A death notification is a message delivered to the family of a soldier or public service member who has died. The Military of the United States withholds the name of a deceased member until 24 hours after the family has been notified.
For military notifications, there are usually multiple persons involved: the notifying officer, a chaplain who accompanies the notifying officer throughout the process and who may also assist in delivering the news, a medic (in case the family member faints), and an officer that stays in the car in case the family members react violently.
The US Army Manual states that
"The Next of Kin will be notified promptly in an appropriate dignified and understanding manner by a uniformed service representative. He/she will wear the Class "A" uniform and present a soldierly appearance when making notification."
It is the Army's policy to make personal notification to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin of the deceased soldier within four hours after learning of the death. Notification should take place from 0600 to 2200.
Denny Hayes, who spent fifteen years as a chaplain for the FBI’s critical response team, says:
- Always deliver bad news in person.
- Always bring a partner (“95 percent of them defer to me to do the actual speaking of the words—nobody wants to experience sad”).
- Skip the euphemisms—they comfort no one except the person speaking them.
- Never abandon anyone until they have someone else to hold onto.
"You can’t make it better," said Dr. Nancy Davis, former chief of counseling services for the FBI. "But you can definitely make it worse."
- Seim, Carrie (2014-06-04). "What It's Like to Deliver Bad News for a Living". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
- Leash, R. Moroni (1994). Death notification: a practical guide to the process. Hinesburg, Vt: Upper Access. ISBN 0942679083.
- Lord, Janice Harris (2008). I'll never forget those words: a practical guide for death notification. Burnsville, NC: Compassion Books. ISBN 9781878321336.
- Sheeler, Jim (2008). Final salute: a story of unfinished lives. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 9781594201653.
- Arlington Cemetery, Death notification by letter and telegram, WWII
- Article on notifying deceased firefighters' families
- Overview of US Army death notifications.