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How to let people know when someone dies

Posted by AK Lander | On June 26, 2014 14:18

This is a guide on how to let people know when someone dies and informing others about the death of a loved one.


This is a guide on how to let people know when someone dies and informing others about the death of a loved one.

Having to inform others about the death of a loved one is a very difficult thing to do. Professionals who unfortunately have to inform others of deaths of loved ones never find it easy, and having to inform those closest to you can be very hard. While dealing with your own grief, you are also then exposed to the grief of others, ranging from very close friends and family, to acquaintances and authorities.

There are two aspects to letting others know the sad news of a death. Practically, employers, officials, and authorities need to be made aware of a death, and emotionally, family members and friends should be made aware of the passing of a relative or friend. This is a guide on how to cope with the process of letting others know that someone has died.

Letting family know

After the death of a loved one there will be urgent calls that need to be made. If you are alone after the death, then calls to immediate family will be a priority: firstly to make them aware of the death, but it is equally as important that you call close family so that you are not alone.

If the death has occurred in a hospital or in a hospice, there will most likely be a private room with a phone or somewhere where you can use your mobile phone to contact immediate family members. When having the conversation, try to remain calm and keep the news simple. After calling urgent family members, try to wait until you get home before contacting the rest. Once at home, it helps to make a list of all family members to be informed and then put them in an order of who to call first. If you have a very large family, consider asking a member from one side of the family to assist you with letting their side know of the death.

There may be some family members that you feel you won’t be able to tell over the phone, for example elderly relatives or family members who you feel should be given the sad news in person. This responsibility doesn’t have to be solely on you, consider delegating this task to a relative that lives closer so that they can deliver the news face to face. This should be arranged within the first day or two, so as to make sure that family members not informed by phone don’t find out by accident.

Try to keep a list of people who you have contacted to inform them of the death, so that you can contact them again regarding details of the funeral.

Letting friends know

You will most likely know or be able to easily find out the contact details of the deceased’s closest friends. When contacting close friends, you can ask them to pass the news on to anyone they feel should know. If you don’t know the details of the deceased’s closest friends or don’t know how to find their friends’ contact details, try looking on their mobile phone in their recent contacts, or looking on their Facebook profile to find their close friends. If you are still having difficulty, try contacting someone who you know is a friend and asking them for advice on who to contact.

Dealing with reactions

When having to inform people of a death you will experience many different reactions. Of course, you will already be going through a hard time emotionally so it is important that you try to remain calm and keep your conversations simple as you will have to repeat yourself many times over to different people.

If the deceased has been suffering from a long term illness or the news is expected in some way, it is best to try to let the person know as soon into the call as possible, then you can try to answer any questions they have as simply and calmly as possible. If the death is sudden, keeping the news simple is better, if a cause of death is not known, try not to guess or speculate when making the calls as it may be that you will have to call to correct this information later on.

It is worth being aware of the fact that some people may react unexpectedly. Responses will vary dramatically as people come to terms with the news and their grief. It is best to prepare for all types of reactions; some people may be embarrassed, some may say something awkward or insensitive, others may be in shock, or be very emotional. Try to remain calm and be brief, letting them know the news and that you will contact them with further details regarding the funeral.

Other people to contact

Aside from close friends and family, there are official channels and authorities that need to be contacted after a death. Once you have contacted your family and friends, there are practical channels that need being made aware of the death. Try to make a list of all companies and organisations the deceased had a relationship with in order to not miss anyone. Asset and liability holders such as your mortgage company or your landlord will need to be informed.

Other authorities include: banks and building societies, employers, insurance companies, pensions and benefits agencies, council services. Service providers such as BT or Sky, energy providers, and savings and investments companies such as NS&I will also need to be contacted.

You will also need to contact a funeral director. If the death was expected, you may already have plans in place on which firm to call or which memorial headstones you had decided on. If the death was sudden, ask a family member or close friend for help to decide.