No one wants to be the bearer of sad tidings. Recognizing that spreading the word about someone’s death is never easy, being prepared helps make the process easier. Our options for communications have evolved from telephone and newspapers to emails and Internet/online avenues. These communication vehicles have their unique requirements and rules to be effective.
The most personal way to tell family or friends that someone has died is to call them on the telephone. I know email is a very popular way to communicate these days, and using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are all the rage. However, not everyone is online 24/7, not everyone’s computer works all the time, and important people in your life may not get the message. One family friend missed my father-in-law’s funeral because I had relied on email to inform a group of friends, and his computer was in the shop. The death of a loved one is cause to pull out the entire phone list of family and friends and start calling.
What to say when you call: If you get an answering machine, leave a message with just the facts – so-and-so has died, the funeral or memorial service will be at this date, time and place, there will be a gathering afterward at such-and-such a place, and if you want more information, call me back at this phone number. Repeat the number so the person can make sure they got it right.
If you get a live person on the phone, it helps to be prepared with answers to possible questions. They may want to know more about how old the person was and how they died, how the spouse or family is taking it, and other details about the person’s last days. Some may ask how they can be of assistance. Be prepared to say if flowers are welcome and where they should be sent, or if a memorial contribution is preferred, what organization should be contacted and how. If someone wants to provide food for the family, know when and where dishes can be delivered and if there are any allergies that need to be accommodated.