Becoming a single dad is always life changing, but when it is the result of the death of your partner, it’s undoubtedly going to be an experience which is particularly challenging and traumatic to cope with. You will have your own grief to cope with. You will also be trying to support your children through their own grief too. In addition to this, the sudden responsibility of becoming the sole parent, and all the practicalities which you now need to manage, might feel very overwhelming at first.
If you have found yourself in this position, get support. You should not and do not have to try and do everything on your own.
Time off work
If your partner dies, under law you are entitled to take time off (this can be unpaid) to make funeral arrangements and attend the funeral. This legal right for time off is just to cover these practical arrangements. Compassionate leave to deal with your grief, or to be with your children is a separate issue.
While you are not legally entitled to compassionate leave, your employer may still offer you some (paid or unpaid). Talk to them about what has happened and see what they offer.
If they don’t offer any compassionate leave, you could consider asking to take some paid annual leave. You can take sick leave if your grief has left you unfit for work.
If you have a child under the age of one, you may be able to claim paternity leave from work. This will enable you to be able to continue to care for them in her absence.
In order to claim this, you must be the one who will look after them on a day to day basis.
When you lose a partner, it can mean some big changes to your financial situation. These changes may mean that you become eligible for additional financial support from the government. There is a helpful list of what you must do legally when someone dies, and what might be affected in terms of tax, national insurance, benefits and pensions here.
If you have not been claiming any benefits or tax credits, find out if you now can. Tax credits can be payable to you even if you are working or own your own home.
There is also financial support for a surviving partner whose spouse has died, through the Bereavement Support Payment.
Following the death of your loved one, having to deal with practicalities can be an unwanted burden. The first few days may just be ones where you try to come to basic terms with your grief. You will also need to support your children.
There will come a time when you do need to take some practical steps. Doing so can be an important way of helping yourself start to process what has happened.
One of the first things you will need to do after bereavement is to register the death. In England and Wales, you have five days to do this, and you will need the death certificate from your GP or hospital doctor.
Then the next step is to make the funeral arrangements. The cost of these can be a worry or difficulty. In certain circumstances, there is financial support to help you pay for the costs of a funeral. Find out more.
Should my children be involved in the funeral arrangements?
You might feel that you want to try and protect your children from further suffering related to the loss of their parent, and wonder whether being involved in planning the funeral, or even attending it, is really appropriate or helpful.
Many experts say that, if your child feels they want to, empowering them to be a part of this is all a important part of their understanding and saying goodbye. You need to let them know what to expect, and be prepared for if they suddenly feel they do not want to be there, but it is good to let them have the opportunity to take part.
If you would like more support to understand how your child may experience grief, and how to support them through it, Cruse have some really helpful resources for and about children here.