3 Steps For Delivering Difficult News To A Loved One

I recently experienced a death in my family. My 92 years old grandmother passed away. She was my mother’s mother. She and my mother had a very complicated relationship. Everyone in the family knew my grandmother would pass away sometime soon. However, delivering the news to my mother was still difficult.

I had several concerns and fears and they all raced into my mind at once. How upset would my mother be about this news? Would she be angry or sad? Would this news effect my mom physically? She is 70 and in pretty good health, but you never know.

At the same time, I was struggling to process my own grief. My grandmother was the matriarch of our family. When I was a little girl, she was a larger than life personality. She would show up in a room and take over the conversation. She thrived on being the center of attention and she wasn’t shy about speaking her mind. She was a single mom for many years and even helped raised some of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I think I developed my characteristic of valuing my family from her over the years. So, learning that she had died was a marked milestone in my life.

As I drove over to my mother’s house I wanted to be prepared. I didn’t want my emotions to affect my delivery of the news or her response. I knew I needed to be present emotionally and physically for whatever might develop. Before going over to my mom’s house, my brother and I had even debated telling her over the phone. I felt that method was way too impersonal.

I’m sure many of you have been in a similar situation. Delivering difficult news to a loved one is never easy. In the mist of shock and grief it is often hard to think clearly. Here are 3 tips to use if you need to deliver difficult news to a friend or family member:

  1. Choose the appropriate place and time. Telling someone about a death is usually better done in person if possible. Luckily, I only live 10 minutes from my mother. I wanted to be present in person in case she needed the added support.

  2. Take a moment alone to get your own emotions under control. I took several deep breathes before getting out of the car to go in and deliver the news. I didn’t want to crying hysterically while trying to comfort my mom. Although, we did hug and cry a bit together after the fact.

  3. Give the friend/relative time to process the news. Some people will need minutes, days, or even weeks for something traumatic to feel real. Don’t rush them to make decisions or share feelings if they are not ready initially. If decisions do have to be made (funerals, medical choices, etc..) give the friend/relative a time line. This technique may help them process faster know what is coming up in the process.

If you need further assistance or guidance in delivering difficult news, you may consider getting professional help. We are here for you at Path to Hope Counseling. Please call (984) 500-2021 for a consultation and or to set up an appointment.