Quote from Sun*shine
You're clearly a very caring nurse and I think you've handled this situation very well. There is no right and wrong way of dealing with something like this. You never know how people will react and what is best for them, you can only go with your gut. They asked you what happened and you were right to tell them. They would have guessed it had you not. Where I work we're encourgaged to be honest when a patient dies, even if it means telling them over the phone. I guess it means people won't put themselves and others at risk by rushing to the hospital believing their relative is close to passing. Also imagine rushing to get there only too find out they'd passed away before you arrived, and the guilt associated with that. I'm sorry that this particular family weren't prepared for having this information on the phone, however a lot of other people would have great respect for you for having made that very difficult awkward phone call and being honest with them about their loved one.
I have had to do this over the phone several times, and I will say that usually it is not unexpected news. If a pt. has died unexpectedly, I still would break the news over the phone, instead of having a pt.s family rush to the hospital under false pretenses. I just do not think lying about it is moral, and I certainly could not pull that off.
I think you did the right thing. Sick people do die, and I'm sorry that you were made to feel bad because of the circumstances, despite the compassionate way you handled it.