How to Tell People that Someone has Died

It is never easy having to tell other people that someone has died and even professionals who regularly have to break the news of a death as part of their role find this a difficualt task. What you say will depend both on your relationship to the person you are informing and also on their relationship to the person who has died.

It is best to keep things very simple at the beginning unless the person has died at the end of a long illness and the news is expected. It is better to say that the cause is not yet known rather than guessing the cause and having to correct this information later on.

Telling Members of the Family
If the death has occurred in hospital, a hospice or a care home there will probably be a private space with a telephone that staff can make available to you to use for the most urgent calls. There may be a staff member who can sit with you and help, especially if you are on your own at the time. It is best to make only the most urgent calls and keep the rest for when you get home. Then you can plan who to call and in what order.

There will be some people you feel able to tell over the telephone but there may be others who you feel should be given the news face to face. You may need to delegate this responsibility to the people closest to them, especially if they live at some distance from you. You should to arrange this within the first day or two so these people do not learn of the death by accident.

If you have a large family there will probably be people who can take responsibility for spreading the news within their branches of the extended family.

These people may also be able to inform their side of the family about the funeral, so it is worth asking them if you can contact them later with information about the funeral.

Telling Friends
The death of a close friend is a major bereavement and can sometimes be unrecognised by others because it is not a formal relationship.

Usually you will know the identity of the deceased’s closest friends and how they can be contacted. The address book of the person who died, perhaps the directory in their landline telephone or mobile are all helpful for this. The closest friends will usually be the gateway to other friends and acquaintances and may also be willing to help to tell others.

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