Notifying your loved one’s wider circle

6 min read

 Who else needs to be told about your loved one’s passing

  • After immediate family and friends, your loved one’s most frequent contacts are good people to call. They can help inform others.

  • Reach out to their clergyperson as early as possible, and someone at their workplace.

  • Caregivers and others who are used to visiting daily should be informed quickly.

  • Next reach out to neighbors, as well as their landlord if they rented.

In the first few days after losing someone, even small tasks can often seem impossible. But there are some that cannot wait. Once their family and closest friends have been given the opportunity to join you in grieving, it will be time to let your loved one’s community know what has happened.  

Reaching out to the person’s extended circle and repeating the news over and over again can be exhausting. Do what you can, but if you just can’t make any more calls, be kind to yourself and take a rest. It’s normal to ask family members and friends to help, if you can. The word really does travel fast. 

Respecting relationships and honoring commitments

There is no “right” process for who should be called when, except that sharing the news sooner rather than later is generally best. Expect to be asked about the funeral arrangements, as many people will want to attend and/or send flowers. 

It may help to prepare a short script with the important details and practice boundary-setting phrases in case of over-long conversations or intrusive questions. Remember, each person you talk to is experiencing their own shock at the news and may have trouble gathering their thoughts.   

People to tell as soon as possible  

If you don’t know who to call in their wider circle of friends and extended family, you can check their phone or email to see who they were in contact with most frequently. Ask other family and friends who might know who to contact—and then ask them to help by making some of the calls for you. You may also consider reaching out to any estranged relatives in case they wish to make peace.  

Especially if the rites of your loved one’s religion require the funeral to be held quickly, you will need to contact their clergyperson or house of worship. They will want to talk to you about your loved one’s last wishes, and they will also be helpful in telling their congregation the sad news. 

Caregivers and nurses, Meals on Wheels delivery people, senior center bus drivers, and other providers of daily services should be told so that they will stop coming by, and they may need to be paid or return a house key. You might wish to continue the services of gardeners, housekeepers, and dog walkers for the immediate future. 

Remember, each person you talk to is experiencing their own shock at the news and may have trouble gathering their thoughts.   

If the person was still working, contact their supervisor, Human Resources, or a coworker. If the number isn’t in your loved one’s phone or files, call the office’s main number. In addition to arranging a company-wide announcement, a supervisor can help you get information about any unpaid salary and benefits that are available through the workplace.  

Within a day or two

If your loved one was active in a military, community, alumni, workplace retirement, or professional association, trade union, or senior center, that organization may provide burial or other death benefits you will want to activate right away. They may also have a member newsletter that publishes death notices or can make an announcement at an in-person meeting.  

Within two or three days

It is also helpful to inform neighbors. They will probably tell other neighbors and local businesses, as well as keep an eye on the house. 

Your loved one’s landlord can let you know how long the home will be available if you need to extend the lease past the end of the month, what your obligations to vacate are, and how to request the return of any security deposit or similar funds.

You also need to notify occasional service providers, including physicians, dentists, attorneys, financial planners, hairdressers, social services, and day centers. Check your loved one’s calendar and papers for any upcoming appointments, business cards, and contact information. 

Within a week (at least three days before the funeral) 

Printed obituaries are the traditional method of announcing your loved one’s death. They help you reach people who had a connection to your loved one but may not have been in touch recently. It is also something you or others may want to keep as a remembrance. Most newspapers charge a fee.   

Often the obituary will be placed by the funeral home that you are working with. If you submit it yourself, it may be subject to verification; you will be asked to provide contact information for a funeral home, crematorium, or medical donation program, or else a copy of the death certificate.

Include your loved one’s full name, age, date of death, and meaningful biographical information, such as place and date of birth, and the names of immediate family members. If your loved one was active in the community, you may want to add education, work history, and notable accomplishments. You can also include the location and time of the funeral, where flowers may be sent, and where donations to a charity in your loved one’s name are welcome.

At some point you may also choose to post an online obituary. Unlike a newspaper version, you can include as much information as you want, and it’s guaranteed to turn up in search engine results for years to come. 

Within a month

At this point, you have probably made almost all of your personal notifications, but those with whom your loved one had professional or casual relationships may still not be aware.

Although closing accounts is not required, many online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow you to memorialize your loved one’s page and announce their death. You may be surprised by the outpouring of support you receive from online connections you weren’t aware of. 

The appointed executor of the person’s estate (or the administrator if they did not have a will)  is required to make some notifications in their official capacity. Government agencies, financial institutions, insurance companies, and credit reporting agencies generally require written notice, along with an original death certificate and proof of your authority to represent the estate.

You may need to check personal documents for any outstanding accounts at service providers, such as a dry cleaner, jewelry store, pharmacy, or storage facility. These are often small businesses run by owners who take a personal interest in their customers.

As you move from the urgency of notifying your loved one’s inner circle to the outer rings of their acquaintance, you may continue to be moved by the respect and support they earned as part of a meaningful life. Allow them to share in your grief as much as you are able, and in your memorialization of a person who was important to you all.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.