Sunday, 6 October 2013

A Thank You and some thoughts.

(Since I originally wrote this post it has easily become one of my most popular pieces of writing, topping the number of daily hits ever since.  It's now about fourth or fifth on the list of most read blogs since I started four years. However, I can't work out where the hits are coming from. If you are not a follower of the blog who just found it by chance, I'd appreciate it if you'd just leave a comment.



Thank you to those of you who passed on your condolences either through the blog or directly to me. Losing both parents inside 3 months has been a bit disconcerting. Suddenly I'm an orphan when I've spent the last few months sorting affairs out to fund a care home stay for up to 10 years for my mother. Most of the last five years my weekends at the very least have been spent visiting and helping out my parents as they became increasingly frail so there is a genuine hole in my life right now.

Having been through bereavement twice recently I thought I'd share some thoughts with you all on the process if you have this all to come. These thoughts apply to people living in England & Wales who die in hospital. I think they are pretty generally applicable as I've gone through the process with two different hospitals in two different Local Authorities. Scotland is slightly different, I think, and I've no idea about the US or Canada. Or Australia. I'm also assuming that you are the Executor for the Will. If your parents do not have a will, get them to make one and also make sure you know where it is.
  1. You will receive a call from a nurse on the Ward who suggests you might like to come in as the patient's condition is deteriorating. This means, - get here quick, they're going to die. If you get to the Ward and they ask you to step into an office first, you are too late.
  2. If you are not too late you will probably end up having a conversation with a Doctor about wishes in respect of Resuscitation. Both my parents had made it clear to me (and my brother) that they did not want to be resuscitated. It was really helpful knowing this.
  3. When you have finally said good bye to your loved one you will ask yourself, or even ask a nurse, "What Happens Now". They will have a booklet for you called something like "What Happens Now" or "What Happens Next". This will contain a lot of useful tips on what you have to do, where to get counselling and so on.
  4. From now on where ever you go for this take a form of ID with you. Ideally both your passport and your Driving Licence. You are going to be getting people to change official records and ths paranoid age you will have to prove you are who you are.
  5. In practice what you need to do next is get the death certificate from the hospital. You'll pick this up from the Bereavement Office. You'll have to call them the following day to arrange to pick it up (the number will be in the booklet). This may take longer if it is a sudden death (ie within 24 hours of admission) and the Coroner has to be consulted.
  6. I've had two Bereavement Office experiences, one good, one less so. They are supposed to have the deceased's personal effects  for you to collect as well. You may have to go up to the ward to get them however if they Office is useless doesn't have them.
  7. The Office will give you a folder of information. Make sure the envelope with the certificate is in it. It is possible for the office to overlook this simple fact. The envelope is sealed and must remain so until it is given to the Registrar. Ask the Bereavement Office to give you the cause of death and also the name of the Doctor who signed the form. This is important as the two biggest problems at the Registrars Office are that the family don't agree the cause of death or the Registrar can't read the Doctor's signature.
  8. You then make an appointment with the Registrar. Actually you can do this when you know you can pick up the certificate as the Registrar may actually have an office in the hospital or be within walking distance. Make sure you take any birth and marriage certificates with you and the deceased's National Insurance number and any other official documentation like NHS card.
  9. The Registrar will record the death and give you a copy of the Register entry (what everyone calls the "Death Certificate"). They'll offer to give you further copies for £4 each. It's cheaper to get them at that point. I took three each time, which was more than adequate unless your family's financial affairs are really complicated.
  10. In the UK you are now offered access to the "Tell Us Once" service. Either the Registrar will do this, or you'll be given a registration number by the Registrar to put in a website. You then answer a few questions and all local and national government agencies (including HMRC) are advised in one go. When you finish a handy checklist of other people to advise pops up.
  11. You can now start to tell people about the death. Gas, Electric, Water and so on. Check their websites first to see if they have a direct Bereavement contact telephone number. That way you'll avoid any issues with staff asking to talk to the deceased as you're not the account owner.
  12. You'll have to see banks and building societies in person as they'll want to take a copy of the death certificate. If you are not a customer of the same institution you will need your ID as mentioned above.
  13. I did Probate myself for my father, and I'm doing it for my mother. The on-line resources are pretty good from the Justice Department and so on and the forms aren't as awful as you might expect. You start with form PA1 and you'll also need IHT205 or IHT400 from HMRC.
  14. You can contact a funeral director at any point in the process after the actual death. We took a day or so as we wanted to speak to one of the Monday Night Group who is also a Church of England minister to get a recommendation. 
  15. It really helps to have a robust hardback notebook with you when you go to do anything and also when you phone people. I made notes of as much as I could as I found my memory didn't work as well as I'd have liked. You need to keep lists of who you need to tell, when you told them and what the outcome was. It makes life easier in the long run.

Arranging the funeral itself is so personal I make no further comment.


  1. I suspect that this document will be very valuable for many.

    I would also suggest that those of us who are "getting on" in age (or health) might want to print this information out for those who may have to deal with our own demise.

    Even though I live in Canada, I thank you for posting this information, sir.

    -- Jeff

    1. My daughter is a teacher. As she pointed out they teach you about life and birth and lots of other social skills, but no one talks to you about how to deal with death.

  2. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, this is truly excellent stuff and the sort of thing you're expected to pick up by osmosis or something. Thanks for taking the time to do this, I'll certainly pass it on to a couple of people who'll need it in the not too distant future.

    1. I found the whole business like walking into a dark tunnel. Along the way there are people in the dark who wil help you, - in fact everyone is helpful in their own way - but you do not know they are there. I think just knowing that people will help is a comfort.

  3. Thank you for posting this for your fellow citizens in the UK. While I live in the US where the rules are quite different with the funeral director handling many of the details like obtaining a death certificate, the fact is that until you are faced with the great sadness, you would have little knowledge of the process. Having gone through this with both my parents and both of my wife's parents, I know how much help it is to have information at hand to help get you past the moment.
    Be well.
    A/K/A The Celtic Curmudgeon

    1. Jerry, - you've had it rough if you've been through it four times. If you have a blog in the US perhaps you should do a similar piece. There's a lot more of you than there are of us!

  4. Trebian,

    It is amazing how similar our experiences have been ... and I wish that I had had some idea about what was going to happen and what I was going to need do.

    What you have written is an excellent summary of what one needs to know and do ... and how exhausting and mentally tiring the whole process can be.

    All the best,


    1. I know you've been through it and both of us having to learn the same things at about the same time was what sort of inspired me to write this. I think items 4 & 7 are particularly useful.

  5. I think it says a lot for your character that you have taken the time to do something that will help others when you probably need help yourself.

    Losing parent left a left a hole in my own life which only very gradually closes - I imagine this is true for many of us.

    1. David, - I find being helpful helps me. It just seems silly that everybody has to learn the same things over and over again. None of us like thinking about stuff like this, so burying it in a wargaming blog might mean it reaches an audoience it might otherwise not if it was to be published in "Bereavement Weekly" or whatever.

  6. Thank you so much for this; I probably read it at the time you wrote it, but then recently have been through a similar experience myself, and was glad to remember you had written about it. Though I am not doing the bulk of the admin, it was a great help to read your advice and confirm that we have been doing (mostly) the right things.

    1. Sorry to hear that you are recently bereaved. My best wishes to you and your family. It's nearly 5 years on from when all this happened and I still fret over what happened most weeks if not most days. I still miss them both very much.

      Good to hear that this is still of help.