Breaking news about a loss

Timeliss Tiffany

23 November 2017

It is hard to break news about death and it is important to wait a day for the deceased’s family and friends to be personally contacted about their loved one’s passing. It is sometimes better for close family and friends to hear it personally than via public disclosure.

The intent of a public announcement is so as to reach out to people who may know the deceased so that they have the opportunity to pay their last respect. The disclosure of death can be done in two ways: Informative or communicative.

  • Informative announcement such as obituary is typical without any prejudice and uses an aloof language. It includes objective and important details about the death, funeral, family connections.
  • Communicative expression is usually made through social platforms or personalized memorials. It is usually subjective and written with a more emotive and intimate account of the deceased. Due to the way information is expressed, it often helps lessen the grief of the bereaved family members.


If you are the bearer of bad news, here are 3 steps to help you with the daunting task.


1. Create a list of people to inform

Seek help from family and friends who whew the deceased and collate the contact details of everyone who needs to be informed. Use a spreadsheet to record information such as name, phone number, email address. In the same spreadsheet, indicate how the person knows the deceased such as school alumni, friends, colleagues and interest groups. 


2. Use of online memorial to deliver key information, collate memories and tributes

Compile relevant key information such as date and location of wake and other funeral details. Newspaper obituaries are considered outdated with heavy reliance on the internet and social media to communicate. Online memorials are useful to provide key information and be commonplace to share memories (photos, videos, audios) of the deceased and receive tributes. The website of the online memorial can easily be shared on social media and messaging apps. Online memorials provide a means for people of different walks of life who knew the deceased to present their own stories about the person. While one may post directly on one's own social media wall, the disadvantage are the condolences and messages may be posted directly on your own wall and it is hard to collate them at a later stage. Once shared, family and friends can co-contribute to the page, allowing precious memories to be merged and built on. 

Certain online memorials also provide a means for people to "legacy-give" or monetary tributes to charity or to the family in memory of the deceased. 

Learn more from The Timeliss Guide: Make an online memorial in memorial of a loved one


3. Decide how you want to say for different groups of people

When the online memorial website is shared with different groups of people via social platforms or messaging apps, include a short message.  The short message for the different groups of people could be different. Prepare your script. You may consider information such as the reasons for death. Close friends and family generally want to know the reasons and they find it hard to ask. Save them the trouble by including the reason. If there is a meaningful way to remember the loss (e.g. support a charity or cause), include it in the short message and provide details on how others could honour the memory of the deceased by making a tribute gift. It is perfectly fine to ask for letters, eulogies, and any form of memories of the deceased. 


  • We are deeply saddened to share with you the news of the sudden passing of our beloved [Name] who met with a tragic accident [When]. Her funeral details are indicated in a personalized online memorial. We hope family and friends can contribute to the page and allow the precious moments of [Name] to shared and built on. [Name] had dedicated her/his life to a cause close to her/his heart and it is a meaningful way to remember her by dedicating the tribute gifts to [Name of charity].

Finally, indicate in the contact list people whom you have already shared the news.


Timeliss Tiffany

Sharing experiences, stories, and lessons about life-planning and beyond. Sharing experiences, stories and lessons about life-planning and beyond

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