I opened Facebook recently and read an email that pretty much shocked and irritated me at the same time. It was from a FB friend who notified others that a very close friend of our church family had died the night before at the age of 26 from an unexplained illness. I wasn’t related, but because we all grew up together, it was if it was a family member.
Now having been a reporter, I understand how shocking it can be for readers or listeners, when they learn of a death of an individual in print or on the radio or on television. It’s never easy being the bearer of bad news. I’ve always tried to stay sensitive when reporting this type of news. And I was always glad when police agencies didn’t give out the name of the victims until family was notified. It SOMETIMES kept me from getting cursed out by mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, neighbors and the dog.
But sending an email? I thought — OUTRAGEOUS!
Luckily, my father had talked to me about it the night before I read the message.
I of course sent this loved one an email saying: “Please be careful how you announce someone’s death. Usually a phone call is more appropriate.” The FB friend probably didn’t realize they could have also offended the family – since the person who died wasn’t even from the FB friend’s immediate family.
After sending my email, I started to do a little research to see if it was actually proper etiquette to send an email to notify someone about a death. And to my surprise, in some cases, emails are actually appropriate – MY BAD.
One funeral website: Owenfuneralhome.com says that emails are appropriate as an expression of sympathy for the family if it is “from those who are not intimate with the family such as a business associate or a former neighbor. The family will appreciate your message of concern.” Otherwise flowers or a phone call to offer your sympathies are more appropriate.
I’ve also known large families to put up announcements on their websites or churches to make announcements of death on their websites as well. However, all the information came directly from an immediate family member who was passing on the news with other family members’ consent.
Other web sites I searched on death etiquette said email notification was a not the best way to notify others even though this might be shifting due to a change in how people communicate. Usually it’s noted that family will notify others of death by sending out cards or by phone calls. But if you have a large family (say like the Osmonds’ family) I’m sure there may be exceptions.
Changing trends or not….emails in my opinion are just not the way to tell someone – a loved one died.