Once the death is verified (by a doctor, not the same as registering the death) you can contact a funeral director (undertaker). They often provide a 24-hour service and can help you with any decisions that need to be made.
They can help you decide if you want to keep the body at home or have them care for the body. It is sometimes possible for friends or relatives to help care for the body including washing and dressing, discuss this with your funeral director.
Some people wish to be embalmed. This process will be done by the funeral directors.
In general, funeral directors have a wealth of experience in a situation where we may have limited experience but may also feel emotionally drawn. They can be a point of support and knowledge and tend to be a calm voice of reason. If in doubt, ask their advice.
Planning a funeral and burial or cremation
You, or your family, can make all the arrangements yourself, if you wish. Most people choose to use a funeral director.
If the plan is for a cremation, the doctor will need to prepare some paperwork as the death must be verified by two doctors, although you are unlikely to be involved in this administration.
It is not a legal requirement for a religious leader to conduct any service. A funeral, religious or spiritual service can be held anywhere you want. For example in a home or at a favourite place.
There is no set requirement for funerals and the most important thing to remember is that it needs to feel appropriate for as many people attending as possible. For possible inspiration, read Emma Freud’s description in ‘Personal stories’ of arrangements that she made for members of her family.
The Natural Death Society aims to support those dying at home and their carers and to help with inexpensive family organised and environmentally-friendly funerals.
What to do when someone dies by Paul Harris Which? Books 2000
The Government has advice for what to do after death in England & Wales. See advice here or leaflets should be available from most post offices and job centres.
There is a guide to grants for individuals in need – copies are often available in libraries.
A recent study from the University of Bath (January 2014) has found that over the last decade the cost of a typical funeral has risen by 80%. This is made up of the price of burial or cremation, memorials, catering and administration. It has all risen above the rate of inflation. The Social Fund Funeral Payment is intended to help families on low incomes.