Telling someone close to you that a loved one has passed away can be an incredibly challenging time for everyone involved. The way you tell someone can be very impactful on how they react. This blog is aimed to help address some of the things you may be thinking or feeling when presented with the task of delivering such news.
Where should I tell them?
Telling them in person is probably going to be the best and most healthy way to deliver the news. If you can see the person face to face, the best thing to do is plan of the things you’d like to say mentally. The person may react very deeply, which is to be expected, and its best to have them sat down.
If your loved one lives over seas or you’re unable to see them in person, a phone or video call is probably the most sensitive way of delivering the news. A text or an email can be quite jarring to read and therefore, a call will be the easiest way. Additionally, if you have several of these calls to make, get the hardest conversations out of the way first, as these phone calls will be most draining.
When telling someone in person, try to avoid any potential interruptions while you’re breaking the news. Telling them in a safe and confidential space gives them the freedom to react to the news how they feel, without fear of judgement.
What should I say?
It’s impossible to prepare anyone for the news of someone’s death. The only thing you can do is to take your time and communicate as best you can. The way you approach telling a loved one can be different depending on who it is. If you’re speaking to a child for example, you’re going to want to talk as simply as you can and perhaps even explain a lot of the emotions they may be feeling. Especially if they haven’t had to deal with grief before.
To begin, you’re going to want to tell them immediately someone has died, this leaves no room for them to doubt you. The person may have already noticed your tone is serious or that something seems ‘off’.
In circumstances such as these, the person may feel shocked and overwhelmed and struggle to take in the information. As a result, you might have to repeat yourself and tell them some of the details again. This can be challenging for both of you and should be done with some patience.
When delivering the news, you may want to avoid some things. For example, statements such as ‘they’re in a better place’ or ‘they’ve passed on’ can confuse things. They may not think they have actually died, and this can be more troubling when you have to correct them. Telling the truth openly is best way to avoid this confusion.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep to the person you are telling. It is an incredibly sensitive moment, and you don’t want to feel obliged into anything you cannot do.
Don’t skirt around the issue or bring in unrelated matters. Tell them as kindly as you can.
Don’t postpone telling them, even if it makes you uneasy talking in such a direct way. Telling them is the first step. There is never going to be an ideal time to tell someone close to them has passed.
What should I do?
Setting some time aside to discuss with the person how they’re feeling or what they are going through is a really good idea. Respond to whatever they’re asking and try to find some comfort in each other. They may need some time to sit in silence, they might need a hug, or they might just need time in general to process. Try not to crowd them with information and affection – respond to their cues. If you’re unsure of what to do, simply ask them how they’re feeling and if there’s anything they need in that moment that you can help with.
Afterwards, they might need some additional support and ask you for more of your time. Alternatively, you may be feeling troubled. In this case you should seek some support in friends or loved ones and try resolve some of the ways you’re feeling. In other cases, you may want to call a grief helpline.
One worry you may have when delivering such upsetting news, is how you may react or if you will be strong enough to deliver the news. It’s important to remember everyone deals with things differently, and not to put so much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to get upset, and more importantly, you’re allowed to feel how you feel. If you are worried about your reaction, you could ask someone close to you to be there for moral support.
Handling grief is incredibly tough and can be even harder when dealing with it alone. If you or someone close to you is struggling with grief and needs additional support, please contact some grief counsellors or helplines. Some of which are listed below
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