Advising a distant relative of death of a family member

(7 Posts)
bigbluebus Wed 16-Mar-16 14:01:03

My dear Mum died a few days ago. It was expected as she had been in hospital for a while. I have informed all the relatives that I know of (although they are getting fewer and fewer as DM was 87). However, in DMs house was a Christmas card from someone who I don't know but whom I believe to be a cousin of my mothers. The card still has the envelope with it with an address sticker on - the person lives in the USA. The card is also addressed to my DF who died over 2 years ago but clearly this person doesn't know that (sh'es not related to Dad).
I obviously need to write to this person and let them know that both my parents are now deceased but I don't know what to say. A one liner in a card saying something along the lines of "just t o let you know that DF and DM passed away on XX" seems a little brief, but I have no idea how much this cousin knows about my Mum and her family. I don't think there has been any contact except for Christmas cards for a very long time. So do I just go with being brief or do I write a bit about Mum's family who have been left behind. I'm assuming this cousin in in her late 70's possibly 80's.

Annarose2014 Wed 16-Mar-16 14:08:04

Tbh I'd phone if you can Google the number. I know it's pricier but in my experience it's actually easier. They appreciate it hugely and the conversation that follows is fairly easy as tbh you've been saying the words all through the funeral - how long she was sick etc. Then they ask about other people, you tell them, then you say "well I just wanted to let you know in person" and the call winds down pretty rapidly.

We had to do a lot of phoning of strangers and it was never bad. People are nice. What would have been much more stressful would have been composing these short letters to people. It's easier to be informal on the phone to a stranger than formal in a letter, iykwim.

But you may be horrified at the thought of phoning, in which case disregard!

Kr1stina Wed 16-Mar-16 14:17:25

Don't write now, do it after the funeral, you have too much to do now

What about something like this

Dear Mrs smith

I'm sorry to have to tell you that my mother passed away on date . she has been unwell for some time [ details ] but her end was very peaceful and [ nice details eg surrounded by her family , well cared for by the lovely staff at st Mary's hospice ]

The funeral was held on [ details ] at ....... It was a beautiful service with X person giving the eulogy and y music . z read a poem which was always my mother's favourite [ nice detail of any special music etc ]

As you may know, my father John died last year so my brother Tom and I are in the process of selling her house and winding up her estate . We are supported in this by my husband X and my Brothers partner H.

My mother leaves four grandchildren aged 5-16 and they all remember granny very fondly . She always liked to [ nice memory of your mother ] .

I m sorry to be writing with such sad news . I hope you and your family are well

Kind regards

You can use an almost identical letter for anyone else your mother corresponded with . You may find other people in her address book

Sootica Wed 16-Mar-16 14:23:46

I think I would write and apologise that you are not quite sure how they are related or know each other but you found the card and wanted to let the person know that both your parents have now passed away. I think a little bit of background info about the family would be nice and maybe a copy of the order of service. I wrote a couple of letters like this when my mum and great aunt passed and had some nice notes back telling me how they had known each other

bigbluebus Wed 16-Mar-16 15:07:46

annarose Not sure I'd be up for phoning a stranger abroad. I hate ringing people at the best of times - I'm more of an e-mail person myself..

Kr1stina I could certainly use most of the ideas in your letter - lots of info in there that I wouldn't have thought to include. Thanks

sootica I think I will leave it until after the funeral - after all we are unlikely to hear from this relative again until just before Christmas. I might also be able to glean some more info about who she is from some relatives at the funeral, although I'm not holding out too much hope as my DM was the last of her line to die so there will only be relatives by marriage and their offspring present.

Kr1stina Fri 18-Mar-16 08:02:27

Don't worry if you don't know who the recipient is, it doesn't really matter . The information you are giving sounds personal but isn't really , it's mostly what will have been in a death notice in the paper ( where and when died, surviving relatives ) plus what happened at the funeral ( public service ) .

Many older people like to know about at the funeral ( I assume because they have attended a lot and know a good one from a bad one ) so sending the order of service is a nice touch . It also includes then in an event that they ( possibly ) would have liked to been part of but couldn't because of distance / health .

And it shows that your mother wasn't alone at the end but was with her loving family , which is how everyone hopes to go I think . I'm sure that will be a comfort to her relative / old friend / former colleague / former neighbour .

slicedfinger Fri 18-Mar-16 08:05:03

In that situation I did as Kr1stina suggests. It was actually a nice process in the end, and I received a couple of truly lovely replies.

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