Breaking Bad News

  • If a crime has been involved, be aware that Police processes can be particularly traumatic. Police in many countries have extensive experience and training in working with the bereaved, so discuss with them how best to manage this period and support family members.
  • Police press officers can manage the media both for the family and your organisation. The press may want to talk to the family a lot — and the family will need support in this.
  • Bear in mind that when there has been a death abroad, a body is generally not released for repatriation until there is an undertaker in the country of destination ready to receive it. The Foreign Office or State Department/Foreign Ministry can usually advise on undertakers who are used to doing this work and who know the procedures.
  • It is important that the family feel supported by your organisation in the longer term — within the bounds of what is doable.
  • Do stay in touch, especially in the early weeks and months, and remember that birthdays and anniversaries can be very painful. A telephone call or a visit at these times can help a great deal.
  • However, don't become their emotional life support system. If you do, they risk experiencing a second bereavement when you go.