In today’s world of social media and instant news, it is important to think about, list and contact family and friends who you feel should be personally informed of a loved one’s death before they hear or read about it.
When a death is sudden, it will be a shock to those that knew the person, so think about how to deliver the news (whether it be in person or by phone)
Deliver news face-to-face
This is the preferred option. Both sit down. Turn mobile phones onto silent. Reduce distractions (TV, radio etc). Be thoughtful and choose words carefully. Use simple language. Speak slowly. Let those present absorb the news. If you can’t meet the person face-to-face, perhaps arrange for someone else to be with them when the news is delivered.
In the middle of the night?
If a death occurs in the middle of the night, consider your options. Is it best to wait a while before you call?
At work or school?
Again, consider options and reactions.
Ask the person to phone you back or pull over to the side of the road.
Choose words carefully
People die. Avoid euphemisms such as passed away, passed on, is in a better place... and so on.
Consider your own wellbeing. Can someone close to you assist at this difficult time?
As Funeral Celebrants, we hear stories of how or where someone was, when told of the death of a relative or close friend. Here are some examples:
An SMS Message
'Sorry 4 the impersonal SMS... I just wanted 2 let my friends know that my dad passed away on Thursday. My mum, sisters & I r coping as best as we can. Chat later' The recipient had no idea who the message was from and the caller ID was blocked!
I will always remember the news that my close friend xxxx died (sudden death). Her husband phoned and after some banter, he said ‘We lost Sue yesterday’. I didn’t understand. Lost her in the supermarket was my first thought!
I read about the death of a friend on Facebook ….. it was a shock and it contained errors. The post was removed a few hours later, but the damage was done.
Another: I am feeling so shocked at the moment. RIP.
The next-of-kin is usually responsible for choosing if a death announcement is placed on social media and/or local media.
There are numerous resources and professional counsellors that can assist with telling children about the death of a loved one.
A great Australian resource is a series of three Memory books from Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, written by Natasha Samy.
Regularly download and print out contacts from your phone. Do those closest to you know who everyone is?
Did your loved one have a hard copy address book? (or Christmas card list?) These are generally people closest to them.
Work colleagues - Who was the deceased’s closest work colleague? Contact him/her and ask for assistance about who should be informed and how. Engage the Human Resources department if applicable.
Professional and/or not-for-profit resources – use online or local resources such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue for support.