Announcing a Death
In the past, placing an obituary in the local newspaper served as an efficient means of informing the community of a loved one’s death but today there is a large segment of society that would rarely if ever read the obituary columns. Instead, a variety of methods of announcing a death have become common though obituaries remain traditional. While most close family members and friends should be notified in person, others can be told of a death via an obituary, an online announcement, a letter or email, over the phone or even via a press release.
ObituariesAn obituary is a brief announcement, usually no longer than a paragraph, announcing someone’s death and briefly describing his or her life. Most often obituaries are placed in local or national newspapers and include details of the funeral, cremation, burial or memorial service that has been arranged. The deceased’s full name, date and place of death, date and place of birth, educational and employment history, sporting achievements and hobbies or interests may also be included in an obituary. If it has been arranged for donations to go to a particular charity or fund, these details may be included in an obituary too.
Online ObituariesThe same obituary that is published in a newspaper may be published online if the deceased was active at a particular site, forum or blog. By posting the obituary online it is likely that those who were in contact with the deceased will be informed of his or her death and will appreciate the notice. As these people may be from around the world, it is likely that they would never be informed of the death otherwise.
Letter or EmailIf there are friends or colleagues who should know of your loved one’s death but who live out of the area, or will not otherwise be notified of the passing, it is perfectly acceptable to send a letter or even an email announcing the death. If a letter is handwritten, you might consider enclosing a copy of the obituary or if you are sending an email you could attach a link to an online notice (if there is one). Though it is not traditional to use electronic communication to announce a death, there are times when the expediency of this method makes it the best option. If you know that the person to whom you are sending the email will not be affronted by this mode of communication then don’t be overly concerned about tradition.
Telephone CallsTelling family members, friends or colleagues about a loved one’s death over the phone is not necessarily an ideal situation. It can be awkward to gauge emotions over the phone and it can seem almost impossible to adequately comfort someone through a phone line. Texting the news of the death of a family member or close friend is almost never appropriate. If it is necessary to make this announcement over the phone, at least try to ensure that the person you are contacting is at home or otherwise in private so that (s)he has time to deal with the news in his or her own way.
Press ReleaseThere are some circumstances, such as if the deceased was a high ranking public or corporate official, or if (s)he was a member of particular boards or other offices, in which a press release is customary upon a death. However, these releases will almost certainly be written by someone within the organisation itself so all you will need to do is supply them with appropriate details.
There is never an easy way to announce a death, but today there are many options for this tough situation. Obituaries will always remain the most traditional method of announcing a death, but if other methods are more expedient or personal then by all means use them. Do what you feel comfortable with, but remember that since your news may come as a shock however you choose to announce it - the method should be dignified and respectful.