Jackie Lymn Rose, A.W. Lymn

The Complexities of Dying Abroad: A.W. Lymn Explains What Happens when a Death Occurs Overseas

A fault in incoming flight data caused widespread disruption at the end of August, leaving thousands of passengers stranded abroad or unable to leave the UK. While passengers were upset about their holidays being affected, what happens to those who are waiting for the body of a loved one to come home? Leading East Midlands funeral director, Jackie Lymn Rose of A.W. Lymn The Family Funeral Service, explains.

“Dealing with the death of a family member or friend is distressing, but becomes particularly complex if it happens abroad. It involves a process called repatriation, where the body of a deceased person is returned to their country of residency or citizenship,” said Jackie, Director and fourth generation at A.W. Lymn who has more than 30 years’ experience of the process of repatriation and is the business’s specialist on the matter.

“Many steps are involved in repatriation, with various actions required to take depending on the laws and customs of the country where the person died and the circumstances of their death.

“Throw in the mix flight disruptions and delays, it can be an incredibly upsetting time for families waiting to say their final farewell.

“When booking a trip abroad, our thoughts don’t immediately turn to the possibility of death, which is completely understandable. It’s upsetting to think about, but it’s so important to understand that, in the event of a death overseas, legal and practical issues must be dealt with in the country of death mindful that language and foreign attitude to death may be a barrier which will compound the emotional impact. Taking out travel insurance will protect the bereaved family from having to deal with and fund the formalities of repatriation”.

Families are always told to expect delays when waiting for a deceased to be returned home. If the person died of natural causes, it could take between five to seven days, but there are cases where it can take weeks.

“Deaths occurring overseas have to be reported to the coroner in whose jurisdiction the committal will take place as the coroner may need to investigate further before issuing documentation for burial or cremation.

“If we are repatriating a deceased from England there are formalities to deal with to gain permission which, dependant on the country we are sending to, may include gaining consular permission from that country which can be a protracted procedure.”

Those planning a funeral are also advised to leave a 48-hour gap after the planned arrival of the deceased in their homeland to allow time for unexpected last-minute delays.

Jackie explained how the flight sometimes isn’t confirmed until the day before, which often leaves families in limbo.

“There are various factors that can cause delay, for instance, if the plane has hit capacity, funeral directors have to hold the body until a later flight. Even if someone is being transported by ferry, bad weather can cause a holdup. In situations such as this, we do everything we can to ensure the deceased returns home in time, such as using alternative routes via different countries or using multiple forms of transport such as by road.”

Jackie stressed that while flight delays and disruptions are beyond a funeral director’s control, organising the correct insurance is something everyone can do before travelling to ensure you will be given the right care.

“Having worked in the industry for many years, I have witnessed first-hand the stress and devastation that can be caused when you aren’t covered by travel insurance.

“One family was once told that it would cost €100k to bring their loved one back home from Lanzarote because they did not have the right insurance, unfortunately they did not seek our opinion and the deceased was buried in Lanzarote. On another occasion, an elderly couple were holidaying in Tenerife when the male died unexpectedly, and with no insurance in place, the police sent a funeral director who said they wouldn’t remove the body until £6k was paid upfront.”

Jackie added: “As a family of funeral directors who have cared for the bereaved for over 100 years and who are truly passionate about what we do, we find situations like this truly heartbreaking. Doing your research before you travel is vital.

“We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of care, it’s our role to make the process of saying goodbye to a loved one as easy as it can be. Whether death occurs at home or abroad, we do everything we can do to undue stress and ensure a smooth process.”

A.W. Lymn has cared for the bereaved in the East Midlands region for over 115 years. The fifth-generation family business operates 27 funeral homes throughout Nottinghamshire and South Derbyshire with quality of service at the heart of its ethos.