End of life

What do I do at the time of death?

On this page, we explain what happens when a person dies, including arranging the funeral and bereavement support after the death of a loved one.

If death occurs in a hospital, care home or hospice, the staff lets the family know what they need to do. If death occurs at home, then the family must inform the GP, register the death and contact the funeral director.

Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. The registrar will give you details when you register a death. The service is not available in Northern Ireland.

Deaths from mesothelioma

Doctors must report some deaths, including mesothelioma, to the coroner. You can read more about deaths from mesothelioma in our separate information.

How do I arrange the funeral?

Arranging a funeral may be upsetting, but some people find it plays an important role in adjusting to the end of life and finding closure. There are many options that include both religious and non-religious ceremonies. The funeral director can guide you through the practical and legal arrangements. You can read more about the practicalities of arranging a funeral on the government website.

Some people may have taken out a pre-paid funeral plan. This when a person has put money aside to pay for their own funeral in advance.

You could be entitled for help with costs if you need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging. Find out more about Funeral Payments on the government website.

Life after the death of a loved one

It’s normal to have many emotions after the death of a loved one. There is no timetable for what you should feel or when. You may have strong emotions immediately after they die, or you may not experience these emotions until much later on. Or you could feel grief and loss before your loved one dies.

You may want to share your feelings with family and friends. But, equally, you may not feel comfortable doing this. Maybe you find it easy to talk to one particular person – don’t be afraid to let them know how you feel.

Research has suggested there are different stages a person goes through when grieving the death of a loved one. These are commonly accepted to be: 

  • accept the reality of the loss
  • work through the pain of grief
  • adjust to an environment where the deceased isn’t there
  • find a lasting connection with the deceased while continuing to live.

There isn’t a particular order you might go through these stages, and you may revisit certain stages over time. The stages will mean different things to different people and it’s important to remember that grief is unique for all of us. If you feel you haven’t gone through one or more of these stages, it may mean you’re still working through the grief process, or that this model of grief isn’t right for you.

Your health care team might be able to offer you bereavement support after a loved one’s death. Talk to your doctor and nurse about what services and information are available locally. If you sense that how you are feeling is not right or you are not coping, don’t be afraid to talk to your GP. People often need more support.

Read next: Help and support

Download our end of life information (PDF, 490KB)

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.