The 24-year-old Canadian champion, who is sharing a room in the Athletes' Village with ice dancer Tessa Virtue, was woken up at 6am on Sunday by her father who delivered the tragic news.
But the 2009 world silver medalist put on a brave face, and startled her rivals, by showing up at the Pacific Coliseum as scheduled just after 1pm local time.
I was surprised to see her but I think she's doing the right thing... she's not going to feel better staying in her room. Joannie is a very courageous person and hats off that she is competing, team mate Cynthia Phaneuf told reporters.
Rochette stepped on to the ice three minutes after the rest of the skaters in her group with her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail and sporting an all-black outfit. She soon peeled away two layers to reveal a sleeveless orange top.
Rochette, who was closely watched by her longtime coach Manon Perron from the sidelines, fell on her opening triple jump attempt but went on to perform several triples during the rest of the 40-minute session.
When the music for her short program was played, she chose to concentrate on her spins and step sequences -- opting not to soar into the air during the two minute 40 second routine -- and even managed to crack a few smiles.
The most poignant moment of the afternoon came when the Haiti charity song We are the World started to play over the loudspeaker.
As the line there are people dying was heard, Rochette looked skywards and closed her eyes for a couple of seconds.
It almost seemed as the track had been picked by mistake as it was abruptly cut off and replaced by another song.
It's been an emotional rollercoaster for her. She made the decision she wants to compete and maintain her training schedule. It is providing her with stability in a very uncertain time in her life, Skate Canada CEO William Thompson told reporters on her behalf.
Skate Canada president, Benoit Lavoie, a close family friend, added: Her mum was her number one fan. The amazing thing is right after, she remained composed and went into her Olympic mode to try and cope as well as she could.
Rochette, who declined to speak to reporters, was on the mind of all the other skaters on Sunday.
World champion Kim Yuna cut a graceful figure on the ice as she gave a small gathering of fans a taste of her Bond Girl short program, pulling off several triple-triple combinations.
I heard about it (Rochette's mother) just before I went to practice and I felt really sorry about it and hope she gets through it, the South Korean said.
Turning to her own hopes, Yuna was delighted that she would not have to skate last among the 30 competitors on Tuesday.
I was hoping not to skate last so being 23rd I'm really happy about it. It was great practice session for me, she said.