Bereavement – APL Health
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Stages of grieving

Everyone deals with bereavement differently but there are some stages of bereavement that many will experience. If you find yourself experiencing difficulty with these don’t be afraid, it’s perfectly normal. You will most likely go through all of these stages at some point.

1. Accepting that your loss is real

Nothing can fully prepare us for the loss of a loved one. Most of us will feel severe shock and it can take time to come to terms with the fact that they’re no longer with us. During that time you may find yourself looking out for that person in crowds or forget momentarily that they’ve gone. Accepting that your loss is real is essential to the bereavement process. Without acceptance, you may find it hard to really grieve for your loved one.

2. The pain of grief

When the loss becomes real the pain you’ll feel inside will be intense. Different people react to this differently. Some will cry a lot, others will get angry a lot. What you feel after the individual has died will depend on the relationship you had with them. Some of the common feelings include:

  • sorrow
  • longing (to see them again)
  • guilt
  • numbness

3. Adjusting to life without them

Once your grief becomes more manageable you will be able to begin adjusting to life without them. Even the smallest adjustments to your lifestyle can be tough as they’re a constant reminder of the loss of your loved one.

With time you will feel more grounded as you begin to develop a new routine. You’ll feel like your feet have hit solid ground again.

4. Looking forward

There will come a point when your life begins to take you on a new journey. You will always remember the person who died and you may always grieve their loss, but naturally you may begin to move on. This is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re heartless or have forgotten about them, it simply means that you’ve been able to channel your emotions into new things and haven’t let it affect your life negatively anymore.


Don’t suffer alone

Death is a truly awful time for anyone whether it’s an expected or a sudden death. It’s important to give yourself the time and space to grieve and work through your emotions properly. Your employer should work with you to allow you this time.

There are also many online and community (local and national) resources to help you. Charities like Dying Matters offer advice, community events and forums to help you through every part of your journey. If you feel you’re really not coping or unable to get out of bed and care for yourself such as washing and eating, speak to your GP. They may be able to offer combined grief counselling and medication to help you through the worst days.

Experiencing death can be devastating, allowing yourself to feel and work through your emotions, even those of guilt or anger (which are normal) can help you move on.


Talk to us

If you feel you’re struggling to come to terms with a loss or have a friend or relative that you’re concerned about, get in touch with us. The following is available to all individuals covered by an APL Health policy.

24 hour helpline

You can contact us confidentially 24 hours a day on 0845 862 2113.

Occupational health assessment

If you’re concerned about your mental health or generally aren’t feeling yourself, you can arrange an occupational health assessment with one of our specialist nurses. This will help us to understand the issue and suggest ways you can be supported. Email us on to arrange yours.


If you feel you could benefit from a course of counselling you can arrange it in three ways:

    1. Contact our 24 hour helpline
    2. Request an occupational health assessment and we can make a referral on your behalf
    3. Contact our counselling department directly by emailing


The funeral

There are lots of things to think about when arranging a funeral and at this difficult time it’s worth having the advice of a professional to guide you through all of the steps.

In some cases you can arrange the funeral yourself. Speak to your local council for how to do this in your area.

It’s best to choose a funeral director who is part of either ‘The National Association of Funeral Directors’ or ‘The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors’. The funeral director will do everything from collecting the body to cleaning, dressing and shaving the body, arranging all of the legal paperwork for cremation or burial. They will also arrange the service itself with flowers and the order of service both at the church (if applicable) and at the graveside or crematorium.

Paying for the funeral

To protect yourself get more than one quote for a funeral to compare costs and check what the quote actually covers. There are three main costs to consider:

    • Funeral director fees
    • Announcements e.g. a newspaper announcement
    • Local authority burial fees
    • If you’re on a low income or on benefits you may be able to receive help with funeral costs from the government.


Registration and post-mortem

Registering the death

Deaths are normally registered within five days. You should get all the documentation you need for the funeral after this time. You will need to show the person’s medical certificate, birth and marriage certificate. You’ll also need other details such as occupation, place of birth and any maiden names.


A coroner is someone who investigates the cause of death when this is unknown. The coroner may decide to carry out a post-mortem medical examination of the body. You normally cannot object to this. Funerals can be held after the post-mortem. In around 10% of cases an inquest might be necessary. This is where a complex lawful investigation takes place into circumstances surrounding the person’s death including how, when and why the person died. Inquests do not try to establish if someone is responsible for the person’s death and there isn’t usually a jury.


Estates, taxes and benefits

When you register the death the registrar will give you a form to complete if the deceased was in receipt of any benefits. Here you can also get a death certificate in order to sort out the person’s estate. You have to pay a small fee for a death certificate and any copies. Most of the person’s estate can be can divided at a later date but see below for the agencies you should inform as soon as possible. You may need to pay inheritance tax out of the person’s estate (their collective money and possessions) if this amount is greater than £325,000. See the government website for information on how much you will need to pay.

Who you need to inform:

  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Passport service
  • DVLA
  • Tax Credits
  • Child Benefits
  • Local council for council tax, parking permits or any social care

(In some areas ‘Tell Us Once’ is available who will contact the above agencies on your behalf. Check to see if this is an option when you register the death.)

You will also need to contact the person’s bank, pension provider, credit card provider and any insurance companies they may have been with as well as gas, electricity and other utilities companies.


Probate and distribution of the will

To deal with a person’s will and estate you need to get a ‘grant of representation’ also known as ‘probate’.

You can apply yourself, use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services. Most cases follow this process:

  1. Check if there’s a will – this normally states who sorts out the estate. If there’s no will the next of kin can apply.
  2. Apply for probate through HM courts & tribunals service, all forms can be found online via – this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account.
  3. Pay any inheritance tax that’s due.
  4. Collect the estate’s assets, e.g. money from the sale of the person’s property.
  5. Pay any debts, e.g. unpaid utility bills.
  6. Distribute the estate – this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’) as stated in the persons will.

Sometimes when a person dies this can cause a financial strain for those left behind. Depending on factors such as national insurance contributions you may be entitled to some benefits.


The first five steps

It may seem like the last thing on your mind, but there are several actions you must take within the first five days of a death:

  • Notify the deceased’s doctor. If they’re satisfied with the cause of death they will issue a medical certificate of death.
  • Register the death at the relevant Registrar’s Office within five days. This will give you the documents you need for the funeral.
  • Contact your local funeral home. They will arrange to bring the deceased into their care and work around you day or night.
  • Find the will – the deceased person’s solicitor may have a copy if you can’t find one.
  • If relevant, a completed Form 36 should be sent to the local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office regarding the deceased’s benefits.

If you’re struggling with these things get help from a trusted friend or family member.