How to Let Others Know about a Death of a Loved One

by Sytsema
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Breaking news to others about a death is never easy. People tend to respond in a variety of different ways and often have questions you may not feel comfortable answering, or simply don’t know how to answer. It’s important to be honest and clear. Remember, the way you deliver the news will stay with and affect both who you tell and yourself as you go through the grieving process. To help you take on this difficult task, keep these guidelines in mind:


  1. Be timely. Don’t put off letting people know. It’s best to contact others, relatives especially, right away so they hear it from a family member or someone they know and not from others or from social media.

  2. If you are able, deliver the news in person and in a private location. If you must deliver the message over the phone, make sure to introduce yourself first so the relative knows exactly with whom they are speaking. It’s also important you feel ready and calm enough to start sharing the news.

  3. Tell them first, explain later (if they ask). If you start with an explanation or pre-emptive story that leads up to revealing the death, this can be even more upsetting as the person will likely grow anxious and distressed waiting to find out the outcome. That being said, don’t just blurt it out. Get right to the point, but in a gentle manner such as saying, “I am so sorry to share this with you, but Aunt Kate has died.”

  4. Don’t use euphemisms for death that can be misinterpreted, such as “moved on,” or passed.” It’s important to be direct and clear to assure the person fully understands the loved one has died. It may be necessary to repeat yourself, as well.

  5. Be prepared as possible for questions. Find out all you can from medical staff and responders so that if questions do arise you are able to answer accurately. Never share assumptions or opinions of possibilities - incorrect information can be passed along and easily become rumors.  

  6. Practice what you are going to say. If you can, put some time into thinking about the best way to deliver your message and determine ahead of time the words you’ll use. This will help calm your nerves as well as keep your message consistent, avoiding any confusion.

  7. Avoid calling cell numbers if at all possible to assure people are in a safe place to hear and react to the news.

  8. Be brief but not blunt. It’s important to allow recipients of the news to ask questions or share their grief with you. Take some time with them, but keep in mind that when given the news, they may not be in a state of mindfulness. Wait until there is an opportune time to politely inform them you have to let others know and that you will be in contact again later with arrangement details.


Of course, if you need any help with letting others know about a death, we are here for you! Feel free to contact our caring and compassionate staff, and we will be happy to provide all the support you need.

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