I wonder if you could have stopped and asked the person what the expression meant when you noticed a change? I often will call out the elephant in the room to create space for someone to let me know what they are thinking. I agree with you that end of life causes great trauma. Telling narrative from generation to generation is valuable, not as history but as teaching coping skills. One of my favorites was in a death. The mother of the patient took her grandchildren to the bedside. She took a deep breathe and began singing songs of faith. I commented on the beauty and courage to send her son off with such a blessing. She said she was teaching her grandchildren how to cope with death. She was intentional and it was beautiful. More people should have such an awareness of the teachable moment!