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
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
It happens. Seeking solace, you call a trusted friend or loved one and share some sadness; a family member’s diagnosis or a colleague’s death. But instead of consolation, you’re told a story of greater loss, even more disturbing than the one you’ve shared. You’d hoped for comfort but the conversation leaves you frustrated and feeling…Continue
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
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
We honor the deceased by making donations in their memory. Many obituaries designate a charity or fund selected by the family, but what if the organization is one you’d prefer not to support or worse, in conflict with your values? Do you donate anyway or ignore the family’s request, making a donation to a charity or cause you support? And what if there is no indication of where to donate? How do you choose something appropriate?
Ask yourself, "Why am I making the donation?" Is it to…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 5, 2009 at 8:00am — 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…
Two of my friends are great listeners; one says it’s because she’s the middle child and the other because she’s the eldest. Well, I’m a good listener too and I’m the youngest. So there goes the birth order theory.
So what makes a good listener? Most important, the willingness to keep quiet while someone else speaks. But it’s not just listening that’s important; it’s being attentive and present. In this era of multi-tasking, it’s hard to concentrate on just one thing and keep your…
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
Why do people avoid saying the name of the deceased? A friend facing the anniversary of her husband’s death was hurt that friends no longer said her husband’s name. She finally asked them why and they told her they were afraid his name would make her sad. She’s already sad that her husband died and she thinks about him all the time; she told her friends she likes to talk about him, too.
That reminded me of a story another friend shared. It was the anniversary of the death of her…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 6, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments
How can you help a friend who’s numb with grief over the loss of a loved one and at times takes her anger out on you?
You can help your friend deal with her grief with any of the following activities:
1. Physical activity is a wonderful way to channel anger and refocus. You and your friend might make a date to take a weekly walk together in the evening or sign up for an exercise class together. You might need to arrange to pick her up to make sure it happens.