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How to announce a death

(38 Posts)
2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:04:07

Hi there, I'm really not sure how to handle this and I would really welcome your advice, I tend to be more practical than emotional and I want to be supportive and sensitive but I'm really struggling right now.

My husband's younger brother died a week ago by his own hand whilst we were on holiday with our young kids. His parents only told us when we got back a couple of days ago (quite rightly I think, as there's nothing we could have done). Obviously it's been a huge shock.

DH's parents are elderly and have been writing individually to people using pen and paper to let them know. They have had friends over every day to comfort them which I am so grateful for but we haven't been able to tell anyone because they are still in the process of writing to people and are struggling with the fact that we want to be able to tell our friends and acquaintances sensitively via Facebook rather than sending individual messages. We're not even sure that BIL's friends all know about it because we don't know them and our only contact would be through his FB. I totally understand that this is a generational culture shock for his parents but right now both DH and I feel that we can't tell anyone yet and it is weighing on us very heavily. I've told my best friend because I needed her advice but there are many other friends who I feel would want to support us and that we would like to lean on and I feel like we are bound to silence until we are allowed to share the news.

I am especially anxious to tell people via a more general message because we are going to church tomorrow which really is like our extended family and I don't want to lie and pretend everything is fine, but equally I don't want to have to have to announce the death several times over as people come to say hi, it would just be horrific; I would much rather they knew already.

I just don't know what to do and feel stuck. Any advice on how to handle this?

ApocalypseSlough Sat 20-Aug-16 16:08:34

I'm sorry for your loss. In this case I think it's best to take your pils' lead. Definitely don't put anything on Facebook. If you're within an hour of pil or bil, don't announce it at church either.

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:11:06

gosh, no I don't want to announce it at church. I don't want it to be a secret either though. Why can they tell all their friends and we can't tell ours?

Coconutty Sat 20-Aug-16 16:11:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ElsaAintAsColdAsMe Sat 20-Aug-16 16:13:39

flowers I'm sorry for your loss.

I agree with taking your PILs lead here. Don't announce it on FB however sensitively.

Could you speak to them about getting support from your church though. It seems a lot to ask for you not to tell anyone even face to face. Maybe you could have a word with one person in the church who would tell everyone else if your PILs agree.

Duckdown Sat 20-Aug-16 16:16:47

Could you suggest to your pils that his death be announced in some newspaper obituary sections? Here in Ireland that would be the norm. There is also a website called where announcements are made. I don't know if there is an equivalent where you are. Usually funeral directors would advise on the wording. Sometimes they might say that the death was "sudden" or "tragic". More information can then be given when people contact the family individually. I'm very sorry for your loss.

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:19:11

That's the thing Elsa, when we saw them two days ago, they seemed very skittish about us telling any of our friends, despite them telling all of theirs. It just seems very unfair. Equally, I do not want someone other than us telling people, if you see what I mean, it is still only our friends we want to tell, not the whole church. Plus I do think they would be even less comfortable with one person from church telling everyone else. We are just hoping we can turn them around to a small mention on our pages (which are not public so it would only go to our friends), I just don't know how long we can cope with not talking to anyone.

exexpat Sat 20-Aug-16 16:19:39

Sorry for your loss.

Have your PiLs directly asked you not to tell anyone? After the closest family have been informed, it seems very odd to be trying to keep it a secret in any way, or trying to make sure that some people know before others. No one 'owns' the news of someone's death, and many people will be upset if they feel they have been kept in the dark for more than a day or two. Is there a funeral date planned yet, or do you have to wait for post-mortems and so on?

When DH died suddenly, nearly 10 years ago, we were living on the opposite side of the world from most family. I made sure that the closest family members knew, then sent out a mass email to all of DH's and my friends. It was the hardest message I have ever had to write, and I am sure it was a shock for many people to receive it, but it was the only way I could possibly have let everyone know. If we had been on Facebook then, I might have considered posting a Facebook message.

If you know any of your BiL's close friends, I would contact them and ask them to spread the word amongst his friends, whether via Facebook or word of mouth.

OMGSame Sat 20-Aug-16 16:20:37

So sorry for your loss.

I think you need to speak to PIL regarding how to let BIL's friends know. Facebook can be useful for this kind of thing if you stick to PM's rather than a general announcement. They may not even realise that it's even possible to get hold of people for whom you have no other contact info. Not the same by any stretch, but I once found myself in the position of having to let former colleagues of mine know about the death of a mutual colleague, I PM'd them asking them to email or ring me. Is this an approach they'd consider?

Also ask them how they feel about you talking to your own friends.

They may appreciate not having to make all the announcements themselves.

Rainbowshine Sat 20-Aug-16 16:21:11

Can you just tell a few close friends at church that there's been an unexpected bereavement in the family, you won't share details until extended family can be made aware. That way you get some release, but don't breach PIL's need to manage theistic turn. After all it's their son that this is about. Don't put anything on Facebook, what a way for someone to find out a friend has died shock

ElsaAintAsColdAsMe Sat 20-Aug-16 16:21:55

What would be the chances of your PILs finding out if you told a few friends and asked them to keep it quiet?

Word always gets around with these things. They won't be able to keep it a secret for much longer.

Rainbowshine Sat 20-Aug-16 16:22:25

This situation, not theistic turn - I don't even know what that means, sorry blush

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:23:09

Thanks exexpat, you've got how I feel exactly.

We have spoken to BIL's closest friend already and he was going to speak to his other friend straight away on the phone. So it has now been communicated to all the closest family and BIL's friends. It is just us who feel tied, which has to do with them being fearful of Facebook I think.

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:25:18

I'm not sure that I feel up to the task of sending 45 individual PM's to all of BIL's facebook friends, as well as all of ours.

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:26:08

Well, they reacted a bit when DH told them I'd spoken to my best friend. it's just starting to make me feel very anxious.

ElsaAintAsColdAsMe Sat 20-Aug-16 16:26:36

You could send a message to one trusted person and ask them to pm people. Or you could add them all to the same chat.

OMGSame Sat 20-Aug-16 16:27:21

Also, maybe an announcement in the paper? More old fashioned if that's their style and gets the news out into the general domain.

exexpat Sat 20-Aug-16 16:29:43

It sounds like a generational issue - they are of the age where people still communicate via landlines and letters, and probably don't understand that you may not even have street addresses for many of your friends and FB/email/texts etc are the normal methods of communication.

Honestly, I think you should just go ahead and do what you feel best, while being as sensitive as possible to their feelings.

They are in shock after their son has died in tragic circumstances, but your DH has also lost his brother, so it is as much 'his' news to communicate as it is theirs.

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:30:09

But if we aren't allowed to tell anyone, I can't see how they are going to agree to a third person doing it for us.

Rainbowshine Sat 20-Aug-16 16:31:39

In that case I think you need to understand their fear of Facebook. Can you reassure them that you can use Messenger so it only goes to specific people not the entire world?

OMGSame Sat 20-Aug-16 16:34:29

You can send the same Pm to a number of people. That's what I did. Not much different to a post on a wall I know but keeps it more private if that helps.
Now that BIL's friend knows, can he take some of this from you as a family?

I do understand that they probably feel as though they have the final say on this but really, they don't. You don't want to make them feel any worse I'm sure, but you're entitled to share your news as you see fit, it's not as though you're being at all disrespectful in any way.


exexpat Sat 20-Aug-16 16:34:55

Can your DH have a quiet, respectful but firm chat with them, and try to make them realise that you don't need their permission to tell people?

I assume that part of this is probably due to the feelings of guilt and shame (no matter how unjustified) related to a death by suicide - would they be trying to manage the news in the same way if he had died in a car crash?

2016sucksbigtime Sat 20-Aug-16 16:35:25

We should hear from the coroner on Monday, and then we'll be able to set a funeral date. I just think that people should know as soon as possible so they can plan that there will be a funeral soon. The funeral will be 10 mins away from us where PILs used to live before they moved an hour away. A lot of our friends and acquaintances know them and BIL and are still local to us.

Anarchyinateacup Sat 20-Aug-16 16:36:45

Here in Scotland its the norm to put it in the obituaries section of the local paper, is usu quite formal and the "done thing" and then people share the news in other ways.

Im sorry for your loss, your pils are doing what they think is best but I agree it does make it awkward for you. Id ask if you could make a small announcement online, even ask them to word it so they are involved?

sooperdooper Sat 20-Aug-16 16:38:29

Sorry for your loss

Do they not want you to tell people face to face either? People will need to know unfortunately, and as long as its done sensitivity then nobody can control who passes on the message to who when someone dies. It would be odd to see people and not have told them

Will there be a newspaper announcement? When my mum died some people questioned whether anything should be said online but in mine & my dads opinion as it was going to be in the paper for all to see then how was a FB announcement different. It's hard though and definitely a generational difference in understanding how people communicate.

I hope you can come to an agreement with them

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