Preparing Family for Bad News
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated January 16, 2020)
Have you ever found yourself in the position of having to prepare your family for bad news? For most people, this is something of an impossible situation. After all, how do you really go about preparing family for bad news? The answer is to begin by preparing yourself. By organizing, recognizing, and preparing yourself prior to talking to your family about the situation, you can be in a better position to help them deal with the news.
Keep in mind that this process is never going to be a particularly easy one to accomplish. While you cannot totally eliminate the pain, and difficulty of breaking bad news to family, there are a few steps that you can take to limit the trauma. Here are a few methods that you can use to begin preparing family for bad news.
- Current relationship. While we would all like to think that this isn't the case, there are times when family members simply do not get along. Before talking to this particular family member, honestly think about your current relationship with them. How well do you get along with them, and how close are you to each other. Phrase your words accordingly, and be prepared to offer as much support as possible.
- Location. No matter how much we may like to think so, a public area is not a good place to give bad news. Try to have a comfortable, private location that you can use to have your discussion. Before beginning your conversation close any doors, and turn off any music or television that may be on. This way you eliminate any distractions, and show that you are interested and invested in the conversation at hand.
- Current emotional state. Before breaking the bad news, be aware of your own current emotional state. When subjected to bad news, people tend to react badly. Give yourself time to process the information before you share the burden with someone else.
- Validate and recognize emotions. As you begin to share the bad news with family members, be aware that you will have a volatile situation on your hands. Remember, people tend to react badly when given bad news, and as such you should never take what is said personally. Rather validate and recognize what another person is feeling. Do not, under any circumstances say that you know what the other person is going through. Contrary to what you may believe, this does not reinforce a bond; rather it belittles the emotions and feelings that they are currently going through. At the same time, do not ever use a phrase such as "I cannot imagine what you are feeling, and going through. Be very careful, and keep in mind that you can never really go wrong by just sitting there and listening to what they are saying.
- Have a plan in place. When given bad news, people tend to not think very clearly. This means that you may need to be the one to help come up with a plan of action. Prior to giving the family member bad news, think of a few options that you can present if asked. Do not force any specific plans onto anyone, but rather give them several options to choose from. Help them come up with a decision, as opposed to leaving them to make all decisions by themselves. You are there to support them, and should remember to support them as needed.