A Guide to Managing VSED

Part Five: Completion and After-Death Process


A Guide TO Managing VSED as an End-of-Life Choice

by VSED Resources Northwest

This document offers a thorough description of the VSED process and explains in detail how to plan for each step, from making the decision to do VSED and setting the date to begin, through after-death care, honoring the body, and supporting the family. The intended audience for this document is a death doula or end-of-life guide, but it may also be useful for family members who are either seeking to hire a death doula to facilitate the VSED process or are considering managing the process themselves.

NOTE: Due to the length of this document, we are breaking it into multiple parts on this website:

At the bottom of each web page, please click the NEXT PAGE button. The printable PDF button at the top of each page will open a single PDF with all pages included.

After-Death Care

  1. After the death, clear the room of all caregiving supplies and invite the family to be present with the body or to help wash and dress it, if requested.
  2. Offer a leave-taking ceremony in preparation for the client’s body to leave the house:
    • This can include simply reading a poem, putting a blossom in the client’s hair, bowing in gratitude, humming a melody, and/or observing a moment of silence.
    • This honors the sacred space and the dying process that has occurred within the home.

Follow Up with Family

  1. Meet with family after the death to listen to and talk about the experience—what worked, what didn’t, what was meaningful, what might have been confusing.
  2. During the week following death, help family members determine their next steps.
  3. Review “What to Do in the First 48 Hours” brochure from hospice:
    • Friends and family to notify
    • Religious contacts
    • Professional groups
    • Employer
    • Companies from which client received regular service
    • Attorney and accountant
    • Social Security
    • Obtain copies of the death certificate
    • Obituary writing and submission
    • Decisions about final arrangements
    • Location of important documents
  4. Help family members assess their need for:
    • Self-care
    • Grief support
    • Rest and sleep
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