Bereavement: Practical and emotional support at your time of loss
Losing a loved one is never easy. Grieving the loss of a relative, friend or someone close to you is difficult enough on its own without the added stress of handling the logistics.
Grief is both normal and highly personal, and there is no wrong way to feel.
The following information is designed to give you a little help at a difficult and upsetting time.
Scroll down to read the full article, or use the buttons below to jump to sections that will help you most.
Whether it is expected or not, doing the practical things needed after someone passes away can be stressful as well as upsetting.
Hopefully, this checklist for the first days and afterwards is helpful and takes away just a little bit of worry or uncertainty.
Some of these stages may be slightly different, depending on where someone has died and your relationship with them.
- Tell a healthcare professional. The first step is to let whoever oversees their care know. If they were in a hospital, hospice, or another type of care when they died, speak to a Nurse, Doctor or carer. If the person passed away at home, you should contact their GP practice.
- Verification. A trained healthcare professional is required to verify the person has died.
- Respect the person’s wishes. If there are any requirements for how the body is looked after – including religious or cultural considerations – these must be respected.
- Certifying the death. A Doctor must complete a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD). This is separate from the death certificate, produced after the death is registered.
- Arranging for the person’s body to be collected. If you are using a funeral director, contact them to arrange collection. Marie Curie has a helpful guide on choosing a funeral director.
- Registering the death. This is done through Newcastle City Council to produce a formal death certificate needed for burial or cremation. The MCCD from a Doctor is required before this appointment can be scheduled. Families or next of kin should call 0191 2787878 to book an appointment and ask to be put through to ‘Registrars’.
- Copies of the death certificate. Original certificates may be needed by banks, insurance or pension companies, or administrators of a will. You will be given one copy, but additional copies carry a cost, typically £8-£12. More copies can be requested later, but it is best to get as many as needed straightaway.
- Notifying others. As well as friends or other relatives, you may need to tell:
- The person’s employer and colleagues
- Financial institutions like banks, credit cards or pension companies
- Landlord or mortgage holder
- TV, internet, or mobile phone contracts
- Utility companies
- Royal Mail
- Government agencies. The UK Government has a ‘Tell Us Once’ scheme that lets you report a death once, with information passed to departments like HMRC, passport office, state pensions, DVLA, etc, in one go.
- Find in the person has a will. A Will can tell you who has been named executors – the people responsible for sorting the deceased person’s affairs and estate. More on dealing with someone’s estate, including if they didn’t have a Will, can be found on the UK Government website.
Identifying and Dealing with Grief
Grief is the range of emotions we can go through after loss. It’s normal, personal and affects everyone differently. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel after someone you know has died.
Some of the most common symptoms can be shock or feeling numb, overwhelming sadness with lots of crying, exhaustion, anger, or guilt.
These powerful feelings may appear at different times, change, pass or reappear unexpectedly.
Grief is a form of stress, and as with other types of stress, it can produce physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. Exhaustion, we mentioned, can be physical and mental, often alongside disturbed sleep or senses of restlessness or hyperactivity. You may overeat to find comfort, not want food, or feel sick. Aches, pains, and panic attacks are other ways that stress can show itself physically.
As we said, grief is a personal experience, and we all feel it differently, but there are five generally recognised stages which you might be familiar with.
- Denial – shock, disbelief, and confusion about what has happened.
- Anger – blaming yourself or others
- Depression – feeling tired, helpless, and hopeless
- Bargaining – asking the ‘what if..’ questions
- Acceptance – being able to move forward
While the grieving process is natural and normal, it’s important to say that there is help available if your feelings become overwhelming and impact your health or your ability to function day-to-day.
Getting the Support You Need
We mentioned earlier that grief is a form of stress, and it’s true. So, elements of self-care that help with other types of stress apply here, too.
Making sure you eat and drink well and get plenty of rest will help, as well as allowing yourself to express your feelings, whether talking with family or friends or more formal help.
Newcastle Talking Therapies is an NHS service provided by Vita Health, which offers free and confidential support covering depression, low mood, anxiety, bereavement and more.
You can connect directly with Talking Therapies – no need for a GP referral first – either through their website or by calling 0330 0534 230.
Cruse Bereavement Support is the UK’s leading bereavement charity that helps people through some of the most painful times in their lives. Cruse can help you understand your grief and offer tailored advice based on how you are feeling.
The Cruse helpline – 0808 808 1677 – receives tens of thousands of calls every year. You can talk about whatever you need, for as long and as often as you like.
Find out more at cruse.org.uk/get-support
Our Primary Care Network Team of Social Prescribers can also help if you need support with any non-medical issues that affect your wellbeing, from help with housing and benefits to finding groups or activities you might be interested in trying out. Any staff member at your GP practice can refer you to the team.
Marie Curie Hospice has a new service to support people experiencing loss and grief. There is also a specialist terminal illness service.
Age UK England has a helpful video that explains more about talking therapies and how they can help you.
St Oswald’s Hospice supports children from the ages of 4 to 18 years to come to terms with grief and loss.
The Muslim Initiative is a community association based in Newcastle upon Tyne that offers bereavement and burial advice.
Tyneside and Northumberland Mind has a telephone support line that offers listening, practical, and emotional support to anyone over 16. It’s open seven days a week, from 8 am to 10 pm.