A Death in the Family

When someone dies, it's very important that you designate someone or a few people either in your family or who are close friends to get the word out about the death. You never want to have someone hear that a person she cared about has died by overhearing another person talking about it in the supermarket checkout aisle.

As soon as you hear that someone has died, you should call the mourning family and share your condolences. You should also ask if they need any help making calls or arrangements for the upcoming funeral. It's likely that if the person has just died, they won't know yet what they're doing but the family is sure to appreciate your offer to help.

It is especially difficult when a child loses a parent or, worse, yet, a parent loses a child. In cases like this not only should you reach out to the grieving child or parent but also you should be sure to share your sympathy with the surviving spouse or any siblings.

Inquiring Minds

If this person's death was unexpected, it isn't polite to ask, “How did he die?” You can look to the person's obituary in the paper for hints on the cause of death—you'll usually find a clue if there is a hospital, charity, or health-related nonprofit organization to which the family would like people to send donations.

If you suspect the person killed himself, don't go fishing for details about his suicide. The family will probably refer to his death as happening “unexpectedly” (usually a euphemism for suicide), and it's their right to do so—and none of your business to know the truth.

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  4. A Death in the Family
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