Look after yourself
Although you may not be able to see the people who normally would support you, stay in touch with them by phone or on social media. Let them know how you’re feeling and how they can help.
Be kind to yourself. Grief can be exhausting, so try to get plenty of rest. Eat healthily and do some gentle exercise each day. Spend some time outdoors if you can or in your garden if you have one. If you can’t go out, open windows to let in some fresh air or sit by an open window.
As well as dealing with your grief, you may be experiencing loneliness or be worried about the coronavirus situation and your own health. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it if it’s offered.
Some people see, hear or sense the presence of the person who has died. This might be troubling, especially if you’re living alone. It’s particularly common when the death has been traumatic, so try not to worry if this happens.
If you’re struggling with your feelings, contact support organisations. Although they can’t offer face-to-face services, they are still offering support through helplines, support groups and forums, and they may offer counselling online or over the phone. They include:
- NHS bereavement helpline – 0800 2600 400
- Cruse Bereavement Care
- Grief Chat
- At a Loss
- The Good Grief Trust
- Marie Curie
- The Loss Foundation.
If you’re a carer, you may find it helpful to share your feelings and get support from others who’ve been through a similar experience by joining the Carer's UK forum.
Seeing someone after they've died
You may not have had a chance to see your loved one as they were dying or to say a proper goodbye. If it happened very quickly, you may be experiencing feelings of shock.
Seeing someone after they’ve died can help to overcome feelings of shock and unreality, but if they died in a hospital or care home, you may not be able to do this during the current crisis, except at a distance. If you have coronavirus symptoms yourself or you’re self-isolating, you won’t be able to see them at all. If they died from coronavirus, you will have to stay two metres away from them. This means you won’t be able to kiss or hold them, or carry out any cultural rituals that involve touching the body.
If you’re feeling very distressed because of the way the person died, try talking it through with someone you trust or contact a support organisation. You could also contact your GP, who may refer you to support services.
Registering the death
The government has changed the way you register a death during the coronavirus emergency. The doctor who signs the Medical Certificate Cause of Death will scan and email it to the registrar. You then need to make a telephone appointment with the register office to register the death. You can ask your funeral director to do this for you if you prefer, although not all of them do this. The registrar will then post the death certificate to you.
You’ll need to contact other organisations by phone to tell them about the death. If it’s available in your area, you may be able to use the Tell us once service to tell government organisations, such as benefits offices or the Pensions Service. Ask about this when you register the death.
Our factsheet What to do after a death has more information about what you need to do after someone dies, although some of the details may be different at this time. The Bereavement Advice Centre can give general advice about practical matters.
Only a small number of people can attend funerals because of the risk of spreading the virus. These are usually close family members or people who live in the same house. If you have symptoms of the virus or you’re self-isolating, you won’t be able to attend. Contact your local council or funeral services to find out about the rules where you live. You can find answers to some frequently asked questions about funerals on the National Association of Funeral Directors website.
Unless you live in the same house as the other mourners, you will have to keep your distance from each other. You won’t be able to hug or shake hands and you may find it difficult if there are not many people there to support you. It may be possible to live stream or record the funeral service – ask the funeral director about this.
Funerals can be an important part of the grieving process and you may feel angry and upset if you’re not allowed to go. Try to find other ways to remember the person who has died. You could:
- set aside a time and place to think about them
- plan something that you can do after this period of isolation such as planting a tree
- plan a memorial service
- arrange to speak to others who knew them, by phone or social media, and share your thoughts and memories.
You can find more advice about funerals during the coronavirus emergency on the Marie Curie website, including how you might be feeling, how you can involve people who can’t attend, and other ways to remember a loved one if you can’t be there.
How to help someone else
It can be difficult to know what to say when someone dies. You may feel uncomfortable or worried that you’ll say the wrong thing. You can find suggestions to help you on the Cruse website.
Let the person know that you are sorry. Sending a card or a letter can mean a lot to someone who has been bereaved.
Stay in regular contact and ask them how they’re feeling. Let them talk about the person who has died if they want to. They may want to go over the details many times and this can be hard to listen to, but it’s very helpful if you can allow them to share how they’re feeling. Some people may want some space while they deal with their emotions. If this is the case, let them know that you’re there for them.
If you’re worried about them, encourage them to contact support organisations or their GP.