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Sudden and unexpected death


Sudden and unexpected death is the most shocking to deal with.

The following brief descriptions give easily understood and relevant advice on what to do following the sudden and unexpected death of somebody close to you.


1) Where is the body?
Normally at the hospital, unless at a crime scene. So phone the nearest Accident and Emergency hospital local to where the person died.

If you know a local funeral director, phone them as they will advise on where the body is likely to be.

The police, local to the deceased, might also know, as they may have been called by whoever first discovered the body even though no ‘foul play' is suspected. Do not dial 999. Instead ask Directory Enquiries for the local non-emergency police number.

2) Can you view the body?
Not if in the custody of the coroner. However, you may be asked to identify the body by the coroner's officer. This will be an escorted visit. You will have to have identification.

To view the body should be arranged with the funeral director as it is best done at the funeral home (the premises of the funeral director).

3) Getting professional help.
By appointing a funeral director as soon as possible, you will be given the advice you require to deal with the funeral arrangements in a sympathetic, professional and easy to understand way.

4) Talking to somebody.
Having to cope with sudden death of a loved one is awful if you have to do it alone. You will need to talk to somebody, and that somebody should be a close member of the family.

However, a death can open up fissures in families and strain family relationships. So if family members are not suitable, speak to a close friend...that's what friends are for.

An alternative is the local general hospital's bereavement officer. This person will also advise on everything that will need to be done in a calm and sympathetic manner. See also Bereavement support.

5) When will the body be released?
This means the coroner releases the body to the family after completing the primary investigation. Normally this means releasing the body to the funeral director you have appointed. Release is normally between two to four days.

6) Organising the funeral.
Has the deceased made a will which has funeral wishes, or made funeral wishes separate from the will? If so, it is only right to fulfil these wishes or use them to organise the funeral.

If not, close family members should be consulted and agree on the most fitting funeral arrangements, taking account of the life that has ended, the person's beliefs, values and lifestyle.

Everyone's life is unique and everyone's parting event should be unique. It is sensible to discuss the options with the funeral director. We have a checklist to ensure none of the details are overlooked.

No need to rush

Unless there are religious reasons, such as the rules of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, do not rush the funeral, nor expect it to happen very soon after the death. The reasons not to rush:

  • The funeral director, the cemetery or the crematorium will need to have the necessary 'slots' in which to carry out the funeral;
  • You will want to give the mourners time to make arrangements to attend the funeral;
  • It is unlikely that all the necessary paperwork will be done on time;
  • You will need time to organise a fitting reception event;
  • A rushed funeral is unlikely to be the event that is fitting for the deceased, or be the event you can look back on as assisting towards the 'closure' in coming to terms with the death of a loved one.

So do not rush to have the funeral as soon as possible. There are benefits of adding a few days to 'get everything right'.

Ensuring the departed loved one has a good funeral will help with the bereavement.

As you never know what might happen, plan the funeral you want and put it in your Lifebox.

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