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Your guide to care and support

When someone you care for dies

Caring for someone can become a major part of your life. When that person dies, as well as being a huge loss to you personally, it can leave a space in your life that can at first be hard to fill, especially if you're feeling unsure of yourself.

This article gives advice on how to register a death and ways that a carer can move on with their lives afterwards.

How to register a death

When somebody dies, you normally need to register their death within five days. The death has to be registered at a register office and takes about half an hour. It can be quicker to go to the register office in the area where the person you cared for died. If you go to another area it may take longer to get the documents needed and slow down the funeral arrangements.

Before a death can be formally registered, a doctor will need to issue a medical certificate giving the cause of death. In hospital, this is usually done by a hospital doctor. If the person has not been seen by a hospital doctor, their GP may be able to issue a certificate instead.

When you get the medical certificate which confirms that the person has died, ask for the address of the local register office. You can search for the local register office online, or look in the local phone book. Many register offices only see people by appointment, so phone before you go and make an appointment if you need to.

In most cases a death is registered by a relative. If the person you cared for doesn't have any family who can register their death, the registrar will allow other people to do this. As long as the person died at home or in hospital, their death can be registered by someone who was with them when they died, someone who lived in the same house, an official from the hospital, or the person who is arranging the funeral with the funeral directors.

What documents do I need to register a death?

You will need to take some documents with you when you go to register a death.

You need: 

  • the medical certificate, showing the cause of death and signed by a doctor

The following are not essential, but if you can find them, you should also take the person’s:

  • birth certificate
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • their NHS medical card

What other information will the registrar need?

The registrar will require the following information from you:

  • the person’s full name as it was when they died
  • any names they used in the past, including their maiden name
  • their date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
  • their last address
  • their occupation
  • the full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving wife, husband or civil partner
  • details of any state pension or other state benefit they were receiving

Death certificates

Once the death has been registered, the registrar will give you two important documents. One is a Certificate for Burial and Cremation, also known as the green form. This gives permission for the person’s body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. Give this to the funeral director.

You will also be given a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8, also known as a death certificate). This is for use in social security matters; for instance, dealing with the deceased person's state pension or other benefits.

You can buy extra copies of the death certificate when you register a death. You will need these to give to the executor or administrator who is dealing with affairs such as the person's will. The registrar will give you a booklet that contains advice on several subjects, including paying for the funeral, probate and property, and other practical advice including what to do if the person you cared for died abroad, or in Scotland or Northern Ireland. For more information see GOV.UK: what to do after someone dies

Moving on as a carer

Having more time for yourself can give you the opportunity to see old friends again, to take up old hobbies, and to learn something new. You can refresh skills that you didn't use while you were a carer, learn new skills, or make use of new interests or skills that you've gained from being a carer. 

Volunteering after caring

For example, you could get involved with a relevant charity through which you could use skills you’ve learnt from caring for the person who has died, to help others in their memory. Find out more about volunteering.

Training courses after caring

There are many courses you can take, either to learn something new or to expand your existing knowledge. Courses are also a great way to meet new people. You can find out about local courses from your library, adult education centres or through the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900. 

Returning to work after caring

If caring for someone meant you had to give up a job, or you've never been able to work at all, returning to work may be something that interests you. If you're not sure what you want to do, think about the knowledge and skills you already have, and how you could use them. Include past paid work, voluntary work, hobbies and interests, and the skills you've gained as a carer or parent. Think about what you like doing, how you'd like to use your skills, and anything that you used to do and have missed.

Before you start seriously thinking about going back to work, consider a personal development training course. It can help to build your confidence and manage stress, and provide assertiveness training.

City and Guilds is a provider of vocational qualifications, including an Employability and Personal Development course

The course covers a variety of topic areas that could be useful for carers looking to make a change, including: 

  • preparing for employment
  • succeeding at work
  • independent living
  • community involvement

More information

Visit the NHS Choices End of life care guide for more information about end-of-life issues.


Bereavement: life after being a carer

When the person you've been caring for dies, there is support available to you. In this video, former carers discuss how they coped with their grief and found a new purpose in life.

Media last reviewed: 23/01/2015

Next review due: 23/01/2017

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017

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Call the Carers Direct helpline

The Carers Direct helpline (0300 123 1053) offers confidential information and advice for carers