Empathy, a platform helping families navigate the journey they face after losing a loved one, today released the first edition of its annual “Cost of Dying Report”. The report reveals results from a new survey exploring the real cost of dying in the US. The report includes a foreword from Goldman Sachs, as well as reflections from experts in the end-of-life space including David Kessler, Chief Empathy Officer at Empathy & Grief Expert, BJ Miller, MD, Compassion Advisor at Empathy & Co-Founder of Mettle Health, and Shoshanna Ungerleider, MD, Founder of the End Well Foundation.
Families dealing with loss face unique challenges that encompass nearly every aspect of their life. Unfortunately, the traditional support systems available to most Americans fall short of addressing the holistic needs of a bereaved family. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this gap into sharp focus. More than 3 million Americans lost their lives in 2020 and their surviving family members were left searching for the right support to guide them through the financial, legal, and emotional challenges of a loss.
This report takes a comprehensive look at the cost of dying in the United States and the massive demands it puts on the family of the deceased. The information details not only the emotional toll of grief, but the actual, practical burdens that accompany loss like funerals, paying debts, and administering estates. Along with notable statistics, the report features perspectives from renowned experts in the bereavement field on how such challenges can be addressed.
Significant findings include:
• After a loved one dies, nearly every family faces a significant financial burden, with the average total bill standing at $12,702.
• On average, families spend 13 months after their loved one’s death completing all the necessary tasks, or 20 months if the estate must go through the full probate process.
• Bereavement has a notable effect on employed family members’ job security and work productivity: 46% of respondents had to spend more than 1 hour per workday to deal with tasks related to their loved one, meaning a total of 325 hours of potential lost productivity over the course of the average 13-month process.
“Death doesn’t skip anyone, and the cost of dying is higher than we think,” said Ron Gura, Co-Founder & CEO of Empathy. “Aside from the financial costs, the mental costs of grief seep into every aspect of our lives. We, as a society, can do more to help those suffering; with this report, which includes important contributions from leading figures in the end-of-life space and a foreword by Goldman Sachs, we hope to shine a light on this often neglected topic so that we can overcome the taboo on death and meaningfully step up for grieving families across the US.”
“Empathy has revealed in this report that Americans spend the GDP of a medium-sized country on death-related expenses every year,” said Adam Hills, Managing Director, Head of SurvivorSupport® at Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management. “Losing a loved one is a major source of stress, and these additional financial burdens can make it that much more overwhelming. We believe the issues outlined in Empathy’s report validate our experience working with employers to help grieving clients navigate the unique challenges they face at life’s most difficult times.”
The study is the first edition of an annual report to better understand the challenges and needs of bereaved families in the US. Over 2,100 respondents who have lost a loved one in the past five years took part in the survey.