1. Report the death
  2. Contact the funeral director
  3. Register the death
  4. Let others know
  5. Plan the funeral or memorial service
  6. Manage their belongings
  7. Plan for the future

1. Report the death to 111 / GP / 999

If your loved one dies at home, even under regular circumstances, you should contact 111 and your GP so that they can certify the death. If the death was unexpected, you should call 999.

If your loved one dies whilst in hospital, you should follow hospital policy. Each hospital has their own policy; however, most are now allowing at least 1 visitor to be with a loved one at the end of their life. Limiting the number of visitors helps to prevent further spread should someone have Coronavirus.

We understand this is a very difficult situation. Marie Curie has put together some additional information on what to do if you can’t visit someone who is dying. The government website offers additional guidance and advice on reporting a death.

2. Contact the funeral director (undertaker) and keep a safe distance

Once you have reported the death, the GP or emergency services will contact an undertaker to transport your deceased loved one to a local hospital, mortuary or the undertaker’s facilities. Most will not charge for this service, as there is an expectation for you to arrange the funeral service with them and, therefore, this service is included in the funeral costs. You should remain 2 metres away from the deceased whilst you wait for an undertaker to arrive.

The current government advice is not to perform any cultural traditions or ceremonies for the deceased involving the body (e.g. washing); these should only be done by the funeral director. They will treat your loved one with dignity and respect, allow you time to say goodbye, as well as explain what will happen next.

The funeral director may be wearing gloves, an apron and a mask. The undertaker may cover the deceased with a mask or transport your loved one in a body bag. They will always handle your loved one with care, but this is even more essential for patients with a skin condition. A body bag is used to preserve the body and to prevent potential cross contamination of Coronavirus.

A post-mortem (also known as an autopsy) may be required if the cause of death is unknown and will be performed by a coroner. This is usually carried out within three days of the referral; however, it may take longer during the pandemic.

3. Register the death

If the cause of death is known, a loved one’s death should be registered with your local Registry Office within five days of their death. You will need to have the medical certificate from the GP (or coroner if a post-mortem was performed). Other useful documents include NHS card, birth certificate, driving license, council tax bill and marriage/civil partnership certificate (if applicable). You will receive an official death certificate once the death has been registered. You should consider requesting multiple copies (approximately £10 per copy) to help avoid delays or stress. You will need the death certificate for the funeral and it may be requested by other agencies (e.g. bank).

4. Let others know

Knowing who to tell when your loved one has died can be a difficult task – emotionally and practically. We recommend making a list of all family members and friends, utility companies, banks and other agencies that will need contacting. Having a list and being able to mark them off one-by-one will help you to know who you have already contacted, as well as help you organise those who should be notified first.

Having to talk to children about the death of a family member, friend or other person of significance in their life comes with a unique set of challenges. Children may not understand death and might need help to understand the situation. Both Cruse Bereavement Care and Marie Curie have created book lists explaining death and grieving; your local doctor might also have related literature.

The UK government’s Tell Us Once service allows you to report a death to all major central and local government authorities, including:

  • DWP pensions and benefits
  • Personal tax
  • Council tax
  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • Blue Badge
  • Electoral register

5. Plan the funeral or memorial service

England, Wales & Scotland

There are currently no legal limits on the number of people who can attend funerals or commemorative events and venues are not required to follow social distancing rules. However, a venue may choose to set their own limits and social distance measures may be in place to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

People required to self-isolate (or those who are in quarantine following international travel), may attend a funeral where a legal exemption applies; maintaining a two meter distance is strongly advised.

Face coverings in: 

  • England - recommended as a sensible precautionary measure in crowded spaces.
  • Scotland - remain mandatory during a funeral service, except for the person leading the ceremony and the person providing a eulogy.
  • Wales - remain a legal requirement indoors, except within hospitality premises.

Northern Ireland

From 29 July 2021, regulations permit indoor gatherings at a private dwelling:

  • Up to 10 people (not including children aged 12 or under) from no more than three households, or,
  • Up to 15 people (not including children aged 12 or under) from no more than three households if one household has 10 people.

Face coverings are mandatory when entering/leaving places of worship for a funeral service, and they are strongly recommended to be worn during the duration of the service (particularly when singing or moving around the premises).

Funeral services are only to be performed in places of worship, funeral homes, the City of Belfast Crematorium or at the burial ground and not yet within a private dwelling.

6. Manage their belongings

Over time your loved one will have bought or received possessions (e.g. clothes, jewellery, collectables, furniture, etc.). You should go through these items, in your own time and at your own pace, to see which of these you wish to keep (e.g. items that have a special memory) or with which of these you are willing to part. If you are willing to part with items, you could consider giving them away to people who might have a fond attachment to them or donate the items to a charity shop. Many charities have experienced financial hardship due to the outbreak and donating to a charity should would be a nice way to honour their memory.

If your loved one had a stockpile of medicines and dressings, these cannot be used by anyone else. You should give all unused medicines (opened or unopened) to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.

7. Plan for the future

Moving forward in life, whilst difficult, is a necessary and eventual step in coping with the loss of a loved one. This often happens in the form of doing something to honour the deceased’s memory in either creating a remembrance page, fundraising page) or through another meaningful gesture (e.g. memory book of photos and letters from friends, planting something special in the garden, creating a patchwork from their clothing, etc.) – all in their name. If your loved one had a will, this is also the time to carry out their specific wishes.

You may still experience pain and sadness and other strong emotions throughout this process; this is normal, and this is okay. Losing a loved one can be difficult and may impact you in many different ways for a short or long period of time.