How to Tell Someone About a Death in the Family

Finding out that a loved one has passed away is an incredibly upsetting experience. When you learn that a family member has died, you may need to tell other family members about the death. If you’ve never passed on the news that someone has died, you may be feeling stressed and unsure about how to tell people. You can expect that the people you tell are going to be upset about the passing, and some may feel uncomfortable seeing people express sadness in front of them. We’ve compiled some advice to help you tell someone about a death in the family in the most comforting and supportive way possible.

Where should I tell them the news?

If possible, it is best to tell people the news in person. However, it may not be possible to tell people face-to-face in some circumstances. If you can’t tell them in person, give them a phone call rather than a text message or email. If you can, put plenty of time aside to talk to the individual/s that you are informing. They may have questions and may need your emotional support. Make sure there are no distractions around you and that the room you are in is quiet and private. It is best to keep the conversation confidential.

What should I say?

Planning what you are going to say maybe the most challenging part of all. If it makes you feel more comfortable, think through what you are going to say in detail. If it helps, make a few notes to have just in case you need them. Of course, what you say to the individual you are speaking to will depend on your relationship with them. If it’s a close relative, you may feel more comfortable expressing your emotions openly. If you are informing a more distant family member, you must try to be as empathetic as possible. When you’re telling the individual of the news, talk slowly and clearly so that they understand what you are saying. When the conversation begins, it may be best to warn them that you have bad news, to reduce the level of shock they will feel. After you have informed them of what has happened, let them know that you are there to support them. If they feel comfortable doing so, encourage them to express their feelings about the situation.

What should I do after telling them?

After you’ve informed them of the passing, they may react differently to how you imagined. Remember that people process grief in different ways. Make sure that you are there to support them, and that they know you are. Respond to their body language. If appropriate, hug them or touch their hand to show you care and that you are there to support them. If they live alone, check that someone is available to help them if they need it. This can be a neighbour, another relative, or a friend. Some people may want to be alone when they hear the news. If this is the case, respect their wishes but ensure that help is there if they need it.

Informing someone of a death in the family is a distressing experience for all involved. As long as you are understanding and show them that you are there to support them, that is what matters. If you, a family member, or friend is struggling with grief, the Cruse Bereavement Helpline is there to help you. Visit their website to find out more information and their opening hours.


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