You ever have to tell someone that their loved-one is dead?

I was reading a Clancy novel and an Officer had to make the rounds after a battle to all of the widows homes to tell them that Johnny wasn’t coming home…so it got me thinking about how one would tell someone, etc etc.

I have had to do this once, but it wasn’t a huge shocker. My wife’s friend called us one night and told us that she couldn’t reach her dad by phone at home. So she went over there and the door was bolted from the inside. She didn’t know what to do, so I was volunteered to handle the situation (even though at the time I spoke only enough Czech to order a beer.). I told them to contact the fire department and tell them the situation. My wife insisted that the police were the best choice. So she called them and they told her that they would call the fire department and we should go meet them at the apartment.

We get to the apartment as the fire truck pulls up and meet our friend. She is clearly upset and, of course, thinking the worst (which I guess we all were). We go up to the 5th floor while the fire dept. raises a ladder to the window to let someone in. A police man arrives and waits for a minute, then the fireman opens the door. They go back inside, and then the cop comes out and gives me the “yeah, not good” look. I go into the apartment and see my friend’s dad lying naked on the living room floor (dead). He must have had a heart attack on the way to the shower. I go outside and walked up to our friend and just gave her a big hug, which told her all she needed and also allowed me to make sure she didn’t pass out at the top of the stairwell. She started to push past me and I held her back saying “You really don’t want to see him now.” (the last sight of her dad as naked and dead? No way.) She collapsed at that point and had a good cry while I went to take care of what needed to be done- police, morgue, etc. My wife got her out of there before they wheeled his body out in a bag.

That in itself was an interesting bit- How does one get a body down from the 5th floor in an old Czech housing project? By proping them upright in the 3 person elevator and riding down…Which would suck if the elevator got stuck.

So I had to break the bad news on that, but it was the expected answer. The shock would have been if he had just gotten stuck in the tub or something like that.

I hope I never have to do anything like that again. That was hard enough as it was.


We were spending new year’s with my boyfriend’s cousin and her boyfriend. She was at work and we phoned my boyfriend’s Mum to wish her a happy new year. She said - there’s some bad news, Uncle L died today. Uncle L happened to be the cousin’s father. Apparently the family had been trying to reach her but couldn’t, so it was up to us to break the news. We went to her place of work and saw from outside that the new year’s party was in full swing, and wimped out of going in and breaking the news to her in those circumstances. In the end we met her boyfriend before we saw her, so we gave him the news and he was the one who actually told her. It was a very sad new year’s eve, and we got up before dawn on Jan 1 to drive across the country for the wake and the funeral.

I am now married to my then boyfriend, and we named our son after Uncle L.

“I hope I never have to do anything like that again.”


I’ve had to do it once, after that despicable (trying not to cuss) George Lott indescriminately shot up the courthouse in Ft. Worth. I had to let the third friend and ex-roommate know that our buddy had been gunned down simply because he was in the wrong place when someone went insane. That was tough enough. Someone else had to tell John’s wife and three kids. I can assure you there’s no way in hell I’d have been strong enough to do that.

I admire people that can do this with grace and compassion and remain stable enough to not exacerbate the pain a loved one is going through. It’s rare and it’s a gift.

I was at home, cleaning the bathroom when I got a call from my mother-in-law. I could barely understand her, but she was screaming hysterically that her mother was dead. It turned out that my MIL was standing in the front yard of her mother’s house, watching it burn down with her mother in it. I had to call my then-husband at work and give him the news.

It was even more tragic than it sounds, because she had been in poor health for years. She was a breast cancer survivor and she’d just recently had her leg amputated below the knee due to poor circulation and was suffering complications from that. Everyone kind of expected her to go before too long, but it was really horrible that after all she’d been through her husband murdered her because she found out that he was cheating on her.

I’ve had to tell my mother that her sister died. My cousin called one night, deciding that it would be better if someone told her in person. So I had to get dressed, drive over to the folk’s, and break the news. It was the first of her generation of family to die, and the roughest to handle. Then I made all the travel arrangements, took time off work, flew with Mom back to Texas for the funeral, etc. Sucks, but you have to do it. Part of being an adult.

I had to call my mother at work and tell her that her daughter’s child had been stillborn. I could literally hear my mother crumple.

The worst was when my mother in law died suddenly and unexpectedly, just 2 days after we’d gotten back from a visit. I had to explain to my teenage kids that their mother wasn’t home because she was on her way to the airport because their grandmother was dead – and that was all I really knew at the moment.

I broke the news to my Mom, and subsequently to nearly everyone in my family, that my Dad died.
We were all at home (I was 18 years old) and Dad had released himself from the hospital two seeks earlier so that he could die at home.
I was with my Dad when he died.

When I was in college at the end of my first year, one of the guys in my class had a dad who had been fighting cancer throughout the year. Shortly before the end of the term, he died. My classmate, who I had talked to a lot about it, called me to tell me his dad had died, and asked me to let everyone else in the class know since he was understandably too emotionally overwhelmed at the time. So I was the bearer of bad tidings for about 32 people - that was no fun. :frowning:


My sister was killed in a car crash when I was 13. At the time, she was 22, and living across the country from us. We got The Phone Call, and my parents more or less went into shock. I was the only other person home - all my siblings had moved out. I picked up the phone, and call every relative and friend I could think of.

I pretty much went from kid to adult that night.

Dad’s last job was as Purchasing Manager and occasional General Manager of a hospital. He started having trouble breathing, pleural cancer (it didn’t start in the lungs, but in the sac of liquid that protects them from bruising against the ribs); he got one year sick leave, had chemo and radio, was declared cured — started having trouble breathing again, uh-oh…

So at the end of the sick leave, he had to go to see several Social Security doctors, who would decide whether he had to go back to work or get early retirement. I go to the meeting and say “sorry, my Dad couldn’t come because he’s having session number one of a second round of chemo, I’ve got the papers here.” The doctors said that sounded like a bloody good, excuse me “bloody valid” reason for not being there.

Got cured again. Started again. We say he just had a case of “due date”, rather than cancer… bout number 3 got him. He died in the same hospital where he’d worked. So first I had to convince Mom that yes, when Doc Labmanager closed his eyes and said “oh Navamom, I so wish we’d been able to do better!” it mean he was dead, and then I stayed at the door confirming the news to every hospital worker, as they would come by when they heard the news, and I called my brother at work and asked him to grab the other brother and the sister in law and tell them, and I also called Dad’s best friend. We went home after a while and started doing “chain calls”, calling several “key relatives” and asking them to notify others - to give you an idea, Dad had 4 siblings and 23 cousins.

But mind you, horrible as that was, at least we had the advantage of advance warning. One of my uncles-in-law (I specify because, hey, I have absolutely no genetic relationship to the guy) has a very stupid sense of humor. Once one of his brothers, who lived in the other end of the country, was late coming to visit their parents, and Uncle told them that he’d just had a call from the cops saying the brother had been in an accident — hah hah, hey look at your faces, nah, c’mon, he’s just late, ha ha. You guys only have one guess to figure out how did the brother, his wife and their four children die :frowning:

A few years ago a very dear friend of my wife’s family was killed in a car accident. It happened on a two lane just outside of town and it was widely suspected the cause was her attention was diverted by a cat she was bringing home from the vet for a friend and that she died instantly.

About a year later a trucker called her husband. He’d witnessed the accident, had been bothered by what he’d seen and for some bizarre but unconscionable reason felt compelled to relay to the husband the horrible circumstances of her death - how she was terrified by the blood and didn’t want to die, basically that she’d suffered.

I’ve heard and seen a lot in my life. Never do I think I’ll be more disgusted with a person than I am with that goddamn individual for leaving Pam’s husband with sorrowful memories just so that he could get something off his chest. Whatever compelled him to do so I want absolutely no part of.

There’s decent ways to do things. This was quite possibly the worst.

I had to call my Dad and tell him that my sister had died.

And then I had to call my mother and say the same thing.
It was awful. At least the landlord knew her and I didn’t have to identify her body(which had already been removed to city morgue by the time I got a sitter and got downtown.)

Really hope my parents don’t get any more of those phone calls (they have lost 2 daughters now).

Yeah, it was gruesome. We got a Red Cross message that one of our guy’s girlfriend had been killed by a coal truck on a West Virginia back road.

The soldier was a basic trainee, new to the Army. I called in an older soldier from another platoon and told him. I assigned him to be the guy’s buddy. I called the uniform place and chaplain’s office to arrange for an emergency issue of a ‘Class A’ uniform for travel and some emergency leave. I called the battalion commander.

I called in the guy and he took it very hard. You expect your dad to die, not your GF. I am not sure I handled The Moment well, but the planning paid off. We had him home for the funeral.

Still, one of those times you hate being a grown-up.

No, but to tell them that she was gravely hurt. My mom was in a very bad car accident two Januarys ago. My 2-year-old niece was with her. My father called me and told me about it, then sent me to the hospital they were at. When I got there, nurses told that my niece was very badly hurt, and did I want to speak to a chaplain? This told me how grave it was - the plan was for my father to pick up my sister and her husband, but Dad lives an hour and a half away from them, so it would take some time for him to get there. While I understood his reasoning (he wanted to give them the news face to face), it seemed to me that it was more important they be there, given the gravity of the situation.

I made the phone call, and it was the worst one I’ve ever had to make. Hannah died at the hospital from her injuries.

My dad has had to break bad news, probably more times than I care to think about - he’s a family doctor. He told my mother the next day about Hannah.

It’s the worst experience in the world.

I’m pretty good at being the bearer of bad tidings. Practice.

Three standouts -

Telling my husband and MIL that our son had died. He was in the hospital, had been since birth, but it was pretty unexpected.

Telling Mom that Dad had died. I was at their place and got the call. Again, he was already in the Hospital and it was a bit more expected.

Telling my Uncle and the rest of the family that Mom had died. Yes, a not unexpected event.

There’s also my ex and very good friend who passed away at 34 from a lung condition. I told a few mutual friends and my family. Mom had liked him very much. In fact he came and mowed her lawn regularly until he couldn’t handle it anymore. I feel sorrier for my best friend on that one. She had to tell me. Knowing that I wasn’t going to take it well, she had me come over and got me sat down before smacking my with it. Good thing - I went a bit woozy. She thought I was gonna faint. I’d just seen him a few days prior at her place and he’s been out walking around, seemingly good for a while yet. He was her husband’s best friend and he didn’t take it well, either.

First time I had to do it? I was sixteen and had to tell my sister that our grandfather died very unexpectedly.

Since then I have had to announce the passing of two students, and a few friends. It’s just not ever easy. My sister though, made me tell her over the phone. She called the house because my mom had left after my grandma called, and she thought grandad was being taken to the hospital. She called to find out if he was OK.

I had just found out over the phone myself, and I told her that I would be coming to pick her up at the school and to just stay there. She kept demanding to know, so I made her get a teacher she liked and then I told her.

She had a total meltdown, and I don’t blame her at all. I didn’t want to do it that way. I didn’t want to hang up on her. I wanted her to quit asking so I could go get her and then tell her. Then we had to go and buy a shirt to bury him in. That was the most awful trip to the mall we were ever on.

When my father died, I was called to the hospital. I was given no information, just told to get down there. The doctor did a very poor job of informing me that Dad was dead, and had been for a couple of hours. He had a hard time looking at me and just wandered around the information until I finally said “Are you trying to tell me that he is dead?” then he said “Yes.” I know it is hard to tell people bad news but shouldn’t ER doctors figure out how to do so?

I don’t have much memory of calling my sisters to tell them the news, but I’m sure it wasn’t done with much finesse or grace. Both lived out of state so telling them in person wasn’t an option, though I wish it had been.

Cub Hubby is a patrol officer and has had to deliver death notices many, many times. He says that straight-forward information is the way to go: " Mrs. Smith, I am very sorry to inform you of the death of your brother, Mr. John Doe." After the initial shock, then you are free to share what other information you may know (suicide, car crash, whatever) and offer to call a friend or neighbor.

Susie Derkins my sympathies to you and your family, that is a horrifying story.

I had to inform my grandmother that my mother had died- her daughter. :frowning:

I had to tell my husband that his father had died. :frowning:

I have been the bearer of bad tidings to my husband on several occasions: when his ex-wife passed away, when his father passed away a few months later, and then when his mother had a massive stroke.

We were both home when we received the news about his ex-wife. Hit us both very hard - I answered the phone, so I got to tell him.

His father had passed away while taking an afternoon nap right after dinner, but the EMT’s got there in time to revive him. I had answered the phone and told my SIL that hubby would be right there. He spent many hours at the hospital that evening, wanting to be there for his family (and himself) when his father passed (or on the remotest chance that he might regain consciousness). He decided to come on home, and his dad passed away while he was on his way. I got the phone call from my BIL, and so I really wound up telling the poor man that his father had passed away twice.

I was at work when my SIL called me about my MIL. Telling my husband over the phone about his mother’s massive stroke was about all I could handle. I was very relieved when hubby came to pick me up to head to the hospital so that I could make sure he was okay.

I got the call from my brother-in-law when my husband’s sister died of congestive heart failure. She wasn’t in the greatest health, but she was only 40 and it was quite a shock to him.

Other than that I’ve been fortunate. I have to admire my dad’s decision to be a police chaplain. He has to do it quite frequently.