Easy Templates for Communicating Your Plans Following a Death

Let people in your life know you need to put everything on pause

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Erin Greenawald

When someone you love passes away, the last thing you probably feel like doing is recount the news over and over again. But, no matter how involved you are with logistics and planning, you’re probably going to have to tell some people what’s going on. 

On top of relating the news to others who cared about them—which you may or may not be involved in doing—you’ll probably need to tell plenty of other folks in your periphery as you shuffle your schedule and cancel plans to give yourself time off to plan and attend their funeral, and/or to deal with the grief before returning to real life. 

If only there were a magic button you could push when someone close to you passes away that lets everyone know that you’ll be canceling plans for the immediate future. 

Well, we’re not quite there yet, but this is the closest we could get—simple templates that you can copy, paste, tweak and fill in to fit your situation before you send off to anyone who might be affected by your upcoming need for time off. 

  1. Letting Your Boss Know
  2. Letting Your Employees Know
  3. Letting Clients Know
  4. Canceling Meetings
  5. Putting Up Your OOO
  6. Letting Professors Know
  7. Canceling Social Plans
  8. Canceling Other Social Obligations

Letting Your Boss Know
This is probably a big one that’s weighing on your mind since you'll likely need some time off to attend the funeral at a minimum. Beyond that, you may want a little additional time off to help with planning or just to sit with your grief. It’s up to you how much detail you go into based on your relationship with your boss, but it’s generally good for them to have an inkling of what’s going on so they can be empathetic and understanding if you’re a little off your game when you are in the office.

In general, you’ll want to quickly let them know what’s going on, ask for your specific time off (or, if you’re still sorting out plans, let them know that you’ll be needing some time off in the coming weeks), inquire about the company’s bereavement policy if you aren’t sure what it is, and let them know where any critical projects stand and where you could use their help.

  • SUBJECT: Need some personal time off

    Hey [name],
  • I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that someone close to me just passed away. I’m going to need some time off in the coming weeks for the funeral: [insert specific dates here or let them know plans are still TBD]. 
  • On top of that, I’d like a little extra time to process my emotions so I can be more focused when I return to the office. Do we have an official bereavement policy I should know about? 
  • In terms of my workload, I’m going to shift around deadlines or delegate things as much as possible, but could use your help with:
  • X
  • Thanks for your support,
  • [name]

Letting Your Employees Know
When it comes to any direct reports, again, it’s up to you how much detail to get into based on how close your relationship is, but it’s usually good for them to get the gist so they don’t bother you with relatively unimportant asks. 

Here, you’ll want to quickly explain what’s going on and when you will be away, ask for any help you need while you’re away, and set communication boundaries.

  • SUBJECT: Taking some personal time off

    Hi [name],
  • I wanted to let you know that someone close to me just passed away. I may be a little less available than usual, and will be taking time off from [dates].
  • During this time, it would be really helpful to me if you could:
  • X
  • Feel free to get in touch by [communication method you prefer], but know I may take some time to answer. If you need anything urgently, please reach out to [your boss or whomever they can go to for help in your absence].
  • Thanks,

Letting Clients Know
Work for yourself or freelance? Letting clients know is a bit of a different dance, so giving them some details should make them more amenable to any requests to shift around deadlines. Let them know quickly what’s going on and lay out your suggested changes to any upcoming projects.

  • SUBJECT: Changes to project timeline for personal matter

    Hi [name],
  • I’m afraid someone close to me has just passed away. As such, I’m going to have less availability over the next few weeks.
    Do you have any flexibility on deadlines for our upcoming projects? Here’s what I have on my docket and what I propose for a new due date. 
  • Please let me know what’s feasible, and thanks in advance for your understanding. 
  • Best,

You’ll just want to quickly let them know you’ll be unavailable, invite them to go ahead with the meeting if they’re able to continue without you, and let them know when you’ll be available to reschedule.

  • SUBJECT: Rescheduling our meeting

    Hi [name],
    Something personal has come up and I won’t be able to make our upcoming meeting. Feel free to move forward without me if you’re able, or let me know some times you’re available to reschedule anytime after [date you anticipate being back online].


Putting Up Your OOO
The last thing before you close off your work brain is to put up your OOO. You can include the least amount of details here—just when you’ll be back and whom someone can reach out to for an urgent issue, like a standard OOO

  • SUBJECT: OOO Until [date]

    Hey there,
  • I’m OOO and won’t be checking email until after [date you’ll be back]. If you need an urgent response in the meantime please reach out to [person or people who are filling in while you’re away].
  • Best,

Letting Professors Know
If you’re still in school or even going part-time for a degree, you may need to let professors know you’ll be missing class, will need some extensions on deadlines, or will need to make up any tests.

  • Someone close to me has just passed away and I’m going to need to take some time off over the next few weeks. I’m going to be missing class until [date you expect to be back]—if you have any lesson plans or makeup work to send through, I’d appreciate it, or I can also get notes from someone in class. 
  • I also wanted to see if I could [get some assignment deadlines extended / make up any upcoming tests later]. Here’s what I’m thinking:
  • X
  • Let me know if that would work, thanks in advance for your understanding. 
  • Best,

Again, up to you how much info you want to reveal based on your relationship. We’ve written two simple texts below—one with more details, and one that keeps it a little more vague.

  • Text With More Details
    Hey—wanted to let you know my [relationship with the deceased] just passed away, so I’m not going to be able to make our plans [this week/this weekend/next week]. I’ll let you know if I need any support, and I’d love to reschedule when I’m back on my feet. 
  • Text With Fewer Details
    Hey—I’m afraid something came up and I’m not going to be able to make our plans [this week/this weekend/next week]. Raincheck sometime after [when you expect to be back on your feet]?

Canceling Other Social Obligations
Volunteer shifts, PTA meetings, conferences you’re supposed to be speaking at...the list of things that you may need to put on pause could go on and on. 

Whatever you’re having to cancel, follow this general structure and you should be good to send off a well-crafted message without too much thought on your part: 

  • Let people know what’s happening (with the choice between sharing that someone close to you has passed or just saying something personal has come up)
  • Share your boundaries (when you’ll be away, what—if anything—you’ll be available for) 
  • Tell people what support, extension, or change in plans you need

And remember: people are pretty understanding and don’t generally need too many details to be empathetic and give you the time you need.

Categories: Funeral Planning, Managing a Death, Talking About Death

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