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10 practical steps to take when someone dies

Losing someone we care for can be one of the hardest experiences life throws our way. Whether the loss was expected or sudden, its impact can leave us feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable in lots of different ways.

Woman sitting on floor looking sad

When someone we care for dies, there are often practical things we need to do. And we know from our community of carers just how tough it can be to manage a hefty todo list alongside grieving. This article is here to offer some tips and guidance on navigating through this difficult time. 

If we’re not ready to dive into ‘practical things just yet, that’s completely fine. We may find some comfort in reading how other carers have dealt with grief and some of their nuggets of wisdom first. 

And as a side note: reading through the steps we've laid out here can help us to feel more ready for whatever might come in the future, regardless of what our caring situation is right now. We may even want to bookmark this page for later, just in case we ever need it.

1. Let someone know

It's important to take certain steps based on how the person passed away.

If they passed away at home and it was expected

Firstly, there's no rush to do anything right away. It's OK to take a moment and gather ourselves. We may want to take a deep breath and collect our thoughts before we do anything else.

“My late husband stayed with us all day, the funeral director had already been engaged..we rang to advise them and they said to call back when we were ready.”

Once we feel ready, we can reach out to their next of kin (if it isn’t us), or other close friends or family to let them know what's happened. We'll also want to inform their GP, who will provide a certificate explaining the cause of death, which we'll need to register. The next step is to reach out to a funeral director for assistance.

“What we didn’t know was that because she died at home we had to immediately engage a funeral director to come and collect her. We had made no plans for this. I wish I had known about this possibility because I would have spoken to funeral directors beforehand to choose the most suitable/kind firm but instead I was rushed into making a snap decision with no real information.”

If the death was unexpected

We should call 999 right away. Once we've made the call, there’s time to gather our thoughts before moving forward with any further steps.

If the cause of death is uncertain or seems unusual, it will be reported to a coroner, who might decide to conduct further investigations, such as a post-mortem examination. The police may also do a routine visit to gather information for the coroner.

“[Mum] died late in the evening, we called 999 although we knew she didn’t want to be resuscitated but we still wanted the support. The ambulance crew were incredible, so kind."
Doctor pushing someone in a wheelchair

If the death happened in hospital

The hospital staff will be there to support and guide us through the process. A medical examiner will assess the cause of death, ensuring everything is in order. The hospital will take care of the body, keeping it in the hospital mortuary until we're ready to make arrangements with a funeral director. It's OK to take our time with this process.

If they died abroad

We'll need to register the death with the local council in the country where it occurred. The Tell Us Once  service is available to help us report the death to most government organisations in one go, making things a bit easier during this challenging time. 

Typically, a local death certificate can be used in the UK. However, if it's not in English, we may need to arrange for a certified translation. Additionally, we can register the death in the UK by reaching out to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. They'll assist us in navigating through the necessary steps from overseas. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good resource if we need specific assistance. 

“With a funeral plan, when it is taken out you can nominate a particular funeral director, and their phone number can then be written onto the plan documents for when the sad time comes that the call needs to be made.”

2. Let yourself grieve

We all handle grief differently. While some of us might find solace in focusing on practical tasks, others may need a moment to feel the weight of their emotions. It's very normal to feel sad, confused, relieved, angry or any other mix of emotions during this time. 

“Everyone grieves differently, we all deal with a loved ones death in our own way, there are no set rules, don't feel guilty about it, just cope the best way you can.”

Because grief is deeply personal, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to processing the death of someone close to us. The important thing is to give ourselves permission to feel whatever we're feeling. Our Carers' guide to making friends with our feelings may help here.

“It’s good to take stuff out of your shoulders, you need to talk about your feelings. It helps you heal. Maybe look for bereavement counselling, when you are ready. The most important thing is to give yourself time to grieve. You may not know what to say now or even how you really feel, and that's alright.”

With the help of other carers, we’ve created a guide on the key moments of grief, from dealing with a terminal illness to coping with the feelings of grief.

“I have found the Sue Ryder foundation to be a great resource for learning about grief, for yourself and others.”

3. Register the death

Man writing on a giant clipboard

To register the death, we can visit the UK government website, which will walk us through the process step by step. It's important to register within five days (eight days in Scotland), and this includes weekends and bank holidays. 

Once registered, we'll receive either a 'certificate for a burial' to hand over to the funeral director or an application for cremation, which we'll need to fill out and submit to the crematorium. This step helps to ensure that the necessary arrangements for laying our loved one to rest are taken care of.

“For funeral directors, we asked local friends for recommendations.”

4. Talk to someone who understands

Speaking to someone about our grief is often the best way to start moving towards feeling better - whether that’s a friend, family member, or neighbour, or a professional like a therapist or bereavement counsellor.

Speech bubbles

As carers, we know it can feel all the more lonely when we’re grieving both the person we cared for and also our role as their carer. Chatting to carers in our community, or a specific grief community such as Untangle, who understand can be a helpful start. Whether they're going through grief or have overcome it, they can offer empathy and support.

“I think one of the most difficult things about losing those close to us, is the sense of loneliness and isolation especially when you have been caring for them for a long period, as suddenly it all stops and it’s hard to make sense of the new reality. The feelings you have now are perfectly natural, we’re not machines that can be switched on or off. Don’t be hard on yourself.”

Staying connected can be tough when we're grieving. It's natural to want to withdraw, but reaching out to friends and family can help. We may feel uncomfortable talking about feelings, or we might not feel ready to talk about the person that died. That's perfectly fine - everyone copes with grief differently, and there's no pressure to ‘be’ or ‘say’ anything. Sometimes, just having someone there for company, giving us a hug, or giving ourselves a break from everything we're going through is what we need.

5. Tell the DWP 

Use the Tell Us Once service to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their passing. Informing the DWP allows for the closure of the cared for’s accounts and prevents any unauthorised use of their identity or benefits. It's really important to do this step, as not doing so could lead to legal issues like being taken to court or having to pay fines - extra stress we don’t need at an already difficult time.

6. Cancel carer benefits

Notifying the DWP’s Tell Us Once service will also cancel any current carer benefits that we or they receive. We can inform the DWP about the death by phone (0800 085 7308) or by filling out a form online

It’s useful to have a pad and pen handy to make a note of anyone we speak to on the phone and the key points from the conversation. Be ready to provide details such as the cared for’s name, date of birth, National Insurance number and the date of their death.

Pile of bank notes

If we were receiving Carer’s Allowance, we’ll continue receiving it for up to eight weeks after the person we were caring for has passed. Some carers have shared that their Carer’s Allowance was stopped before this and that they had to get in touch with the DWP to reinstate it for the remaining time. So it’s helpful to keep an eye on our bank statements.

Also, it's important to be aware that if we continue to receive payments after the person has passed away, we may be asked to pay them back eventually, even if it was due to an error on the part of the DWP.

Some other considerations shared by our community also include:

If the person we've lost was someone we relied on for tasks like shopping or cooking, and we're finding it tough to manage, reaching out to our local council our own care needs assessment might be helpful.

7. Make funeral arrangements

Arranging a funeral can feel overwhelming, but there's support available to guide us through the process. The Citizens Advice Bureau offers simple, step-by-step advice on how to arrange and pay for a funeral. 

If the person who passed away left instructions about their funeral preferences, it can make things a bit easier. We might find comfort in knowing we’re honouring their wishes.

If we’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure if you can handle arranging the funeral, remember that we don’t need to do it alone. Is there someone else in our circle of support who can lend a hand? Sometimes, having a friend or family member step in to help can make a big difference to our wellbeing while grieving. 

8. Prioritise sleep

Grief can exhaust us, both physically and mentally. We might cry a lot, or feel angry, or numb. We can feel lost, out of routine and overwhelmed with all the change. Getting enough sleep can help to support our minds and bodies through the process. 

Even if we’re struggling with sleepless nights, we should still try to get into bed and rest. If we’re finding it difficult to rest our minds we may find some calm music, fresh bedding or a book can help a little. Even lying awake can still give us a form of rest, so it’s important to try and not get frustrated if we can’t fall asleep. 

9. Make sure to eat and drink

Even if we've lost our appetite, it's a good idea to try to eat three meals a day to keep our energy up. If we're finding it hard to cook, it's okay to rely on convenient foods like takeaways or ready meals for now. Remember, it's just temporary, and it's better than skipping meals altogether. 

Mug of tea with a heart on top

While it's understandable to want to find ways to cope with difficult emotions, relying too much on alcohol can actually make things feel worse. It's important to be mindful of how much we're drinking. If we're finding it hard to manage, it might be helpful to reach out to our GP, Drinkaware or Alcoholics Anonymous for support.

“If people around you are keen to lend support- asking for meals to be made for you or shopping to be done can be a big help.”

10. Make time for self-care

During times of grief, it's completely normal to feel like everything's been turned upside down, and sticking to a routine can feel like an impossible task. But it's important to be gentle with ourselves and make time for self-care whenever we can. Simple tasks like showering, getting dressed and brushing our teeth might feel like a struggle when we're grieving, but they can make a big difference in how we feel. 

If we find ourselves unable to keep up with these tasks like we used to, it could be a sign that we need some extra support. Speaking to a GP or therapist can provide us with the guidance and assistance we need to navigate through this difficult time.

Useful organisations:

Mind - provides resources, helplines and local support groups to help us cope with loss.

Child Bereavement UK - provides practical advice, information and support to people and families coping with loss. 

Samaritans - there for anyone in distress, including those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Cruse Bereavement - offers free support to people who have experienced the death of someone close to them.

Winston's Wish - provides support to bereaved children and young people.

The Good Grief Trust - Run by the bereaved, for the bereaved, and offers compassionate support and resources.

Final word

We know from our community that when someone passes away, in some situations our caring role can suddenly become more intense. 

Alongside dealing with grief and the steps mentioned earlier, we may find ourselves grappling with a heavier load. A death can mean there’s new people to care for. Grief can exacerbate existing conditions such as mental health issues, dementia, Parkinson's and addiction. And even if our caring role is now over, we may feel it takes more effort to do every tasks, such as taking care of ourselves. So, it's important to recognise when things have become too much and reach out for support. 

“After the death of the person we care for, our caring role continues; now it is us who needs to care for ourselves.”

Remember, we don't have to face these challenges alone, and there are people and resources available to help us through it. Our Mobilise carer community is here to listen and support.

Make sure to join the Mobilise Hub to connect with a supportive community and learn from the collective knowledge of carers.

1 comentário

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
06 de mai.

Thankyou for your article not required at the moment but a good guide when needed.

The emphasis on self care is as you point out,is the point of the grieving process.

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