The statistics show that we're living longer than ever before but no-one lives indefinitely and, at some point, we're all going to have to think about death. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be emotionally and physically demanding, but staying busy helps, so use this unsettling time to settle all the practical matters. 

What do I do if I lose a loved one?

Losing a loved one is very distressing, and it’s very difficult sometimes to focus on practical matters. However, it’s often best to sort matters out as quickly as possible to ensure that you or others are organised financially and emotionally. You need to consider:

  • Letting people know – including relevant banks, building societies and legal bodies. We have some templates to help you.
  • Organise appropriate funeral arrangements.
  • Contact pension/annuities companies to stop any relevant payments or inform them of new recipient.

How will I cope if my partner dies before me?

It’s normal to be anxious about getting older by yourself. The death of a partner in later life can be a huge wrench and, in some cases, can create health problems for the person left behind. If the worst does happen, there are steps you can take to help yourself stay focused on enjoying life:

  • Keep up with family and friends
    You might not feel like it now, but these are the people who will hopefully keep you busy and help take your mind off your grief.
  • Try to keep up with your hobbies
    Stick with past interests, even if you used to share them with your partner. It will boost your confidence and stop you from feeling isolated.
  • Giving your time can make you feel good
    Some bereaved spouses start volunteering for charity as a way of focusing on those less fortunate than themselves, rather than their own grief. 
  • Stay positive
    It might sound simplistic, but keeping a positive outlook (easier said than done, we know), can be the best medicine following bereavement. So try to get out and about and live in the moment as much as possible.

It’s also possible that you’ll have to manage on a smaller income. Find out more about the financial impact of bereavement.

Will I have to cope on my own?

No, not unless you want to. If you do feel you’re becoming depressed, or just feeling ‘a bit low’, make sure you speak to health professionals. They will be able to recommend ways to improve your mental health such as support groups or community initiatives. You can find out more at Ageuk.org.uk.

I don’t feel unhappy – is that bad?

Definitely not. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may actually feel a sense of release or relief at the passing of a loved one – particularly if that person was suffering from health problems, or was having a very negative impact on your life.

There is no need to feel guilty, but it may be useful to be aware that other people may not share or understand your feelings easily. If in doubt, and you need someone to talk to, your GP will have details of counselling sessions and local support groups set up to help people in your situation.

Useful websites