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What to do when someone dies at Christmas

A woman takes in sad news, in a room decorated for Christmas

Time comes to standstill when someone you loved dies, but even at Christmas time, help is just a phone call away. Dedicated funeral directors are always on call when the worst happens and the festive season is no exception.

“Families deserve our services on Christmas Day just as much as any other day,” says Scott Watters, a funeral director and paramedic.

“Christmas is a very special, family-focused period, and losing a loved one at this time of year deserves every bit of support we can give.”

Although contacting a funeral director during this time of year is a call that no one wants to make, it can be reassuring to know that help is at hand and can advise you on what to do when someone dies at Christmas.

What to do someone dies unexpectedly at home at Christmas

If a loved one has died unexpectedly at home, call 000 as quickly as possible to ask for an ambulance and the police.

When the paramedics arrive, they’ll be able to confirm the death of your loved one. The cause of death also needs to be verified by the nearest available doctor within 48 hour of your loved one’s death. If the doctor is satisfied that the cause of death is clear, a cause of death certificate will be issued.

An unexpected death may need to be reported to a coroner, who will investigate the cause of death. They may need to hold a post-mortem or inquest for this to be done. The examination is carried out as soon as possible after the death and every effort is made to minimise any delay. When the examination is complete, the mortuary will release your loved one to an undertaker.

If you’re expecting someone’s death

If the death was expected, perhaps due to terminal illness, your loved one’s GP needs to be notified, or emergency services, as quickly as possible.

After a healthcare professional confirms the death, you may call a funeral director of your choice to take your loved one into their care, and start arranging the funeral.

“We are the ambassadors of the funeral care industry. It’s our duty to help bereaved families whenever they need it and provide a complete range of advice to friends and family at such an unfortunate time” says Scott.

If someone dies at hospital

Most hospitals have their own mortuary that will take care of removing your loved one’s body. The hospital’s Bereavement Services team will be able to determine when the Cause of Death Certificate will be ready for collection.

Registering the death

The funeral arrangements can begin once a certificate of death has been issued. From here, your chosen funeral director will collect the information needed and oversee the paperwork involved in registering the death and informing the state registrar about the cremation or burial.

Dealing with grief at Christmas

“Everyone is unique, and deals with grief differently” says Scott, “but Christmas is filled with heightened emotions so dealing with the loss of a loved one over the Christmas period can be especially difficult.

“Having support from family, friends and community is invaluable and no-one should feel isolated and unable to express their grief. Having lost my own father just before Christmas in 2003 I know sometimes we need to find ways to still make Christmas special for children and other family members so, if it feels right, raise a glass, toast the season and celebrate life.”