When a loved one dies, it is tragic and overwhelming. But there are also a number of things that need to be done right away.
In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide for what to do in the days following a loved one’s death.
Immediately Upon Discovering Them Dead
Report Their Death
You need to report their death immediately upon discovering that they died. If they died in the hospital, then the hospital will organise a formal notice and medical certificate and support you through the paperwork.
If your loved one dies at home unexpectedly, then you need to call a coroner. They may need to conduct a post-mortem to discover the cause of death. Call 111 for advice if the death is unexpected; they will talk you through the next steps.
If your loved ones died at home but they were terminally ill, then you should call their doctor. The doctor will issue a medical certificate.
Same Day/Within 24 Hours
Notify Family and Close Friends
While the thought of speaking to someone while you are coming to terms with a death is terrible, you do need to notify close friends and family immediately after the death. Take a minute and plan out a list of key people you can notify who can then notify other people. For example, you can notify one key member of a group of close friends or one key member of a church group or even one family member on each side of the family. This will help you to only make a few phone calls and save you a lot of time.
Immediate family should be notified by you or another family member directly and you should ensure immediate family and the closest friends are the first to know. We recommend notifying key family members and the closest friends, asking them to notify their side of the family or certain people and then waiting an hour to allow the news to be spread to the closest first. You do not want a family member to be sent condolences by text before they hear of the death.
Prepare a script to make it easier to stay on track when the emotions get to be too much. Sometimes saying out loud that they died can be overwhelming. Consider the following script:
I am sorry to have to tell you that NAME died today/last night. (Insert comforting details such as “they died in their sleep,” or “they spent their last day surrounded by family or engaging in an activity they loved.”)
We wanted to notify you of the death right away, so we do not have funeral arrangements yet. When we have details, we will notify you by text/post them on social media/other communication method so please keep an eye out.
Can you please notify (list of people to notify). While we will appreciate any well wishes, we ask that you wait until (after 6pm/ tomorrow) to send messages of condolences to anybody, so we have a chance to notify everybody. The same goes for social media messages, can you please refrain from posting on social media until the above time to ensure close family and friends hear the news firsthand. Please pass these wishes on to anyone you have been asked to notify.
You don’t have to present it like you’re reading from a script, but this will give you something to look at and ensure you haven’t missed anything out. While the people you are talking to may be shocked and saddened by the news, you do not have to spend too long on the phone with them if you do not want to. Be kind but firm and tell them that you have a number of people to notify and arrangements to make. Suggest people that they might be able to call tomorrow to share their feelings with. While you may want to support your family and friends, you will have a lot of work to do in the days following a death, and you are grieving too.
Contact a Funeral Director
Get quotes from a number of funeral directors in the area to compare the services. Talk to them about what is important to you to find out if they can offer services to give your loved one the funeral they wanted.
You should ask them to quote the following costs:
- Funeral director’s services
- Transfer and care
- Hearse transport
- Paperwork and additional arrangements
If your loved one wished to be cremated, you should also quote the cost for cremation and the services of a celebrant or member of clergy.
You may decide to do a funeral yourself without the help of a funeral director. This is often easier if your loved one had specific wishes and a clear plan was put in place for the arrangements. In this case, you will need to contact the local council about holding a funeral at a crematorium or cemetery.
Within a Few Days of the Death
Apply For a Death Certificate
Once you have the medical certificate from a doctor, coroner, or medical professional, you need to register their death. You need to register the death within five days of the death in the UK. If there is a coroner’s inquest, then you need to do it immediately after that has concluded.
The process is as follows:
- Find the nearest Register Office
- Take the deceased’s birth certificate, NHS number, driver’s licence, proof of address, marriage or civil partnership certificate, and the medical certificate. You should also know their full name, any previous names, date and place of birth, date and place of death, their most recent occupation, and if they were receiving benefits.
- The registrar will then provide you with a death certificate as well as a certificate of registration of death, a certificate of burial or cremation, and information about bereavement benefits. Ask for several copies of the death certificate. You will have to pay for them, but they will be much more cost-effective upfront. You will need official copies of the death certificate for the will and to notify bank accounts etc. A photocopy will often not be accepted. Each copy of the death certificate is approximately £11 but is more expensive in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Plan the Funeral
Once you have found a funeral director you want to work with, it is time to plan the funeral. Assign tasks to close family members you can trust to lighten the load.
You will also need to make the funeral announcement. It is best to make this in a few different ways to ensure everyone gets the information they need.
- Post the announcement on social media. Tag a couple of key people from your loved one’s life to ensure the message is spread.
- Announce the funeral in the local newspaper. If your loved one is older and has lived in the area their whole life, then posting it in the paper will ensure that old acquaintances and local friends will see the announcement.
- Share the details with friends in particular social groups and ask them to share it with the social group. This can be asking the pastor of their church to announce it or even their bookclub. This will ensure the word gets around to friends who may not use social media.