It’s not unusual. You have a vacation booked, a work commitment, or family plans, and then someone dies. The funeral or memorial service is scheduled and you are unable to attend. What do you do when a loved one, friend, or colleague dies and you can’t change your plans? Will the family be hurt by your absence? Do you contact the family ahead of time to explain? Or, do you miss the funeral rituals and not mention it at all?
There are times when it is absolutely unavoidable…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 28, 2012 at 12:00pm — No Comments
Years ago I had the opportunity to read condolence notes sent to a friend upon the death of her teenage daughter. There were hundreds of sympathy cards and handwritten notes, many of them thoughtfully and beautifully written. But to this day, there was one that still disturbs me.
The sender, an old friend, expressed her condolences. But she went on to mention that she was sitting in her home office working on her expense reports. Her next door neighbor was having…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 2, 2012 at 7:30am — No Comments
Many people wonder, is it okay to send a belated condolence note? And if it is okay, how late can it be? You may be shocked to learn that many bereaved family members wouldn’t be offended by a belated condolence note.
That surprised me. Several years ago, an acquaintance died while I was on vacation. His warmth and kindness made an impression on me and I wanted to write his wife a sympathy note. Weeks turned into months and I finally wrote the note, almost one year…Continue
Many parents wonder if it’s appropriate for children to write sympathy notes. Should parents expose their children to death? And if so, at what age are children old enough to understand the complex feelings of sorrow and grief when a loved one dies?
These are tough questions to answer. From my perspective, it is never too early to learn compassion. Since so many adults struggle to write sympathy notes, wouldn’t it be beneficial to teach our children how to write…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 22, 2012 at 2:30pm — No Comments
When expressing sympathy, isn’t thoughtful enough?
When someone dies, we express our sympathy by writing notes to the bereaved, hoping to provide some comfort. Many of us feel that if we write memorable notes, we’ll somehow make a difference. But all that pressure causes us to struggle, trying to find just the right words for a meaningful message.
If your goal is to write a memorable sympathy note, maybe you’re trying too hard. Think about what…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 26, 2012 at 7:30am — No Comments
Words might be the best way to express condolences following a death and it’s the words that stay with us the longest. Unfortunately, it’s the negative words that the bereaved seem to remember, so think carefully before you speak.
One bereaved mom told me that she still remembers what a friend said, even though her baby died thirteen years ago. “She told me my baby was in a better place. How could she be in a better place when she should be here with me?”…Continue
Years ago, it was easy to feel socially connected. You knew your neighbors and all the tradespeople. When you did your errands, people knew who you were and probably knew your family. When things got tough, word spread that someone in the community was sick, hospitalized, or died. When you moved throughout your day, people had an inkling of what was going on and asked about you and your family. Maybe someone mowed your lawn or shoveled your snow; casseroles appeared and you and…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 23, 2012 at 12:30pm — No Comments
A few years back I did a radio interview on how to write a condolence note. The interviewer mentioned some distinguished public speakers, quoting passages of notes they’d written. He asked me how the general public could replicate these meaningful messages. I was shocked for a moment thinking that if anyone expected to personally write such grandiose notes, they’d be so intimidated they’d never get them done. And maybe that’s why so many people procrastinate and struggle to write…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 6, 2012 at 11:00am — No Comments
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “How do I write a sympathy note?” Most of us know how to write a note; after all we’ve been writing thank you notes for many years. But addressing the topic of death is challenging; what can we possibly say to make someone feel better after losing a loved one?
Loss is painful and when someone is hurting, it’s…
We know how to respond to a death in a friend’s family, but what happens when the death is in the family of your child’s friend? Is it appropriate to involve children when supporting the bereaved family? That’s what one mom wondered. Her daughter’s best friend’s granddad died. The mom planned on writing a condolence letter to the family and asked, “Should my daughter write one too?”
At what age is it appropriate to involve our children in the bereavement process? I’m not sure…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 22, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments
For many millions of us, Facebook has become a key way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Many share news of important life events like births, birthdays, anniversaries. And many also have begun to use Facebook to share news of an important end-of-life event – the death of a loved one. As Legacy.com explores and develops…Continue
Many of us, following a death, have signed guest books online, at Legacy.com perhaps or on a newspaper or funeral home website. And many have also sent handwritten condolence notes or cards. Is it better to share condolences in the online guest book for the deceased, or should you mail a handwritten letter? Should you do both? Condolence expert Robbie Kaplan offers advice. In the end, it may be the message more than the method…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 15, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments
It’s hard to write condolence letters. After all, you’re dealing with death and most of us want to avoid the topic. Death makes us feel vulnerable and sad and in that state of mind, we face the formidable task of reaching out to someone who feels much worse than we do.
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 31, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
A friend’s mother dies or a colleague’s daughter is killed in a car accident. You’re touched by the loss, but you’ve never met the deceased. We all know it’s important to reach out to the bereaved and extend comfort, but how do you write a condolence letter for someone you don’t know?
When someone dies, all the bereaved have left are their memories. Sympathy notes that express your condolences bring needed comfort to the bereaved. The most…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 21, 2010 at 10:00am — No Comments
People express concern in finding the right words to write a truly appropriate condolence note. But it's not your mastery with words that's important; what are truly special are messages that come directly from your heart.
When someone dies, the bereaved are left with their memories. You can add to those memories by sharing your personal thoughts, anecdotes, shared experiences, and remembrances of the deceased. In doing so, you are giving the bereaved a priceless…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 13, 2010 at 2:00pm — No Comments
A friend called, her voice filled with despair. Her dad’s cancer had returned and he was back in the hospital. I automatically responded, “What can I do to help?” She asked if I would keep her mom company at the hospital on Saturday morning so she could run her errands. I agreed and was glad I had the opportunity to visit her dad, as he died ten days later.
But the visit itself took a toll; my mom had died the year before and I found the hospital a stark reminder of what I’d lost.…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 15, 2010 at 10:30am — No Comments
A reader wonders, “Is it too late to send a condolence note six months after a death?” I’m not aware of a statute of limitations when it comes to condolence notes, but how late is too late? Is it appropriate to send a note six months or even one year after a death?
Your first consideration should be the bereaved. How might they feel when they receive your belated note? Will they be comforted that someone remembers them and their loved one? Will they feel better knowing…
While in my twenties, a close friend’s mom died. My friend shared the time and place of the visitation and yet I chose not to attend. I had good excuses; I was living in a large city and was unfamiliar with the part of town where the visitation was held. Also, my faith does not hold visitations and I had no idea what to expect. I chose to write a condolence note and I stayed away. The day after the visitation, before my note arrived, my friend called. During our conversation, she told me…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 5, 2009 at 6:00am — No Comments
The words sympathy and empathy are often thought to be the same, and yet they are distinct expressions.
In times of death, we often extend sympathy by sharing our sorrow for what’s happened. Sympathy cards are usually synonymous with condolence messages. When offering sympathy, we’re expressing concern for another’s feelings. Cards, notes, phone calls, e-mails, meals, and offers of assistance are all expressions of sympathy.
But you don’t offer empathy, you feel it. Empathy…
It’s a challenge to craft a meaningful condolence note in the best of circumstances. But how do you acknowledge a death when the relationship was difficult or even estranged?
The depth of one’s grief doesn’t necessarily equate to the quality of the relationship, so just because someone had a difficult relationship doesn’t mean they’re not hurting. It’s even possible that they’re hurting more because the opportunity for reconciliation has passed. And they’ll grieve that loss along…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 28, 2009 at 7:00pm — No Comments