What’s the protocol for belated notifications of death?

It can happen. You pay for a death notice in the newspaper, but some friends and loved ones live out of town. Maybe you couldn’t find the deceased’s address book and old friends weren’t notified of the death. Or, while reeling from the death of your loved one, no one called a second cousin. So what do you do when you realize, months or even a year later, some folks still don’t know your loved one died?

You can do one of two things; you can get in touch with them or, you can wait until they get in touch with you. Should you choose to make a personal notification, you can do so by phone, letter, or e-mail. Make your choice by what’s most comfortable for you.

If you decide to make a phone call, plan ahead as to what you’ll say. You might choose something like: “Hello Sarah. This is Michelle Thomas. I’m sorry to share such sad news, but my mother died a few months back. I apologize for the belated call but it took some time to find her address book so I’m late in my notifications.” Take a breath and allow them to respond. You can chat for awhile, if that’s what you’d like, or cut the call short. Do whatever feels appropriate for you.

Should you choose to write, either by mail or e-mail, compose your message first. You might write something like:

Dear Will,

I wanted to let you know that my mother died a few months ago. It was rather sudden and took us by surprise. It’s taken me some time to find her address book and I just realized you were not notified of her death. I apologize for that.

My mom was so fond of you and often talked about the warm camaraderie of the teaching staff. I know she enjoyed working with you at the high school and was happy you kept in touch over the years.

My best regards,

Maggie Jones


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.


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