Within a couple of weeks of registering the death I was inundated with booklets on coping with bereavement and practical things you had to do.  I’ve just counted the numbers of pages of help I kept and it comes to about 600 pages.  The last thing I wanted to do was read that lot and given the state I was in, it wasn’t going to sink in.  

The local Hospice provided the best help pack (and one of the shortest).  It’s checklist did help a lot.  More importantly they also sat down with me and talked me through the process.

Seven months on and boy did I make some mistakes.  Tasks were missed, wrong forms filled out and wrong assumptions made.

So here’s my list (not exhaustive) of the practical things I wish I knew months ago.

  • When sorting out the funeral remember to work out who is going to collect the ashes.  I assumed the Funeral People would get them to me.  Nothing came for weeks.  Apparently I had agreed to pick them up.  I probably should have had someone with me when I sorted out the funeral arrangements – I clearly was not on this planet at this stage.
  • It was a shock when I picked up the ashes.  I knew it would be an emotional nightmare but I hadn’t thought about what the ashes would come in.  I wasn’t expecting to handed what appeared to be a giant brown coloured sweet jar.  It sounds funny now, but it did through me at the time.
  • In the UK when you register a death you can sign up to a “Tell us once” scheme which automatically notifies a range of government departments.  In the main it works however in my case it wasn’t perfect, and I NEVER CHECKED.  I assumed the local council would be notified and the council tax amended (never happened).  I assumed that both car registration and driver licence records would be sorted (neither happened and it caused problems when trying to sell my partners car). 
  • On the subject of my partners car I assumed that my insurance would cover me to drive it.  WRONG.  My insurance only covered me while my partners insurance was valid.  As soon as she died, I was not covered.  Should have checked as soon as she died.
  • Don’t let your passport expire if your partner is about to die.  The number of times I was asked for a valid passport in the weeks after the death……
  • The help guides talk about short term government bereavement benefits.  The guides I was given failed to mention that they are not available to non-married couples.
  • When you are faced with the question on every form you fill out, “Please tick which applies, married, single, bereaved……” don’t just assume it’s bereaved.  Some of these forms only count bereaved as applying to married partners.
  • Make sure you are registered at the same health practice as your young son.  My partner was but I was at a different one (nearer my former employer).  If you are not registered at your son’s practice then the doctors won’t discuss any issues with you.  I had to move health practice.
  • Don’t forget to check any subscriptions your partner had.  I accidentally found a couple which had been paid in full and which I could claim a partial refund on.  Car Breakdown cover was one.
  • Removing my partners name from most of the regular joint bills was quite painless.  However trying to change bills which were just in my partners name has been a nightmare.  Expect to fill out countless forms, in triplicate.
  • When registering a death you get asked how many copies of the death certificate you want.  I thought I was playing it safe by going for 5.  Every time I notified someone of my partners death they wanted an original copy.  Quite often you would get the original back in a few weeks, but sometimes they don’t come back. As a result for a period of about 5 weeks I didn’t have any copies to hand and this just frustratingly delayed things.
  • I forgot to close down my partners Facebook and email accounts.  This actually was helpful as it identify a number of my partners friends who I had not got round to letting them know about the sad news.
  • One help guide talked about sorting everything out in 3 months.  Seven months done the line and I’m still bumbling through the process.

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