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Bereavement - a life event that causes vulnerability


Publication date:

22 September 2020

Last updated:

22 September 2020


Cruse Bereavement Care

How to identify and provide support for people experiencing a bereavement.

Nobody can dispute that the death at any age of a close family member or friend can be a life-changing experience and one that we all wish could be avoided. Bereavement is specifically mentioned as a significant life event in the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.

In 'normal' times, bereavement can massively alter the landscape for families, and people who would normally be very capable of managing their financial affairs may become 'vulnerable' in a way that they would not have anticipated. Imagine a situation where the major family breadwinner dies suddenly and unexpectedly, or a couple where the person who managed all the finances dies leaving their partner completely overwhelmed and bewildered as to how to manage even simple financial transactions, or a family worried about how they will be able to pay for a funeral – all sadly very common-place situations.

However, the coronavirus and lockdown measures have amplified issues around all vulnerabilities and exacerbated the challenges that vulnerable people face. Sadly, simply the number of deaths in recent months has impacted on businesses in the financial services sector as so many accounts need to be closed, policies transferred and estates managed.

So, what is it about bereavement and grief that triggers vulnerability?

The death of a loved one changes a person’s world for ever and it can’t be fixed. The best that anyone can do is to adjust to a new version of the world and this process takes time. How long that takes and how that happens is different for  everyone as we all experience grief differently.

Grief isn’t just crying and feeling sad and lonely, it can affect people in many different ways. Typical 'symptoms' that Cruse clients regularly tell us about include:

  • Physical pains
  • Emotional numbness
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Impact on memory
  • Avoidance behaviours
  • Inability to concentrate and process information

None of these are helpful when you also need to contact many different organisations to deal with your loved one’s estate. And if a person is already classed as vulnerable, then bereavement can add another layer of complexity. Being aware of these challenges can help businesses to understand why a customer takes a long time to complete paperwork or is struggling send the correct documentation required. 


If you do feel concerned about the emotional wellbeing of a bereaved customer and feel that they might benefit from some support, please do signpost them to the services that Cruse can offer. Many people are unaware of what our charity does and the support available.

The best way to do this is to direct customers to the Cruse website or give them the number of our national helpline 0808 808 1677. Regrettably, Cruse cannot accept referrals from third parties such as insurance companies and banks.

Please note, that customers based in Scotland should contact our sister charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland or telephone 0845 600 2227.

In time, as most people adjust to some degree to life without their loved one a significant number of bereaved people will stop being vulnerable. However, for some it will continue to be a factor in a more complex picture of vulnerability.


For more information about the services Cruse offers, including training and consultancy services, please visit or for emotional support call the National Helpline on 0808 8081677.

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.