Date last updated: 24 September 2021

Coping with loss

Coping with family life after the loss of a partner can be incredibly difficult. Grief affects people in different ways and it’s important that as well as supporting your children, you have support for you. Take time to talk with your children about your feelings as well as theirs. It’s likely that you and your family will need to adjust to a number of changes that will have an impact on your daily lives.

This advice will support you to make practical and financial arrangements for your family after your bereavement. There are some things you need to think about straight away that should be made a priority. The information below will help you think about the most pressing issues. You may need advice on benefits and tax credits, childcare, or your rights at work. Gingerbread is here to help you and your family adapt to your different circumstances.

This page is advice for you as a parent. We have advice tailored for young people on our page, ‘Children who have lost a parent‘.

Taking time off work after a bereavement

Being with your children after the death of their other parent will probably be your top priority. Talk to your employer to see if they offer extra time off as part of your contract. This additional time off is often called ‘Compassionate Leave’ and may be paid. Although there is no legal right to compassionate leave, many employers do offer it. If they don’t, you could ask for paid annual leave or consider taking sick leave if you are not ready to return to work.

In the longer term, you may need to think about changing your work patterns to adapt to your new circumstances. See our information on your rights in the workplace to find advice on negotiating with your employer.

Your finances

How you’ll cope financially can be a huge worry after the loss of a partner, and thinking about how you’ll manage on your own can be daunting. Financial support is available, so try to make sure you get all the help you can for you and your family.

Funeral costs

If paying for funeral expenses is difficult because you are on a low income, you may be able to get a funeral payment to help pay for the costs. To qualify you must be receiving a benefit, such as Universal Credit. You can find out more about funeral payments on the Turn2us website.

Bereavement support payment

If you were married, in a civil partnership you could be entitled to a bereavement support payment. It is also possible to claim this if you were co-habiting with your partner, although this is a new addition to the law. See this advice on bereavement support for co-habiting parents for further details.

The Turn2us website has a useful summary of bereavement support payment as well as contact details so that you can make an application. If you were bereaved before 6th April 2017, you may be entitled to payments such as bereavement allowancebereavement payment, or widowed parent’s allowance. The Citizens Advice Bureau also has lots of online information on all bereavement benefits and can help you work out what you could claim.

You can use the Turn2us online benefits calculator to check if you are entitled to any other benefits and tax credits. If you’d like to talk about your particular circumstances with an expert adviser, call our Helpline on 0808 802 0925, which is free from landlines and mobiles.

Who you need to tell

You’ll also need to let a number of government departments know about your bereavement. The government’s Tell Us Once service means that you don’t have to contact them all – they will do this for you. The Tell Us Once page also has lots of helpful information about what else to do when someone dies, including arranging a funeral and dealing with benefits and tax issues. You can get the details of your local Tell Us Once service from your local registrar. The service will contact Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Passport Office and your local council on your behalf.

Letting government departments know as soon as possible is really important. It can be difficult, but it will help to ensure that you’re receiving as much financial support as possible.

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Getting support from others

You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents who have been through similar changes. Joining a group like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents on our online forums can be helpful and supportive.

Looking after your family

Every child will react differently to loss, but spending time together as a family will help you to understand what your children need. Winston’s Wish is a childhood bereavement charity that helps families rebuild their lives after a loss. The charity has a helpline and email advice service for parents, as well as a dedicated website for young people.

Grief Encounter also offers support for children, young people, and their families through bereavement.

Our page for children who have lost a parent is written specifically for children with some simple advice and links to other organisations they can talk to for help.

Our page on support for children and young people gives you more information on where to go for help with related difficulties your children may experience.

Looking after yourself

There is support available to help you come to terms with your loss. You might feel that you don’t need support outside of your family and friends – or you may want to talk to someone removed from your situation. Mind, Cruse Bereavement Care, and Widowed and Young are all organisations that can offer advice and guidance.

Cruse Bereavement Care

Leading charity for bereavement support in the UK

Cruse Bereavement Care have lots of helpful information on their website and you can also get support over the phone. They also offer face-to-face support.

Find your local Cruse service

Widowed and Young

Widowed and Young is a charity that helps people who are widowed under the age of 50. They offer peer support and organise social events, and provide guidance on how to talk to children and how to cope with challenging situations.

Visit their website

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