Becoming a single dad is always life changing, but when it is the result of the death of your partner, it undoubtedly is 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, do 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 their funeral arrangements and attend the funeral. This legal right for time off is just to cover these practical arrangements, not compassionate leave to deal with your grief, or to be with your children.
While you are not legally entitled to compassionate leave, your employer may still offer you some (paid or unpaid), so do talk to them about what is happening and see what they offer.
If they don’t offer any compassionate leave, you could consider asking to take some paid annual leave, or if your grief has left you unfit for work, sick leave.
If you have a child under the age of one, and their mother has died, you may be able to claim paternity leave from work to be able to continue to care for them in her absence.
In order for this to be a possibility, you must be the one who will be looking after them on a day to day basis.
When you lose a partner, it can mean some big changes to your financial situation – and these changes may mean that you become eligible for additional financial support in the form of various benefits or tax credits. There is a helpful list of what might be affected in terms of tax, national insurance, benefits and pensions here https://www.gov.uk/death-spouse-benefits-tax-pension.
If you were claiming any benefits or tax credits before the death of your partner, you will need to update those agencies on the change in your situation. If the change affects the amount you will be paid, they will update your claim to do this for you.
If you have not been claiming any benefits or tax credits, it is a good idea to find out if you now can. Tax credits can be payable to you even if you are working or own your own home, so do not assume that you would not be eligible for them, give them the information and let them work out if you are entitled to any financial support.
There is also financial support for a surviving partner whose spouse has died, through the Widowed Parents Allowance, the Bereavement Payment and Bereavement Allowance. They do have different eligibility criteria, but are accessible to a lot of those who experience bereavement. Find out more about bereavement and benefits at this specially dedicated information section at gov.uk.
Following the death of your loved one, having to deal with practicalities can be an unwanted burden. In reality, the first few days may just be ones where you try to come to basic terms with your grief and to talk to, and support your children, through the news and reality.
There will come a time when you do need to take some practical steps though, and sometimes doing so is 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 within, 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, but 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 continued pain and 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 very 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 say goodbye.
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.