Guide to Making Funeral Arrangements

What do I do now?

Whether you receive a 2 AM phone call with news of an unexpected death or share your loved one’s final moments of a long illness, your initial reaction to death is likely shock. It doesn’t seem to matter how prepared we are or aren’t, a loved one’s death often leaves us feeling numb and bewildered. If you’re responsible for making the funeral arrangements or executing the will, shock and grief can be immobilising. Even simple decisions can be overwhelming.

Death occurs in a hospital

If someone passes away in a hospital, whether it was expected or not, the staff at the hospital will explain to you what needs to happen next. You will usually be given a booklet which explains that you need to make an appointment with the hospital bereavement officer these are trained persons who will guide you on collecting the necessary paperwork from the hospital and making an appointment for you with your local registrar. They will return any private belongings of the deceased to you and they can give you some guidance on a choice of funeral director.

Death occurs at home

If a person passes away at home expectedly, then the first thing you will need to do is call the deceased’s GP and ask them to attend the house. If out of hours, this may be a locum or on-call Dr. It may take up to 6 hours for a Dr to attend, depending on their work load. The death needs to be verified by a medical professional before the funeral director can be called to remove the deceased into their care. Once the death has been verified, call your chosen Funeral Director and they will attend to you. You do not need to make the funeral arrangements there and then! Give yourself time to rest, chat with family and get your thoughts together and then call the funeral director when you are ready.

Death occurs suddenly at home or outside of a medical facility

If someone passes away suddenly, with no reason, at home or anywhere other in a medical or care home facility then you must call 999. The professional medical personal will assist you. It is likely that in this event the Coroner will ask one of his/her approved funeral directors to later attend the scene and to take the deceased to either the nearest hospital mortuary or to the coroners own medical facilities. You do NOT have to then use the funeral company that has attended the scene and no officer or attending funeral director should tell you otherwise you are able to report any funeral director that attends who makes you feel obliged to use them or who treats the deceased in an uncaring or abrupt manor, to the coroner’s officer).

Your first point of contact throughout the next few days will be the Coroner’s appointed officer and they will guide you and advise you when you should appoint a funeral director and when the deceased will be released by the coroner for the funeral to take place.

Take your time

The period following a death can be overwhelming as there will be lots of appointments to make and paperwork to complete, when you just may not feel strong enough. Take your time and try not to feel overwhelmed by it all. Rely on friends and family to help you make those important decisions.

One of the best ways to find a funeral director is to ask family or friends for recommendations.

Before you call the funeral director, have a list of questions you want to ask them for example:

  • Are they independent of part of a major chain?
  • Do they require a deposit?
  • Are their prices flexible or do they offer more affordable alternatives?
  • Who will be looking after your loved one?
  • Where will your loved one be resting?
  • Do they have a chapel of rest?
  • Ask for an estimate, in writing, via email or post

Ask anything you can think of that will help you choose the right funeral director: you do not have to go to the first one you call get a feel for how they treat you on the phone and if you want to shop around and call others, then do so. If you do not feel able to do this, then ask a friend to call on your behalf.

Click on the link below for a printable, more comprehensive list of questions to ask a funeral director (provided by The Good Funeral Guide)

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