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How to Tell Someone a Loved One Has Died | Advice & Scripts

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How to Tell Someone a Loved One Has Died

By: Addison Koch

Friday, March 16, 2018

Talking about death or breaking the news of a death to someone is something that many people struggle with. It’s completely natural to feel stressed or anxious about how to tell someone a loved one has died. Because death has always been a taboo subject or something that people don’t like to talk about, being tasked with breaking the news to others can be frightening or difficult.

table stools how to tell someone a loved one has died

While the conversation may be hard to have, it’s important to let others know as soon as possible. To help you have this conversation, we’ve provided you with advice for everything from what to say and where to say it throughout the sections below.

How To Tell Them

No matter how you tell someone a loved one has died, no one can ever truly prepare themselves to hear that news. When they initially receive the news, they will most likely be distraught. It’s important to take your time and speak clearly.

Remember to pay attention to the type of language and the tone of voice that you use. While it may seem harsh or blunt, one of the first things you should convey is that the person’s loved one has died. By doing so you leave no room for doubt and can let them understand the seriousness of what has happened. Oftentimes when traumatic news like this is received, a person can only comprehend one or two pieces of information. When you break the news, make sure to be clear and if necessary repeat yourself.

You want to make sure you avoid euphemisms or language that could be confusing, especially if you are talking to children or people who might have trouble processing the news. You should avoid the following things when speaking:

  • Being too indirect or using euphemisms like “they’re in a better place” or “they moved on”
  • Making promises with the person as a way to make them feel better. If you are unable to keep your promise, you will harm the trust between you and your loved one.
  • Do not bring up unrelated topics or dance around the conversation. It’s important to stay on topic and be as clear as possible.

Also keep in mind that you should tell someone a loved one has died as soon as possible. Although it may be uncomfortable, ultimately the longer you postpone telling them, the more distressed they may be. Also people rather hear about the death from family or friends than through gossip or rumours. This ensures clarity and avoids confusion.

Specific Examples of How to Tell Someone a Loved One Has Died

Before you inform someone about a death, make sure you are prepared on what you are going to say. Below we have provided some specific examples of what can be said in situations and to certain individuals. This moment is stressful and difficult, so having a guideline of what to say can be helpful. Although it may not be easy, you need to clearly communicate to the individual that their loved one has died. Saying the words dead or died might be quite difficult but you are being truthful and direct when you use them.  

Once you’ve told them about their loved one’s death, pause and let them absorb what they’ve just learned. Everyone will react differently, so try to keep them calm and if you can answer any questions they have, do so and be honest with them. Also try to mix in some words of comfort and say that you there for them with support.

Here are some specific examples of how to tell someone a loved one has died:

hug how to tell someone a loved one has died

Telling A Sibling About Your Parent’s Death

Hey (Insert Name), we’re at the hospital right now with the family. Mom had a heart attack after dinner tonight. We rushed her here as quick as we could but she died on the way.

hug mother son breaking the news of a death

Telling A Child Their Grandparent Has Died

Hi (Insert Name), you know that your Grandpa loved you very much right? He was very old and died in his sleep last night. It’s ok to be sad right now, everyone is and we’re all going to miss him very much. Do you have any questions?

girl phone call inform someone about a death

Telling Someone A Friend Has Died

Hey (Insert Name), I just got off the phone with (Deceased’s Spouse), (Deceased’s Name) got into an accident on his way home from work. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital but the doctors said he died during surgery. We’re on our way to the hospital to be with his family. Let me know if you need anything.

dog hat lake how to tell someone their pet has died

Telling A Child Their Pet Has Died

Hi (Insert Name), I’ve got some bad news for you and it’s ok to be sad about it. (Pet’s Name) was very old and sick. The vet said he was in a lot of pain and he has died. You’re always going to have your memories with him and we’re all going to be here for one another. Do you have any questions?

Where Should I Tell Them

Depending on your situation and where the person is, you may have to tell them over the phone. For instance, if you live in different cities, you can tell the person much sooner by having the conversation over the phone. If you live near them, it’s always best to relay the news in person. When you meet with them, try to tell them in a place that’s free of distractions. Sit them down and break the news to them.

If there are other people around, try to take them somewhere that is private. Give them the space to react to the news in a place where they will not feel self-conscious because other people are around. Stay calm and just be there to help them cope with the news.

Additional Advicecouple comforting how to tell someone a loved one has died

Before you break the news of death to someone, make sure that you have first been able to work through the initial shock yourself. You need to make sure that you are in an emotional state where you can remain somewhat calm.

Also consider if you are the best person to break the news. If you feel that you are not emotionally ready to be the one to tell others, that’s completely ok. Breaking the news of a death to other people is no easy task. If you feel like you are not ready or that someone else has a closer relationship to the person you are planning to tell, it’s ok to ask someone else to break the news.

If you do decide that you are able to break the news, practice what you will say. Remember, you need to be calm and direct when you tell them. Gather the details and rehearse what you need to say. Doing so will make the talk easier and less stressful.

For additional help on how to tell someone a loved one has died, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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