What To Do When Someone Dies

What happens when someone dies depends on the circumstances of their death. Did they die at home, in a care institution or in hospital? Was their death expected or did it come out of the blue? Was it a natural or unnatural death? Did they die during the daytime, at night or at the week-end?

When someone dies, their death needs to be verified by a doctor or medical professional. Then their GP, an out-of-hours doctor or the hospital will issue the death certificate which certifies the cause of death unless the matter is referred to a coroner. Once the death certificate has been issued, the family or person dealing with the funeral makes an appointment with a registrar to register the death within five working days of the death taking place. The registrar will give to the family what is known as the ‘green form’ which authorises a burial or cremation to take place.   The family pass this on to the funeral director.

When someone dies and a death has been unexpected, unnatural or violent, the coroner will be involved and s/he will either give the go-ahead for the family to see the Registrar themselves or authorise that the funeral can take place directly once an investigation has been carried out into the circumstances of the death. This may be a routine procedure or take time.

At some point, the body of the dead person is ready for picking up by the funeral director. Again this depends on where they died – for example, at home, in a care institution or in hospital – and whether the coroner is involved or not. The body is then looked after i.e. kept cold until the day of the funeral.

Meanwhile, the family or the person dealing with the funeral has a meeting with the funeral directors to talk about the kind of funeral they want. In our case, we usually come to your home at a time which suits you. We listen carefully to your wishes and concerns and make suggestions as to how to proceed. An early decision is to decide between burial or cremation and to choose a date, time and place for the funeral.

After this meeting, we like to send you a formal letter summarising the arrangements we have discussed and an estimate of the costs involved so that you know what to expect. We then begin to arrange the funeral on your behalf, encouraging you to do as much or as little as you want to take on yourselves. We will ask you for a deposit to cover the ‘disbursement costs’ like cremation and burial fees which we make before the funeral takes place.

The celebrant or minister will meet with the family separately to talk through the details of the funeral service. Viewings of the dead person can be arranged and a vigil (which seldom happens these days) can be organised if this is what the family would like.

On the day of the funeral, the funeral directors are always present to ensure everything goes smoothly and according to plan. Afterwards there is usually a wake or gathering organised by the family (with or without the help of the funeral directors).

A week or so after the funeral, the final invoice is sent to the family. In our case, we like to do this in person so that we can receive feedback as to how everything went.

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