Tell Family and Friends

It's easy to feel a responsibility to do everything and tell everyone, when a loved one dies. You should recognise that you need to grieve too, which is why you should ask for help from as many sources as you feel necessary. You'll find giving others the opportunity to help can make them feel less helpless and more involved, whilst lightening your load.

Telling family

Who to talk to and how to break the news, is a decision only you can make. It's a decision based on their relationship with the person who has died, or your relationship with them. In preparing to talk to close family, consider the following:

  • Is a phone call appropriate, or would face to face be better?
  • Should you be the informant? Maybe the news would be better received from another family member or friend?
  • Children - Even if you don't talk about it, children will pick up on the anxiety and grief that surrounds a death. For that reason, it's better to be honest and open with them and help them understand what has happened. Use words they can understand and keep talking about the person who has died. Try to keep to regular routines and be prepared for regular changes in mood.
  • Don't guess. If the reasons for the death are unclear don't guess at them. You may find yourself having to change the explanation later.
  • Get help. You could ask a nurse to sit with you whilst you make calls, especially if you're alone. Or you could ask a family member to take on the responsibility of phoning round the rest of the family.

Make only the most essential calls from hospital or the place of death. Make other calls at home, once you've had a chance to collect your thoughts and plan who to call. In any event, try to ensure all those who need to be contacted are informed of the death within a day or two to avoid anyone finding out by accident.

Telling friends

Tell closest friends first. Use the same considerations above in deciding how and when to speak to them. After all, just because they aren't a blood relative doesn't mean they won't feel the bereavement just as acutely.If they're able, ask them to contact the deceased's wider circle of friends on your behalf. You'll be able to contact more distant friends using the contacts in the mobile phone or in the address book of the person who has died.You will also need to inform the deceased's place of work.

Informing the deceased’s place of work

If the person who has died was still in employment, their employer or clients will need to be told. Who to tell will depend on whether the person was employed or self employed.


Try to contact the employer's HR department or a senior manager. Be aware that the deceased may well have a number of friends and colleagues throughout the organisation. Contacting the HR department will reduce the chances of friends and colleagues finding out by accident.


Try to contact a partner, colleague or member of staff who may be able to call clients, staff and/or colleagues on your behalf.

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