Unable to Bury Their Dead

Someone I know very well had a tragic loss this week.  Their mother passed away.  She was the matriarch of her family, a woman who had known much loss but who embraced every moment of her journey, the moments of grand merriment, as well as the moments of great suffering.

Her death was a tragedy on so many levels; not just because her family lost their mother and grandmother, but because her death was preventable.  She acquired an infection that went undetected and ultimately she died of renal failure caused by severe dehydration.  There are many symptoms to this type of breakdown, but sadly, these are symptoms often overlooked in the elderly.

I cannot imagine hearing a doctor say those words.  "This death was preventable."  As if a family does not have enough grief for the moment, let's add that to their plate.

Grief and guilt.

And I wish that the story stopped there, but it doesn't.  Not uncommon, this sweet mother and grandmother did not have life insurance, and had made no plans, financially, for the end of her life.  Her family was suddenly faced with the realization that they would have to pay for her burial.  A low-income family, they found themselves without many options.

After meeting with funeral homes and hospital officials they learned this is what happens if you cannot come up with the money to pay for burial costs.  You can sign a release form with your county coroner's office that says you can't afford to bury the family member.  Once the release is signed, the coroner will pay for a cremation.  If the family can afford to pay for the ashes ($600) they can have them.  If not, the county will bury the ashes in a common grave alongside other unclaimed ashes.

Grief. Guilt. And now Shame.

When I said her death was a tragedy on so many levels, I meant it.  What is a family to do in a situation like this? Honestly, I hope I never have to know. I'd love to tell you this family rallied together and raised the money for a proper burial, but they didn't.  The burden of deciding whether to try to raise the money or release the body to the county fell to the shoulders of one daughter. I cannot imagine that pressure.

Grief, guilt, shame, pressure.

All that to say, this is a reality in lots and lots of people's lives.  (811,000 people annually in the US who can't bury their dead).  I think sometimes I live in a bubble.

Update: Per the comments below, you can email me at cjones3730@gmail.com for details on how you can help.


  1. Carol, I would like to help this family. Can you give me your email address so I can ask you the details? - Mary Anne

  2. Yes, Mary Anne. You can email me at cjones3730@gmail.com

  3. Carol, were they able to bury their mom? Do they need help still?

  4. Anonymous, thanks for asking. If you would like to help, please contact me at cjones3730@gmail.com

  5. Oh how sad. That's a terrible story. Can I help in some way? - Franklin Thoms

  6. Franklin, that's nice of you to ask. You can contact me at cjones3730@gmail.com and I can give you some details.


Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing from you.