Q. I just attended an event where I briefly met a colleague whose 18-year-old daughter died in a drowning accident four years ago. I meant to send a condolence note at the time. But I never did, and I’ve always felt so guilty about it. Is it out of the question to send a note to her now? If it isn’t, what should I write?
I’ve always said it’s never too late…Continue
Added by Florence Isaacs on March 28, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments
Q. When is it a “must” to attend a funeral or a wake, viewing or visitation? I’m confused about how close you have to be to the people involved, and what is and isn’t appropriate.
I’ve recently received a number of queries on this subject. The questions range from “Is this occasion only for relatives and very close friends? I’d like to attend, but is it okay for a casual friend to show up?” to “I’d rather not attend. Can I make a donation to a charity or send…
Q. I am thinking of sending a condolence message to a neighbor I knew decades ago. I just heard that her father passed away last November. If I had known at that time, I would have attended his funeral even though it would have involved a very long car trip to another state. I do have fond memories of this man, who was a kind and caring person. When I knew him I was a teenager and on the school debating team. He was a big fan and cut out articles from the local paper any time…Continue
Added by Florence Isaacs on June 21, 2012 at 1:15pm — No Comments
Q. I work for a small company, and it is up to me to notify employees that a coworker just died. Customers and suppliers who worked closely with him must be told, as well. Is it okay to inform people via email? What should I say? Do I have to include funeral details?
In large organizations, managers, supervisors, or department heads usually inform employees or associates of the death and follow specific guidelines from Human Resources. Spreading the word…Continue
Q. The father of an acquaintance of mine just died at 98 years of age, and I’m uneasy about what to write in a condolence note. Nobody lives forever. The man had dementia for years. Is there something I can say besides “I’m sorry” in this situation?
People are living much longer these days, and obituary pages are filled with notices for people who died in their nineties or even beyond. I just saw a notice for someone who died at 104. In this case, you…Continue
Q. I just heard that the mother of an old friend died several months ago. I haven’t seen or talked to the friend in over a year due to her move to another state and my own busy life. Her mom was very kind to me when I was a teenager and needed all the positive reinforcement I could get. I’d like to send a condolence note, but so much time has passed and I feel embarrassed about losing touch. Should I write or not? What can I…Continue
Q. Is it appropriate to send acknowledgments to everyone who attends a funeral? Should mass cards be acknowledged? And how much time can you take to send acknowledgments?
My policy is to mail acknowledgments to those who sent flowers, food, etc. or made a contribution to a charity or institution in memory of the deceased. Mass cards fall into the latter category, since people usually do contribute something. I also send acknowledgments to someone who wrote a…
Q. A colleague’s elderly mother just died, and I wonder if it’s appropriate to route a sympathy card to the entire department so people can express their condolences. I’m also thinking of asking about making a donation in the mother’s name. What’s the proper etiquette in a situation like this?
A. Ordinarily, people should send their own individual condolence cards or notes. But this is different because some…
Q. What type of stationery is appropriate for condolence notes? Is a printed condolence card the best idea?
A. A correspondence card, whether imprinted with your name or not, is the perfect stationery for a condolence note. A correspondence card offers at least three advantages. The stock has weight, which somehow adds weight to your message. Due to its size (usually 6-1/4”x4-1/2”), a correspondence card also limits how much you can say. A few lines can…
Q. What can you say or do when there’s a suicide in someone’s family? My cousin’s 21-year-old son killed himself, and she and her husband are inconsolable. What can I possibly say to them in such a devastating situation? I feel powerless to help them.
A. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group in this country with only injuries and homicides claiming more lives, and suicide on college campuses is more common than most people…
Q. My friend’s ex-husband just died, and I feel awkward about what to say to her and her children. I’m also concerned about talking to her ex’s family at the funeral. I met the in-laws a few times during the marriage. Do you have any suggestions?
A. It can get very complicated when someone’s ex-spouse dies. The surviving ex-wife or -husband may feel deep sorrow. For a time, the couple did share a life together. There can be good memories as well as bad, and…
Q. My colleague’s elderly mother just died, and a group of us at the office want to send flowers. What is the protocol at such a time? Should flowers go to the funeral home or to the bereaved’s apartment? What types of flowers are best, and what should we say on the accompanying card? We want to show our support in the most appropriate way.
A. Thanks to Hollywood movies, we often think of lilies as traditional funeral flowers. In fact, the most commonly…
Q. One of my customers, someone I’ve done business with for many years, just lost his brother. I know from numerous conversations that my customer didn’t get along with his brother and barely spoke to him recently. What should I write in a condolence note in these circumstances? Somehow, “This is a terrible loss” doesn’t fit.
A. Complicated family relationships are all around us, and it’s definitely awkward when the connection between the bereaved and the deceased…
Q: When my father died recently, I received flowers and many condolence notes. Do I have to send acknowledgments right away? What should I say?
A. It’s courteous and important to acknowledge notes of sympathy, as well as flowers or food baskets you’ve received, or contributions made in memory of the deceased. Finding the right words can be difficult, however, especially if you must write to a great many people. One widow I know had to compose 75…
Q. A neighbor of mine in her late forties drowned in a freak boating accident when her canoe overturned. I want to go to the funeral, but what can I possibly say to her husband and her children, who range in age from 8 to 14?
A. Accounts of sudden accidents grab our attention…