Breaking Bad News

• The moment when someone is notified of the death of a close family member can be the most important in their lives.

• News of a loved-one's death is one of the deepest traumas human beings can experience. It can have a very powerful emotional and physical impact — immediate or delayed — on those receiving the information.

• How the news is conveyed can significantly influence how an individual or family deals with the trauma afterwards.

• Only if absolutely unavoidable should you deliver such a message by telephone. This must be done in person before the news has been reported in the media.

It's important that there are two of you to do this. Take a colleague with you — for mutual support, and for practical reasons (e.g. helping look after children).

• If you cannot deliver the message in person and in time, you might wish to contact the local police to ask them to do this for you.

• Note also that if you are telling a family that a colleague is missing, and that you are seriously worried for their safety, then this is also best done in person and not by telephone.

• Under no circumstances should you let the bereaved drive themselves anywhere after receiving this communication.