A worried and exhausted man rests his head in his hand.

Should You Tell Your Loved One When Someone Has Died?

When my mom was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, her mom went into the hospital. We told my mom and took her to visit my grandmother often because the two were very close. They spoke on the phone every day. My grandmother ended up going from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility and back again. She never came home.

When my grandmother died, we were frantic about what to tell my mom. We were frantic about if we should even tell her at all. How would she handle the news? Would it cause her to decline more quickly? Would she wake up every day forgetting her mom had died? We had no idea what to do.

Getting advice from an online support group

I posted in an online support group for advice. A lot of people said we shouldn’t tell my mom at all. They had nightmare stories from when they had told their loved ones that someone had died and it didn’t go well. Others said we should tell her because it would be wrong to lie to her. With all of these opposing opinions swirling in my head, I decided to listen to my gut.

My mom was extremely close to her mom. As I said, they spoke on the phone every single day. My mom visited her mom in the hospital and rehabilitation center. Although she didn’t fully understand what was going on, she would absolutely notice if her mom suddenly stopped calling her or if she was suddenly unable to visit her mom ever again. It would not take long for my mom to start asking questions and demanding to see her mom. Lying to her or withholding the news would only cause my mom to become agitated and frustrated.

Telling my mom the truth

We decided there was no possible way to keep this news from my mom and that she deserved to know. Although we were afraid of how she was going to react, we felt it was the right thing to do.

When we told my mom the news, she got upset and started crying. She was really sad for about an hour and then the tears stopped. I talked to her later that same day and she told me the news. I vividly remember her saying, “I was sad at first, but I’m over it now.” Just like that. All of our doubts and fears had been for nothing. My mom barely cared that her own mom had died because she didn’t fully understand what that meant. I guess that can be seen as a blessing.

When it came to the funeral, we decided it would not be appropriate for my mom to attend. She had accepted the news with minimal emotion, and we decided we should leave it at that. There was no reason to bring it up again or to risk making her more upset. We told my mom that her mom didn’t want any services and she accepted that. On the day of the funeral, my dad took my mom to a park where we have a memorial bench for her dad instead. My mom never mentioned her mom’s death again.

If you are wondering whether or not you should tell your loved one that someone has died, I would suggest you go with your gut. You know your loved one better than anyone else and you know what’s best for them. If you asked ten different people, you would get ten different answers and end up more conflicted than you started.

Deep down, you know what to do. Do that.

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