Renfrewshire Council

Last reviewed: 17.00, 7 Aug 2020

Death and bereavement support

The death of someone we love is the most difficult thing we all go through. The Coronavirus outbreak and the measures that have had to be put in place can make it feel even more difficult, because we are separated from family and friends and our usual support network.

This is a short guide to some of the practical steps you must carry out when you lose a loved one. We've also included some other information that will help at this time, including details of different people you can talk to about your bereavement.

If you want to speak to someone about bereavement support, we have included contact details for different support organisations in the 'Coping with grief' section. 

You can read more about the Scottish Government's distancing measures to consider when planning a funeral.


Speaking to someone

The death of someone close to you can be overwhelming, and you may need practical advice to help you manage. You may also need to speak to someone about how you feel.

You can get practical advice from a funeral director, your family doctor, a solicitor, your local social work department or Citizens Advice Bureau. If a health visitor or district nurse attended the person who died, he or she may be able to help. If the person died in hospital, speak to the Charge Nurse who may refer you to the hospital chaplain or social worker.

There are several organisations that can offer you counselling or emotional support. You may wish to contact your minister of religion.

We have information further down the page about people you can speak to who will help you in coping with grief.


Getting a medical certificate

If someone dies at home

If death occurs during the night and is sudden and unexpected, the doctor should be notified at once. Otherwise, you can call the doctor in the morning.

The doctor will either issue a medical certificate of cause of death (Form 11) needed by the registrar, provided that there are no unusual circumstances; or in some cases, report the death to the Procurator Fiscal.

If someone dies in hospital

The hospital will issue a medical certificate of cause of death provided the cause of death is quite clear. They may ask you to consider authorising a post-mortem examination if that would provide valuable information about the person's final illness or treatment which could help other people. In some cases, they report the death to the Procurator Fiscal.


Registering a death or still-birth

Usually, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages must register a death within eight days or a still-birth within 21 days. During the Coronavirus outbreak, this requirement has been removed but it is better to have the death or still-birth registered as soon as possible. A death must also be registered before a burial or cremation can take place.

If you need to contact us, please call 0300 300 0310 or email:

We can help during normal office hours Monday to Friday and on Saturdays and Sundays between 10.00am-1.00pm. 

A death may be registered by:

  • any relative (this includes the spouse or civil partner of the person who died or a relative by marriage or civil partnership)
  • any person present at the death
  • the executor or other legal representative
  • the occupier of the premises where the death took place, or
  • if there is no such person, any other person possessing the information needed for registration.

During the Coronavirus outbreak, the process of certification has changed. If you are the person making funeral arrangements, medical staff will ask for your contact details and ask which registration office you intend to deal with. They will pass these details along with the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCDD), or the Certificate of Still-Birth, to the Registrar, copying you in. Once we have this form, we can start the registration process. The doctor or midwife will also post the hard-copy certificate to us.

Tell Us Once

Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one step.

If you want to use Tell Us Once, the registration service can help get the information need and give you a service number. You will need to have certain information to hand - such as National Insurance number, driving licence number and passport number - and provide certain contact details. You can read more  about this service on our Tell Us Once webpage.


Planning the funeral

We know how difficult this can be while you are grieving, but you should start planning the funeral as soon as possible.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there are additional measures that you will need to consider, and we know these can make saying goodbye to loved ones even harder. For public safety reasons, the guidance will remain in place for a while. We all need to help funeral directors, crematoriums and burial grounds to continue to offer as normal a service as possible for everyone.

Find out more about the latest Scottish Government guidance for funeral services and what this might mean for you.

Before contacting a funeral director or making any arrangements, check whether the person had a pre-paid funeral plan or bond. Look among personal papers at home or with relatives. If such a document exists, contact the plan or bond provider who will give details as to which funeral director should be contacted.

You can plan for a funeral yourself, but most people go to a funeral director (or undertaker) who can take over all the arrangements. Funeral directors are normally a most helpful support to the family.

If you wish to have a funeral service, contact the minister of religion as soon as possible. Most ministers appreciate a personal approach by relatives and can be helpful in many ways. If you wish to have the services of a minister but do not know one in the area, most funeral directors can advise and in some cases arrange for one to officiate at the service. If you would prefer a non-religious service at the funeral, you may be able to get help with this by contacting the Humanist Society of Scotland.

Coronavirus measures at funerals

It is understandable that families and friends may wish to delay funerals for loved ones until the Coronavirus outbreak has passed, but funerals should continue as normally as possible.

The Scottish Government has advised that, from 15 July, attendance at funerals can be a maximum of 20 people and the restrictions around who can attend have been lifted. The limit will be reviewed again at the end of July. There is no change to the restriction on wakes - these are still not permitted.

When arranging a funeral, you must consider the wider guidelines in place including physical distancing, good hand hygiene, avoiding physical contact and being particularly mindful of those in at-risk groups who may attend, such as those over 70.  Your funeral director can advise you. 

You should also be aware that:

  • services may need to be shorter so the venue can be cleaned between services
  • service books are unlikely to be available
  • you may be able to record the eulogy so those not in attendance can listen or watch at another time
  • it may not be appropriate to have family members bearing the coffin
  • you can organise a celebration of life or memorial for a later date, when it's safe to do so.

Some crematoriums may have their own guidance based on their facilities.

The number of people able to attend a funeral will be significantly reduced at this time. This is more difficult for burial services than cremations, but please discuss this with your funeral director at the time of making arrangements.

You can find out more about Scottish Government restrictions and wider public health guidance for funeral services.

Respectful Funeral Service

We believe everyone is entitled to a respectful and dignified funeral service, while keeping the financial costs to a minimum.

We have worked with local funeral directors to offer a Respectful Funeral Service package which is significantly below the Scottish average cost.

If you'd like to know about the services included and which local funeral directors offer the package, you can read more on our Respectful Funeral Service webpage.


Paying for the funeral

Funerals can be expensive, so please ensure you aware of the cost before finalising arrangements.

The money and possessions left by the person who passed away

Reasonable funeral expenses take priority over other debts on the person's estate, however the person's bank account may be frozen unless it is a joint account. Speak to the branch manager of the bank. They will be able to explain this process in more detail..

Get help with funeral costs

You may be able to get help if you or your partner are receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit which includes an amount higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit where a disability or severe disability element is included in the award
  • Housing Benefit

How much you are entitled to depends on your circumstances. You can receive up to £1,000 in a funeral expenses payment.

You can find out more about funeral payments on the Scottish Government's website. 

Other sources of money to help pay for a funeral might include an insurance policy, a tax refund, a cash sum or pension, and/or a war pension.


Getting financial help

You may qualify for benefit help if you are:

  • a widow, widower or surviving civil partner, or
  • if you have established or can establish under Scots law a marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute.

This includes bereavement benefits, and extra benefit or pension that widows, widowers and surviving civil partners may get on their husband's, wife's or civil partner's National Insurance record.

You may also be able to get help if:

  • you are responsible for arranging the funeral (get claim pack SF 200)
  • you have a low income (you may also get help with NHS health costs)
  • you are bringing up a child on your own
  • your baby was stillborn
  • the person who died was a war pensioner.

Our Advice Works service is there to help you. It's free and confidential. Our trained advisors can explain more about which benefits you are entitled to claim. You can call Advice Works on 0300 300 1238.


Coping with grief

As well as the practical issues, the death of someone close brings a whole range of feelings and emotions. 

Each person's grief is different, but the NHS provides some advice on how to manage feelings of grief and begin to come to terms with what has happened. See NHS inform's advice on Coping with grief.

Support organisations

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland
0845 600 2227
support@crusescotland.org.uk
Cruse offer one-to-one counselling across Scotland. They give support through their helpline for anyone who has been bereaved.

Samaritans
116 123 (24 hours a day, every day)
jo@samaritans.org
Gives confidential emotional support for people experiencing distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.

Breathing Space
0800 83 85 87
Free and confidential service for people experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.

Petal - people experiencing trauma and loss
01698 324 502
Petal support families and friends of murder and suicide victims through telephone counselling.

Bereavement support for parents

Sands
0808 164 3332
helpline@sands.org.uk
A charity that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.

The Compassionate Friends
0345 123 2304
helpline@tcf.org.uk
A charity run by bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents. It offers support to family members after the death of a child.

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland
0845 600 2227
support@crusescotland.org.uk

Child Bereavement UK
0800 02 888 40
support@childbereavementuk.org

Miscarriage Support
0141 552 5070
info@miscarriagesupport.org.uk
A counselling service supporting people affected by miscarriage, neonatal death and stillbirth.

Scottish Cot Death Trust
0141 357 3946
contact@scottishcotdeathtrust.org
A charity dedicated to the sudden unexpected death of babies and young children.

Bereavement support for children and young people

If someone important to you has died or they're seriously ill, you can get support to help you cope. You could try talking to someone you trust, like a family member or close friend, or your doctor or teacher.

You can also speak to these people.

Childline
0800 11111

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland
0845 600 2227
support@crusescotland.org.uk

Child Bereavement UK
0800 02 888 40
support@childbereavementuk.org

Winston's Wish
08452 03 04 05
ask@winstonswish.org
Advice, coping tips, blogs and information for bereaved young people.

Young Scot
0808 801 0338

If you are the parent of a bereaved child, ParentLine can help you.

ParentLine
08000 28 22 33

Bereaved carers

Renfrewshire Carers Centre
0141 887 3643
centre@renfrewshirecarers.org.uk