There’s a first time for anything and everything we do in life. This includes receiving bad news as well as having to deliver bad news to someone that is likely to hate it just as much as you. No one wants to do it. You would much rather be watering your fish or mopping your floor with a paintbrush or something; anything but being the bearer of bad news.
However, sometimes you can't avoid it. You have no choice but to be an adult and have that difficult and uncomfortable conversation. It’s unfortunate that your words will hurt no matter how you put them. So, to help you through this tough time, read these tips. They may give you some insight on breaking sad news to family and friends.
Tips for Breaking Bad News
Before you say anything to the other person, take a few minutes for yourself and plan out what you are going to say. You may not have much time to gather your thoughts but if you can, take the time to make things easier for you both.
The first step is to acknowledge how hard it is right now and recognise how difficult it’s going to be without your loved one. If the bad news has come as a shock to everyone, it’s likely even more tough to say and hear, but do your best to deliver the sad news with compassion, love, and sympathy.
One of you must stay calm, and since you are the reassuring presence in the room, do your best to remain collected. It won’t change the impact of the bad news, but it may help your friend or loved one deal with the first wave of emotion. If you remain calm, they will see that they can lean on you when they need you the most. You’re all hurting right now and need each other, but if you want some privacy, do not be afraid to move to a quiet setting.
Breaking bad news to family
When you are dealing with a traumatic life event such as divorce, a terminal illness, or a death in the family, you're going to feel sad. It's a no-brainer. Life may change for a lot of people because of a person’s absence. Maybe they had long-time co-workers, children, siblings, or a spouse who will miss them terribly. It’s going to be difficult breaking sad news to family and friends, especially if they live far from you.
We expect to get bad news in person. It’s just how bad news should be shared, right? We want someone there to comfort us. The physical touch of a hug can reduce the stress of the person being comforted as well as the person doing the comforting. Having someone there means so much in the first stages of grief and mourning. Showing up sometimes is all you have to do to show how much you care.
But when you can’t show up or can’t alert everyone collectively and in person, you need to find other ways to deliver the message.
Video chat applications: If you can’t be in the same physical space as one another, using a video chat application is the next best thing. This way you are still able to incorporate non-verbal cues like empathetic facial expressions when delivering the sad news. If you have an iPhone, Facetime is one of the best ways to video chat and see the person on the other end of the line. If not, there are many other applications you can use like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or Google Duo. The only thing is not everyone has an iPhone or a video chat application. In this case, you may have to call them.
Phone: Technology and government programs work together to ensure everyone has phone access. If someone doesn’t have access to a video chat application, isn’t confident using one or doesn’t have access to one, then you can still reach out to them by simply dialing their phone number. The disadvantage is that you can’t see their facial expressions so it can be more difficult to see how they receive the news, and in turn how to best comfort them.
Instant messaging (IM/DM), texting, and email: For some people, it is easier to break sad news by texting or sending an email. In many cases, writing to someone may be the only way to correspond with them. It may be the quickest way to send or receive a message. However, it may not be the best way to deliver a sad message. Writing is the least desired way to break up with someone or have a serious conversation. But, if you don’t have a choice and it’s the only way you can communicate with someone, how do you break bad news over text? Maybe this piece of advice will be helpful.
Be direct but let your tone be personable and sensitive, especially to close family and friends. Gather all the facts before you send the text or write the email so you can provide as many answers as possible. Make notes about any arrangements if needed. Understandably, your memory may not be great at the moment, and some details may escape you. If that’s the case, then pause for a moment or two to gather your thoughts, and be sure to read and reread your message before pressing send.
Mail announcements immediately to distant loved ones with essential information. They may want to attend a funeral service, visit a sick friend or send money or flowers. Getting the news to them as soon as possible gives them the best chance of doing so.
Throughout our lives, sad things happen to us and to those we care about. It’s part of the human condition. There’s nothing we can do about what has happened. All we can do is reassure the listener, be it our loved one, neighbor, or friend. Realise that you can't take the pain away, all you can do is try softening the blow. A key part of that is preparation and, unfortunately, practice will make breaking bad news a little more bearable for you both.
The passing of a loved one is always a sad and emotional time for those left behind. But having a plan in place is one way to make things easier for them when the time comes. This is where Willed can help. Start your Will online today at willed.com.au.