Grieving family members often suffer physical symptoms and severe financial burdens following the death of a loved one.
More than 70% of respondents to a survey by the bereavement care tech platform Empathy reported at least one mental health symptom for a few weeks after the death of a loved one; 58% indicated that the symptoms lasted for several months. About 15% reported symptoms that persisted for more than a year, according to Empathy’s 2024 Cost-of-Dying report. Symptoms included depression and anxiety, among others.
Close to 68% of the recently bereaved reported physical symptoms such as insomnia, weight loss or headaches, with about 14% indicating that these effects lasted at least a year.
“Death can take a massive toll on individuals and families, costing them not only many thousands of dollars for the funeral, the legal fees, and so on, but also a huge expenditure of time to deal with all of the arrangements and logistics involved,” Empathy Co-Founder and CEO Ron Gura said in an introduction to the report. “It is generally a major source of stress, which in turn can impact people’s health, relationships and career.”
Families can spend more than 500 hours in the weeks following a loved one’s death to address administrative, legal and financial concerns, including account cancellations, estate administration and insurance claims, according to the report. Executors of decedents’ estates often feel the most severe impacts.
Among the survey respondents, the average family spends $12,616 to cover expenses related to a loved one’s death. Legal fees alone averate $2,788, the report indicated.
Moreover, these burdens often have an adverse effect on family members’ worklife, with the largest impacts again falling on executors.
Close to 60% of executors who have full-time jobs reported struggling to keep up with work while also managing responsibilities associated with a family member’s death. About 92% indicated that their work life had been affected, Empathy reported.
This also has an impact on employers, according to the research.
“Businesses also experience outsized negative effects if they are not adequately prepared for when an employee experiences a loss,” the report indicated. “Everything the affected employee is dealing with, from their emotional stress to their day-to-day administrative and financial challenges, has repercussions for a workforce, whether they are in the office or not. Estimates suggest that U.S. businesses lose over $100 billion a year to grief-related absenteeism, reduced productivity and turnover.”
Bereavement care tech startup Empathy launched in 2021 with an app designed to help reduce the burden on grieving families and provide additional layers of emotional support.
The Empathy app is designed to help families navigate the logistical aspects of bereavement, including documentation, funeral or memorial arrangements, validating a will and other essentials. These tasks often require hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, for which many families are unprepared.
Empathy in April 2021 secured $13 million in seed money, with the venture capital firms General Catalyst and Aleph as the lead investors. Empathy went on to raise an additional $30 million in subsequent funding rounds.
The company’s clients and partners include a number of hospice providers, including Compassus, one of the 10 largest hospice providers in the United States, as well as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).