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Care at the End of Life - After Death

Autopsy

An autopsy is the thorough examination of a body after death to help determine how and why a person died. Autopsies are not performed as frequently as they have been in the past, especially when the death is expected.

An autopsy is often not needed to determine the cause of death when a person dies of a disease or condition that had been diagnosed. If a diagnosis and cause of death is unclear, some families may wish to have an autopsy done. This can provide family members with information about diseases or conditions that they also may be at risk for developing.

Family members should find out the cost of an autopsy before one is arranged. For more information, see the topic Autopsy.

Should I Have an Autopsy Done on My Loved One?

Grieving the death of a loved one

Grief following a loved one's death is a normal, healthy reaction. It is a gradual process that helps people begin to accept their loss and to adjust to life without their loved one. It often takes 2 years or more to go through the most intense emotions of the grieving process. Although the pain of grief fades over time, the sense of loss after a loved one's death never completely goes away.

People experience grief physically and emotionally in their own ways. After a death, it is common for survivors to wonder if their grief is normal. Shock, denial, anger, and guilt are all common reactions after the death of someone close. For example, a person may feel angry toward other family members, a higher being, or even at the person who died. Or survivors may feel guilty because their loved one had a long illness and they are relieved that the death finally occurred. These all are normal reactions to loss.

Survivors need to be patient with themselves, and they need to seek help and support from others. Grief counseling may help some people who are having difficulty with the grieving process.

For more information about surviving the death of a loved one, see the topic Grief and Grieving.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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