Direct Line magazine

Dealing with a bereavement

Updated on: 12 September 2022

A man sits alone in a hospital corridor with his head in his hands.

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things you’ll go through. But even though it’s the last thing you want to think about, there are lots of practical things that need taking care of. 

It can be overwhelming letting friends and loved ones know the news, reading the will (or working out what to do if there isn't one), settling debt, dealing with the estate and making funeral arrangements. 

And, while it doesn’t make losing someone any easier, it can help to know which step to take next. That’s why we’ve written this short guide, taking you through everything you need to do after a loved one dies. 

How do you register a death?

It can be a challenging thing to do, but registering the death of a loved one is a really important first step. To register a death, you’ll need a certificate from a GP or hospital doctor. You have up to five days to register a death (eight days in Scotland) and it can be done online at Gov.uk.

Most councils offer a Tell Us Once service, which helps you report the death to many government organisations in one go.

Once you have registered the death, you’ll receive the documents need to begin planning the funeral. It might be a good idea to ask for a few copies of the death certificate, in case any organisations, such as banks, ask to see it. 

There are likely to be other companies that need to be told about the death of your loved one. For instance, you’ll need to tell their insurance provider, utility supplier, building society, clubs, employer, etc.

You might also want to check whether your loved one had a life insurance policy. If so, contact their insurance provider to find out what you need to do to start a claim. 

How to organise a funeral

Once you’ve registered the death of your loved one and have the documents you need, you can look into arranging their funeral. Even though planning a funeral isn’t something any of us wants to do, many people find comfort in being able to give their loved ones a good send-off.  

When it comes to planning a funeral, there are two routes you can go down:

  1. Planning the funeral yourself
  2. Using a funeral director  

Either option is fine, but if you’re unsure, a funeral director may make the process easier as they have years of experience you can tap into. However, this will come at a cost, so decide which option works for you.

If you decide to use a funeral director but aren’t sure which one, there are a couple of ways to help you decide:

  • Ask family or friends – they might be able to recommend a particular director
  • Associations of funeral directors – you can check funeral association and federation services to search and find out about local funeral directors who are members of these organisations.

Here are a few associations you could try, just click on the links to find out more:

Once you’ve decided what kind of funeral you’d like, it’s worth getting quotes from a few directors, caterers and suppliers. Funerals can get pretty expensive, so it’s a good idea to compare costs. You might be able to save money in one area, allowing your budget to go further in another. 

For more information on how to arrange a funeral, visit Gov.uk

Two people holding hands as one person consoles the others

The emotional impact of losing someone

It’s not just the practical side of things you have to deal with after losing someone. A loved one passing away can be hard emotionally, too. Sometimes we get so caught up in sorting arrangements such as the funeral, notifying banks and insurers, that we forget to stop and think about how we feel.  

The death of someone you love can have a powerful effect on your emotions. Grief tends to come in waves and take many different forms, so it’s important to realise that however you’re feeling, it’s completely normal. It’s also important to understand the grieving process and get the support you need.

What is grief?

Grief is the emotional and physical response that happens after losing someone you care about. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve and sometimes, we might be unaware that we’re grieving. 

Everyone experiences grief differently, there are no rules. So, it can be challenging to spot the signs. That’s why Macmillan and the NHS have pulled together a list of emotional signs to look out for, such as:     

  • Being in shock
  • Feeling overwhelmingly sad 
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling angry 

According to the NHS, when a person experiences grief, they often go through four stages: 

  1. Accepting what’s happened
  2. Feeling the pain or upset the event has caused you 
  3. Adapting to our new life without that person
  4. Focusing on something new  

Knowing the symptoms and stages of grief can help you to understand your emotions, as well as those around you, after losing someone. 

How to deal with grief

If you find yourself, or those you care about experiencing symptoms of grief, here are a few tips that can help:

  • Talk about it. Tell someone how you’re feeling and don’t keep it bottled up
  • Consider peer support groups where you can share your feelings in a safe and supportive space
  • Listen to mental wellbeing audio guides or podcasts (there are many free ones available)

There are also many professional services available to help deal with grief, including:

  • Cruse Bereavement 0808 808 1677) provides guidance and tries to help you manage your grief.
  • Macmillan Nurses (0808 808 0000) assists with bereavement following a terminal or critical illness.
  • Marie Curie (0800 090 2309) offers confidential support and practical information following a loss.

Grief doesn’t have a set time. It can happen as soon as you lose someone, or years after your loved one has died. And when it does happen, there are no rules around how you feel or how long it lasts, it really is different for everyone.

Whilst this article focuses on grief following the passing of a loved one, you can also experience grief for other reasons, such as losing your home or a job. To find out more about grief, visit the NHS website.

Losing someone is never easy, but there is plenty of help and advice available to get you through it. Remember to be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes.

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