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What to do when someone dies

Last Updated 5:20pm, 29 June 2020


Information about coronavirus is available in different formats and languages, including easy read, BSL and for people who are not online.

What should I do if someone dies at home?

This is an overwhelming time for many families, but the first thing to do if someone dies at home is to try and minimise contact. You should remain at least 2 metres away or in another room if possible.

If the family member has been confirmed as having coronavirus (COVID-19) or has shown symptoms, then you should first phone your GP or NHS 111 for advice. If you have not been in touch with the healthcare system about the patient, please call 999.

Registering a death

Death registrations will now be conducted by telephone. This is the same process for deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19) or for any other reason.

The Registration Service will be provided with next of kin, details as well as the medical certificate of cause of death by the doctor/hospital involved, and will then contact the person registering the death. Please do not call to book an appointment.

The Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the green form) which gives permission for burial or an application for cremation will be forwarded directly to the relevant place.

You will also be able to order and pay for death certificates over the phone.

Arranging a funeral

There is new advice from Public Health England about how funerals should be safely conducted. Only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals. Some venues are restricting the number of people who can attend a funeral service and you will be told this when you are booking.

Anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not attend a funeral. People who do attend will need to stick to social distancing at all times, including when travelling to and from the funeral.

A funeral can usually only take place after the death is registered. Most people use a funeral director, though you can arrange a funeral yourself. Choose a funeral director who’s a member of either:

These organisations have codes of practice – they must give you a price list when asked.

The British Humanist Association and Institute of Civil Funerals can help with non-religious funerals.

My relative left clear instructions for their funeral service – what do I do?

Talk to your funeral director – they will do their best to help and accommodate the wishes of your loved one. They will ensure that the service is conducted with care and dignity and will be sensitive to the wishes of the person concerned.

However, they have to act within the guidelines and this may include asking you to limit the numbers of mourners at the ceremony.

Your funeral director may be able to arrange for the service to be recorded or live-streamed for people who cannot attend, so please talk to them to see what digital options, including online memorial sites, may be available.

Get help with paying for a funeral

You could get a Funeral Expenses Payment (also called a Funeral Payment) if you get certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging.

The Money Advice Service has more information on getting help to pay for a funeral.

Bereavement support

Bereavement is difficult at any time, but with social distancing keeping us apart from friends and loved ones and limits on who may attend funerals, it will be even more challenging.

Grief is very personal and may affect you emotionally, physically and mentally or you may be too shocked to feel anything at first.

It can take a lot of courage to admit you’re struggling, but don’t keep it to yourself. There are a range of support groups and counselling services available which can be accessed online and by telephone. These are available for anyone suffering a recent bereavement, not only for coronavirus-related deaths.

Help is also available from most local Church or faith groups. Pastoral support can be beneficial in helping anyone come to terms with loss, helplessness and grief experienced in bereavement.

  • The Government have published their bereavement support information in a number of different languages.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care provides free practical and emotional support for anyone who has been bereaved.
  • Hope Again is the youth website of Cruse Bereavement Care. It is a safe place for young people to learn how to cope with grief and feel less alone.
  • Samaritans provides a free, confidential 24 hour telephone helpline on 116 123 if you need to talk.
  • Clergy are available to provide pastoral care and support and may be reached through the Diocese of Exeter  or rural Deans.
  • If you are supporting a bereaved child or young person, the Childhood Bereavement Network has information and links to national and local organisations.
  • Hospiscare  have created a helpful document about bereavement and dealing with grief after the loss of a loved one.
  • Living Options Devon provides a ‘Time to Talk’ confidential listening service for disabled and Deaf people. They can also arrange interpreters for non-English speakers.
  • Talkworks offers a free, confidential, NHS talking therapy service for people over 18 in Devon (excluding Plymouth). They can arrange interpreters for non-English speakers.
  • Marie Curie have published some information on end of life care during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • provides signposting to bereavement support and services across the UK, as well as online grief counselling.
  • The NHS has some advice about dealing with grief after bereavement or loss.
  • You can also search for bereavement support services in your area on Pinpoint Devon.

Emergency Planning - frequently asked questions

We have created a page for emergency planning frequently asked questions which explains how we’re working with councils and other partners across the region to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.