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What happens after a military death?


The death of a loved one serving in the military is something every British Forces family hope they never experience. For those who do, understanding the steps that follow a military death can feel overwhelming.

At Scotty's Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved British Forces children and young people, we support hundreds of military families who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the Armed Forces, and we understand how challenging this journey can be.

This article discusses the process that occurs after a military death and suggests some actions Armed Forces families may want to consider in the aftermath of a bereavement. If your child/children have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they may be eligible to join Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Click here to find out how we help.

Immediate Steps After a Military Death 

Official Notification
  • Most bereaved military families find out about their loved one’s death from a Casualty Notifying Officer, who will visit and provide information and condolences to the next of kin. From there, your family will be assigned a Visting Officer – usually from your loved one’s regiment – whose role is to provide support, answer any questions and help make any military arrangements.
  • Repatriation is when a loved one’s body is brought back to their home country, if they died overseas. Bereaved families should prepare for this to be a very emotional process, which includes coordination between military authorities, embalmers, and funeral homes.
Funeral Planning
  • The next of kin will be involved in planning their loved one’s funeral or memorial service. Decisions they will need to make include the location, type of service and other personal preferences. They will also need to decide between a military or private service. If a military service is chosen, then military personnel such as the Visiting Officer can assist with arranging honours, including the playing of The Last Post. 

Financial and administrative support for bereaved military families

Financial Assistance and Compensation
  • Bereaved military families may be eligible for financial support if their loved one's death was in service or attributed to their service. It is important to understand what you are entitled to, so be sure to ask your Visiting Officer any questions.
Military Pension
  • The next of kin will be appointed a contact at Veterans UK to help sort their loved one’s pension. There are multiple types of military pensions. If you or your family are unsure which you’re entitled to, we recommend reading this article on claiming your military pension.
Legal Matters
  • Similarly, bereaved military families will be asked to address legal matters such as wills and their loved one’s life insurance policies. Your Visiting Officer will connect you with professionals who can help.
Returning personal belongings
  • Your Visiting Officer will lead this, arranging the return of personal belongings, resolving any outstanding pay issues, and closing the deceased service member's accounts.

Emotional Support and Resources

The Purple Pack
  • The Purple Pack is given to military families shortly after their bereavement, often by a Visiting Officer, and provides practical information to help those left behind after a loved one has died in service. It contains details for a number of support organisations and bereavement charities.
Connecting with other bereaved military families
  • For many bereaved military families, getting to know others in the same situation is hugely beneficial. Becoming part of a military community like Scotty’s Little Soldiers connects you with people who share your experiences can help you develop coping strategies as you navigate grief together.
Scotty's support

Adapting to Life After a Military Death

Creating New Traditions
  • Bereaved military families may find comfort in creating new traditions to honour the memory of their loved one. This could involve sharing stories or memories, visiting somewhere special to them or engaging in activities they would have enjoyed. Click here for more ideas on how to remember your loved one. 
Staying Connected with the Military Community
  • Staying connected with the military community and joining events put on by organisations like Scotty's Little Soldiers can be a great way to meet others in a similar situation to you. For families and individuals who feel isolated in their grief, these events can be a good way to help you feel less alone.

About Scotty's

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a military charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. 

Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood. 

In 2023, Scotty’s supported over 650 members. Services offered include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone. 

If you know a child or young person who has experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they could be eligible for specialist bereavement support from Scotty's Little Soldiers. Hundreds of bereaved military children aren’t getting the support they need but we are here to help.

If you know a bereaved military child who could benefit from Scotty’s Little Soldiers support, visit our Get Support page for more information.


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