Losing a family member is always difficult. Your first steps typically involve grieving with family and friends, planning the funeral, and coping as best as you can. That being said, you may need to consider your workplace as well.
You’ll be determining things like how long you should take off work after a loss. It’s also a good idea to think through how you want to share the news with your coworkers to avoid uncomfortable conversations.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Notify Your Coworkers of a Loss?
- Steps for Notifying Your Coworkers of a Death in the Family
- Example Email Subject Lines for Notifying Coworkers About a Death in the Family
- Example Emails for Notifying Coworkers of a Death in Your Family
Besides contacting your employer to ask for bereavement leave, you might also wish to email your coworkers. Updating your coworkers in a sensitive, mindful way about a death in your family ensures they don’t ask any painful questions and keeps gossip to a minimum.
While this is a highly personal decision, there are many reasons to choose to email coworkers about a death in your personal life. In this guide, you’ll learn the steps for notifying your coworkers about a death in your family. We’ve also provided some samples to get you started.
Why Notify Your Coworkers of a Loss?
While you are certainly entitled to your privacy, there are some reasons why it might be beneficial to deliver this news yourself:
- Privacy: You can pick and choose what information you want to share and avoid unwanted gossip and speculation.
- Questioning: Facing questions about what happened, who died, and so on are exhausting after a loss. By sharing this information briefly and professionally, you avoid unwanted, uncomfortable, individual conversations.
- Support: Lastly, by sharing your loss, you also can ask for the support you need. This could be as simple as kind condolences or more involved like covering projects or clients.
In other words, notifying your coworkers of a death in your family gives you more control over a tragic situation. If you’re not comfortable sharing, you might also ask your supervisor to share the news on your behalf. By announcing the death of an employee’s family member, a boss can avoid disclosing any further personal details.
Steps for Notifying Your Coworkers of a Death in the Family
When you notify your coworkers of a death in your family, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not only is timing critical, but you also want to strike the right balance when it comes to privacy. Follow these steps to handle the process with care.
1. Talk to your boss first
Before you begin an email to your coworkers, talk to your boss or HR first. You’ll need to keep in mind local bereavement laws to request time off, and it’s a good idea to ask for their blessing before you send a mass email to your team.
Depending on the size of your company, there might be a protocol for handling bereavement situations. In this case, follow their guidance. Otherwise, continue with the steps below.
2. Consider timing
Because this is a formal announcement, make sure to consider the timing of your email. The sooner you send it, the better. While you shouldn’t be pressured to take time away from your family, you should send the letter prior to taking an extended bereavement leave if possible.
If you’re unsure you’ll be able to send the email promptly, ask someone else to take on this task for you. A trusted coworker or supervisor could also write and deliver the email on your behalf.
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3. Choose your recipients
You have some flexibility when it comes to who you’d like to receive your bereavement announcement. You might send it to your entire department, those you work with directly, or just team supervisors. It’s entirely up to you and your company’s protocol.
Consider who you work with regularly and who is likely to notice your absence. For smaller teams, it might be appropriate to send the message to everyone.
4. Be direct and brief
When writing your email, include as much or as little information as you feel comfortable with. Include the following as clearly as possible:
- Your loss: Share that you’ve experienced a loss, whether you share who passed or just that you have a family emergency. This is entirely up to you.
- Duration: How long you will be out on bereavement leave. Be specific, if possible, and share important dates.
- Support: Is there anything you need from your team? They might wish to organize sympathy gift ideas, and you might want to give them a way to coordinate this. On the other hand, you could also request some space and privacy.
- Point of contact: Lastly, designate someone as your point of contact. Let your team know how this person can be reached and who is responsible for your projects while you’re away.
Aside from the above, there is no need to include any additional personal information if you don’t feel comfortable. Nobody is entitled to an explanation, so stick to your personal comfort level.
5. Set an auto-responder
Last but not least, set an auto-responder using your email service. This means anyone who contacts you via email will get a message letting them know that you’re not in the office during your bereavement leave.
In your auto-responder message, include a way to contact you if there’s an emergency. Here is a sample away message:
“I am currently out of the office and will return on January 20th. I look forward to connecting with you then. Please call me at 555-765-4321 if there is an urgent matter that needs to be handled before the 20th. Thank you.”
If you will be unreachable, include the information for your point of contact:
“I am currently out of the office and will return on January 20th. I look forward to connecting with you then. Please reach out to Point Of Contact at @e-mail or 555-123-4567 if you need something before the 20th. Thank you.”
Example Email Subject Lines for Notifying Coworkers About a Death in the Family
Sometimes the most challenging part of the message isn’t the email itself, but rather the subject line. Here are a few sample email subject lines for notifying coworkers about a death in your family.
- Bereavement leave: January 10 - January 15
- Jane Doe announces the loss of a parent
- John Smith’s sad news
- Emergency leave for a death in the family
- Bereavement notice (John Doe)
Example Emails for Notifying Coworkers of a Death in Your Family
Writing a death announcement email is often intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Like with most professional announcements, less is more. Follow the examples below to create your own notification email for your workplace.
To a large team
Dear Company Team,
I am writing to share that I have experienced a loss in my family and will be on bereavement leave for the remainder of the week. This is a difficult time for us, and I appreciate you respecting my family’s privacy at this time. Company Name’s support has made it possible for me to take bereavement leave from January 10 until January 15. If you need to reach me during this time, please contact my supervisor, Jane Doe, in the Marketing Department at JaneDoe@companyname.com.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
To a small team
It is with great sadness that I announce the death of a close family friend. After a long battle with cancer, she passed late last evening. I will not be returning to the office this week while I support her friends and family through this difficult time.
I plan to return to work on March 15th, and I ask for your continued patience and understanding. My colleague John Smith graciously agreed to cover my current project this week, so please direct any project-related questions to him at JohnSmith@companyname.com until I return.
Thank you for your kindness.
Explaining if a spouse or partner died
Unfortunately, I am writing with the sad news that my spouse passed away this weekend. I will be out of the office for the remainder of the month to handle affairs and spend time with my family. I graciously ask you to respect my family’s privacy at this time. Any questions about my current projects can be directed to Joan Smith at JoanSmith@companyname.com.
Thank you for understanding.
Explaining if a parent or grandparent died
I am writing to inform you all of my death of my father. I will be traveling to his funeral next week, and I will be taking a bereavement leave from August 10 to August 25 to handle my family’s affairs.
Thank you to everyone for your kind words. I really appreciate your support. The sales team has graciously offered to cover my absence at this time. If you need to reach me urgently, please call 555-124-8162.
Thank you for your support.
Update Your Workplace After a Loss
If you’ve recently experienced a loss, the last thing you want to do is answer probing questions in your workplace. By sharing with your coworkers that you’ve lost someone, you avoid these unwanted and uncomfortable questions.
Not only does it help you get ahead of office gossip but it also helps to get the support you need. Plus, it protects you from having to worry about work while you’re grieving and handling affairs.
It’s important to keep lines of communication open within your personal level of comfort. By sharing your news and details of your time off, you ensure your coworkers know how to best support and cover you during this difficult time.