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Bereavement advice and support

Most people experience grief when they lose someone important to them. It affects everyone differently. There's no right or wrong way to feel.

You may be finding it particularly difficult at the moment because of the changes in place to try to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Changes have been made to several services, including end of life and palliative care, as well as funeral arrangements.

You may feel that you need some extra help and support during this time.

Information:

NHS bereavement helpline

Call the NHS bereavement helpline on 0800 2600 400 for guidance and support if someone you know has died.

It's open every day from 8am to 8pm.

The nurses on the helpline can give you advice, guidance and practical support during this difficult time.

If somebody dies at home

Call 999 if somebody dies at home unexpectedly.

If there's an end of life care plan in place and the death is expected, call the person's GP. Leave a message if you cannot speak to them.

The GP or another healthcare professional may be able to certify the death. Sometimes they may need to report the death to a coroner before it can be certified.

Registering a death

You need to call a register office to register the death of a relative or loved one. Find a register office on GOV.UK.

The register office staff will tell you what you need to do when you contact them.

Funeral directors can also register deaths, but not all of them do.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland a death must be registered within 5 days. In Scotland, a death must be registered within 8 days.

Read more about how to register a death on GOV.UK.

Seeing someone after they've died

It's unlikely you'll be able to see someone after they've died if it happened in a hospital or care home. You may be able to see them at a distance, but this will depend on the rules of the hospital or care home.

If they died from coronavirus you will need to stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from them.

This means you are unlikely to be able to do any cultural or funeral rituals that involve touching the person's body. This includes washing, dressing, kissing, and holding them.

Funerals

To stop the spread of coronavirus, current government advice on safe funerals says only close family members and people who lived with the person who died should go to their funeral.

Other guidance for funerals that are taking place at the moment includes:

  • anyone at higher risk from coronavirus should not go to the funeral
  • anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus should not go to the funeral
  • a funeral should happen at a crematorium or graveside, not in a place of worship
  • at the funeral you need to stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with
  • a funeral car should only be used if absolutely necessary, and only people who live together should use it
  • family members will not be able to carry the coffin
  • you should not advertise the funeral, as people may arrive unexpectedly
  • you may be able to live stream the funeral service for people who cannot attend – ask the funeral director if this is possible

Bereavement and mental health support:

Page last reviewed: 13 May 2020
Next review due: 20 May 2020