with you on location and time. There are a few scenario:

  • Funeral wake at home (landed property)
    • Remains at medical facility: The deceased will be transported to the home
    • Remains at home: No transportation required
  • Funeral wake at the funeral parlour / funeral home
    • Remains at medical facility: The deceased will be transported to the funeral parlour / funeral home
    • Remains at home: The deceased will be transported to the funeral parlour / funeral home

Step 5 : Making funeral arrangements

Loing a loved one is not something anyone wants to go through or prepared for. Although there are a lot of things that needs to be done, your bereavement service provider will assist you throughout the journey. 

At Nirvana, the bereaved family will have a thorough discussion with the Service Consultant (Funeral Director). The Service Consultant will provide you with advice on funeral rites and tradition according to your religion. Let them know if you have any special requirements. He/She will be able to answer all your questions and queries with regards to the funeral service. 

The discussion with the Service Consultant will cover:

  • Funeral wake start date & time
  • Date confirmation for cremation / burial
  • Funeral wake location, if not at home (precise room will be provided for you to notify your family & friends)
  • Elaborate on funeral service package – coffin, urn, etc (options to upgrade, if any)What to expect during the funeral wake
  • What is needed during the funeral wake
  • Cremation or burial – location, arrangements required
  • Addressing special request
  • Food & beverage – catering for funeral wake visitors, if needed.

This discussion will allow the Nirvana service team plan and execute accordingly. You and your family can set your mind at ease knowing that all the necessary arrangements are in place.

Step 6: Notifying family and friends. The death announcement

It is difficult to let everyone know, especially if you have a large extended family and friends. Here’s some tips to help you:

  • List down extended family members. These include aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Inform them next.
  • Check through deceased’s phone for close friends contact, and reach out.
  • Check through deceased’s address book for any other contacts, and reach out.
  • Use social media, if you deem fit. May not be for everyone, so decide accordingly.

In your notification, remember to include location of funeral wake, timing, and also the date of cremation/burial. The advance notification will help in their planning. This is also helpful for those who would like to send funeral flowers to the wake.

For Nirvana, upon confirmation of all the funeral details, a notice (in the form of an image) with all the funeral details will be prepared for family members to be shared with their family and friends.

Inform your workplace/office. You may be entitled to compassionate leave. Provide a photocopy of the burial permit which should include the details. Once you have the official death certificate, you can provide a copy to the HR department for processing.

An obituary is an option but not necessary. Depending on your family’s wishes, you can place an obituary in the local newspapers.

Step 7: Wake Ceremony and Funeral Day

At the funeral wake, family members should be present at all times to receive visitors and well-wishers. 

Pak Kam tradition

A typical Chinese funeral (irrespective of religion) will include giving “pak kam” or condolences money or bereavement money. This tradition has been on-going and it is a common practice for family, friends, business associates, and acquaintance to give cash to the bereaved families. Pak kam is supposed to help with the funeral expenses. In Nirvana, you will be provided with a book to record down “pak kam”, white angpow for visitors to use, and a small locked safe box for this purpose. Do note that “pak kam” donation is not compulsory as the most important thing in a funeral wake is to show your respect and concern.


Preferably, family members should wear neutral or sombre colours for the occasion. Blue, black, white, and neutral colors are preferred as a respect for the deceased. However, there are no hard rules on this so there may be exception depending on the deceased family’s preferences. As a rule of thumb, it is common for Buddhist believers to wear black pants and white shirt. Other religions or tradition may have different attire preferences.

Flowers & wreaths

For family and friends who are sending funeral flowers, let them know the exact location of the funeral wake. For suggestions of funeral flowers, check this out. Family members (include close families) are encouraged to buy flowers to adorn the funeral wake. Flowers adds a soft and calming effect for the occasion, and it is also one of the best bereavement gifts for the family. We suggest purchasing from SG Florist as they are experts in funeral flowers and are able to accomodate your requests. They are conveniently located in Nirvana Kuala Lumpur (NCKL or Nirvana 2) and Nirvana Sungai Besi. Condolences flowers can be purchased from thehir 24×7 onlin store here .

Step 8: Registering death at National Registration Department

I singled out this part as a separate step, but this is to be done alongside Step 5. Prior to meeting with the Serviec Consultant, prepare the deceased IC and all other relevant documents. Nirvana service team will assist in registering the death at the National Registration Department (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara) after the funeral ceremony over.

Once the death is registered, an official death certificate will be issued and passed to you. Remember to make copies of the death certificate and safekeep the original.

Step 9: Mourning rites / Memorial day observance

After the funeral, there may be specific mourning rites to observe such as the first 7th day, the 49th day, the 100th day, and so on. Some may have their own funeral rites planned while others may opt for a simple observance at the burial site / columbarium. Whichever you choose, this forms part of the mourning process that your family has to go through.

Planning a dignified final journey for a loved one

When a loved one is sick, it is a difficult discussion with the family to start planning a funeral. It is always good to hope for the best, but to prepare for the worst. It is devastating to see the bereaved family scramble to plan a funeral when they are still grieving over the loss. 

As Nirvana’s Service Director, I have had the privilege to work with families during these tough times. Personally I have also gone through this process when my late mother passes away suddenly in 2019. I am thankful that Nirvana made it easy to plan this final journey for my beloved late mother.

In fact, this planning can be done way before the eventual happens. Nirvana’s funeral services and final resting place are available for pre-purchase – so that you can preplan and buy them early on as part of your legacy planning. The benefits of pre-plan are aplenty, including locking prices against inflation, rebates, and installment plans. 

Feel free to reach out if you need to speak to someone on planning a funeral (pre-planning). I am reachable via call or Whatsapp at 013-321 9901 (Bryan).

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