Shortly before his death, he helped her make a checklist of all the things she would have to do: call the morgue, Social Security, and the bank; order as many death certificates; plan what to do with his stuff. “I sat there with tears rolling down, being like, I don’t want to do this,” Bidwell Smith says. “But the minute he died, I was so grateful to have that list.”
Now, new apps and websites with names like Cake, Lantern and Empathy exist to help people navigate the tumult and confusion after a disaster, offering tools ranging from curated checklists for the first few days from funeral planning to resources for later issues such as closure. credit card account of a deceased person or finding a home for the deceased person’s pet.
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The creators of these apps and websites say their goal of providing easily accessible and organized help to people in distress has never been more necessary. “The pandemic has given people a better understanding of why this is important, as well as the real need” for services, says Suelin Chen, who co-founded Cake in 2017.
Cake, which says 40 million people visit its website each year, provides a list of tasks people need help with and then creates a checklist, along with guides for tasks like creating an online memorial page for a loved one. The website hosts a library of thousands of death-related articles, including how to express condolences to a friend and how to plan an eco-friendly funeral service. Cake, which is free for users, also provides help with other end-of-life needs, such as advice on talking to aging parents or writing a will.
The websites Lantern, founded in 2018, and Empathy, founded in 2021, also provide guides on what to do after a death, with information on options at each stage and when.
Lantern, whose co-founder Liz Eddy was inspired to create the website after the death of her grandmother and ended up Googling what to do next, aims to be a one-stop resource for people in grief. Among other things, it provides information on how to write a eulogy and “do a scattering of ashes ceremony”, and offers a list of the “best funeral songs”, with traditional/religious, dark and joyful possibilities. . Empathy’s “Obituary Writer” feature, meanwhile, promises that it “can create a post-ready tribute based on your answers to a few questions.” For a fee, it also offers one-on-one assistance from a professional disaster consultant who basically acts as a concierge for disaster relief tasks.
“We connect people with services and give them tools, but a lot of it is an educational platform,” says Eddy.
Other companies strive to go beyond simply providing information to create tools that will handle some of the logistical burden after death.
Kat Reed founded EstateGrid after publishing a manual called “Begin Here: Helping Survivors Manage” to help his father deal with his mother’s death.
EstateGrid is working on creating a service that will automate much of the bureaucratic aftermath of death. It starts with the automated discovery of assets, liabilities and accounts, using the deceased person’s identity and death certificate to generate a list of what needs to be done. The platform will offer tiered levels of services, such as free tools and paid options, for automation processes.
“Every life leaves a mess,” says the website, which also offers help with selling a home, finding investment accounts, appraising valuables and finding a new home for a pet.
The Empathy mobile app, which also features an easy-to-navigate checklist, offers premium services such as an obituary who promises to create a polished obituary based on the bereaved answering a few questions. The paid option, which costs $8.99 for a month or $64.99 for a year, also includes tools that automate the closing of deceased person accounts, memberships, and subscriptions. The app uses software to pre-fill forms and streamline processes that typically require dozens of separate phone calls.
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However, companies are not limited to logistics. They also include grief resources as part of their tools.
Experts say that makes sense. It is difficult to separate the logistics after a death from the grief that people have to deal with. The logistics “can be so overwhelming and terrifying, and actually sometimes get in the way of the grieving process,” says psychologist Jordana Jacobs. When the tasks following a death take up so much time and energy, it can distract from grief, at least temporarily. As psychotherapist Megan Devine says, “logistic support does not change grief, but it does reduce suffering.”
Empathy provides grief meditations, journaling, and chat support (which is another premium feature). Empathy co-founder Ron Gura says his company has focused on helping people with both of these issues. “We don’t think you can separate them,” he says.
Text-based company Grief Coach focuses on the emotions following a death, using advice from grief experts to send personalized texts to your phone. These messages – which range from describing breathing techniques to use when feeling overwhelmed, to reminders that grieving is not a linear process – are designed to provide extra help that family and friends often want but don’t know how to give.
Founder Emma Payne started Grief Coach after her husband died by suicide and she stopped hearing from many friends and family. Ten years later, she went to a friend’s funeral and learned how devastated many of her fellow citizens had lost touch: they just didn’t know what to say. Grief Coach costs $99 per year, which includes the addition of up to four friends and family members who also receive text messages with suggestions on how they can support the grieving person, such as reminders of the loss. birthday of the deceased.
Grief Coach does not replace human support; instead, he teaches bereaved people how to find and ask for support and helps their loved ones come forward in a meaningful way. Experts say logistical support from technology can be helpful on a stand-alone basis, but digital bereavement support is best used alongside the personal support or therapy that is often needed to process and move forward after a deep loss.
“My hesitation about technology is that we just have to make sure we don’t lose the intimacy inherent in what heals from connection through grief,” says Jacobs. “We have to make sure that we always make these tech products very human, because it’s through that humanity…that we heal the most from loss.”
Bidwell Smith, whose father made her this critical checklist, says she believes that while technology cannot replace these healing connections, it can enable people to connect with each other.
“Grieving is so lonely and can be very isolating,” she says, but she’s encouraged to see people with similar experiences reuniting in online communities like social media and new post-disaster websites and apps. “I think anything that makes someone feel more connected and less alone in what they’re going through is a good thing.”
There is no easy way to deal with what happens when a loved one passes away. But by helping to demystify essential tasks and offering resources for logistics and bereavement, these digital service leaders say they hope they can help ease some of the burden for those who are grieving, giving them a little more comfort. space to heal and connect with the support they need.