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Immediately after death

Here’s an outline of what happens upon death and in the few days after death. It explores how you might be feeling and what you need to be aware of in terms of the verification of death, getting a medical certificate, as well as how to register the death.

It is very difficult to predict how you are going to feel immediately after the person dies. You may feel completely numb and in shock, disconnected from everyone, place, and time. You may feel overcome with sadness or even anger at what has just happened. If the person has been ill for some time, with a reduced quality of life, you may even feel relief. You won’t know until it happens and there is no right or wrong way to feel. 

If the person dies in hospital, hospice, or care home you may want to ask staff for some time with the body to give you the space you need to cope with how you are feeling.

Last offices or laying out the body will mean different things to different people depending on their beliefs, faith, and preferences. For the purposes of this resource, it will refer to the care of the person once they have died. The person’s religion or own preferences may dictate how this is carried out, for example carrying out such tasks yourself or preferring to leave to others. Ideally, this should be discussed with the person prior to death as part of their advance care plan.