Mind your Manners: What should you do when someone passes away? Call, write and show up
Recently, I experienced the passing of my mother. My heart overflowed with gratitude by all the cards, calls, words of condolences and yes, even Facebook comments; however, most impactful were the personal visits to the memorial service. It didn't matter what people said or what they did; all that mattered was they attended. It didn't matter if it was 5 minutes or one hour. Just knowing they came meant everything.
Being uncomfortable with death is common. Most of the time we are afraid of saying or doing something wrong. Follow these tips to feel more confident in the act of offering sympathy:
- Personal notes offer great comfort. At a minimum, send a card or note and offer a kind word or memory of the loved one. One of the most beautiful comments I received said the following: "It takes a special person to be a great mom, but it takes an even more special person to be the mom of a great child. You are proof of your mother's great character."
- Make a call over sending a text. It takes courage to pick up the phone. Be assured that the person you call won't remember what you said, but they will remember the call. I offer these simple words: "I heard your (mother, father, sister) passed away. I'm sorry you lost someone so special in your life. I'm thinking of you (or praying for you if appropriate). How can I support you during this difficult time?"
- Offer to help in a specific manner. Offer to pick up groceries, walk the dog, run an errand or bring a meal to the house.
- Attend the memorial, church service or calling hours at the funeral home. A simple "I'm so sorry for your loss" as you approach the bereaved is all that's needed. If you can, share a quality you admired about the deceased or a memorable moment. From my personal experience, I heard stories and memories that I never knew about until the night of my mother's service. It comforted me knowing she was thought of so fondly in so many ways.
- Send flowers or make a contribution to the charity of the bereaved family's choice. Typically, this is found in the obituary. The dollar amount should be equal to what you would have spent on flowers.
When all is said and done, there is no need to go over the top with a grand gesture. A simple card, call or hug and "I'm sorry" is all that's needed for comfort.
Diane Massey formed the Berkshire School of Etiquette in 2014 and trained at the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Ga. Her sought-after seminars empower individuals with the knowledge and skills of modern day etiquette to take action personally and professionally with confidence and courtesy, in a spirit of cooperation and awareness of others, every day in every way. www.berkshireschoolofetiquette.com/
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