Telling friends and family about the death of a love one is hard
Telling friends and family about the death of a loved one can be difficult. The way you deliver this news can have an impact on the person you are telling, so it can be a good idea to prepare where and how you let them know.
Where should I tell them?
- It is usually best to tell them the news in person. If this is not possible, making a phone call is better than sending a text or email.
- Allow plenty of time when you’re with the person or making the call.
- If possible, make sure you are in a safe and confidential space where there will be no potential interruptions. Switch off phones, radios and televisions.
- Call elderly or vulnerable individuals when they can have someone beside them for support and not alone after hearing your news
What should I say?
- Even though it is impossible to prepare anyone for news about the loss of a loved one, it may help to think through and prepare what you’re going to say.
- Talk gently and slowly, using simple and plain language. Warning the person that you have bad news may mean that they’re less shocked.
- Avoid euphemisms such as ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘they’re in a better place’ and be as truthful and clear as possible. This is especially important when talking to children, as they can take such phrases to be literal.
- Avoid talking about unrelated issues or delaying because it may not be the right time or the person’s mood may be ruined. There is never an ideal time to give someone bad news. Check that they understand what has happened and whether they would like to express what they are feeling.
- If as well as telling them about the death you also want to discuss practical things like the funeral arrangements, it may be better to leave that for a separate conversation.
How to support the person you are telling
- Your loved one may have been seriously ill for a long time, or they may have died quite suddenly. If the death comes as a shock for the person you’re talking to, they may find it particularly difficult to take in.
- The person may need physical space to take in what you’ve said. Leave it up to them if they want to be touched or held.
- If someone becomes very distressed, and you’re unable to stay with them, you may need to ask who you can contact on their behalf. This might be a neighbour, or friend or family member who lives close by and can stay with them.
- You may have a long list of people to call, and it can be very tiring. You might want to limit yourself to so many a day or share the calls with another close family member or friend.
Seek immediate help when:
- You are unable to perform the daily normal activities
- You have persistent grief
Losing a loved one can change a person’s life. Grief, when experienced fully with the proper understanding, good handling and availing of resources when needed, will become bearable with time.