A few years ago, Kat Reed discovered a gaping void in the market for people who have experienced a major void in their lives.

When her mother died suddenly in June 2007, Reed scrambled to help with not only the arrangements and her ailing dad, but also everything that was left behind. Even though the longtime bookkeeper is a highly organized person, all the details and chores that ended up on her spreadsheet proved overwhelming -- basically, too much of a bad thing.

Reed, a cheerful, open-faced woman with a signature floppy hat, was only slightly better prepared when her father died about a year later.

She considered putting the spreadsheet on her website to help others when a close friend suggested that Reed write a book on the subject instead. Reed thought it was a crazy idea -- at first.

"I looked and looked, and there was nothing on the market like this, with general directions," she said. "Hospices, caregivers, I talked to everyone who would talk to me, and they all said, 'We need a book like this.'"

Thus was spawned "Begin Here: Helping Survivors Manage" ($20), a guidebook/workbook covering everything from bills and pills to wills. She even delves into little-thought-about items such as magazine subscriptions, pest control and, of course, thank-you notes.

In compiling the book, experience was Reed's best teacher.

"When my mom died, my dad and I looked at each other every day and said, 'How do people without family do this?'" she said. "My dad couldn't even get on the phone. He was a basket case. When you're going through this, you can't think."

Chris Glasoe, managing director of Doxa Financial in North Oaks, has given the book to several of his estate-planning clients.

"My personal experience is that typically the widow is just baffled," he said. "I would have thought I would be giving the book mostly to women, but I also have given it to men who were lost, who always thought they would go first."

The primary audience for the book has been seniors, Reed said.

"I have an affinity for octogenarians, and a lot of them don't know not only how the bills are paid but where the bank is," she said.

But baby boomers who have had to help pick up the pieces in the chaotic aftermath of a parent's death have been receptive, as well -- and with no signs of Upper Midwest stoicism.

"I think boomers are a lot more proactive about this [than their parents' generation]," she said, "not hush-hush, more 'Let's talk about this.'"

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643