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Writing an Appropriate Condolence.

Updated on May 2, 2012



Emily Post

Emily Post would roll over in her grave if she could read Internet postings of condolences. It is perhaps the most crude barbaric form of cruelty to criticize a family very publicly and openly after the loss of a loved one. And while constructive criticism is beneficially it usually isn't going to be viewed as constructive during bereavement. You may have to control your anthropological basil ganglia impulse to tear up a grieving family it is in your best interest to write something kind or nothing at all because the next family that gets attacked maybe your very own. So it is a good general rule that if you don't wish to be messed with during grief, don't mess with others especially on an impersonal Internet post for which your opinion of the family is neither wanted or desired. If you can't write nicely then you really don't need to write at all. Here are some general principles I like to follow when I write condolences.

1) Be generous and brief. If you can't bring yourself to write a nice note to the family then you have issues and need a therapists. I would have to say this hits home hard because I have lost a family member recently and all kinds of things have been written.

2) Since you are not in the family don't expect the family to recognize your grief as greater than their own.

3) Since you aren't in the family don't think you know more about the family more than the average person. Death is no time to open your mouth trying to spill the family secrets you think you know. Chances are.. they're lies to manipulate you.

4) Don't assume your condolences will be well received. It has been in this case of my family member passing that condolences are coming in forms of critics from people we haven't associated with in 20+ years.

5) Have something nice to say about the whole family or again don't send anything.

6) If it is a prolonged illness and you didn't do anything to help the individual that has pasted again the condolences mean nothing but a guilty excuse of what you didn't do. Don't bother.

7) Don't post condolences on the Internet. Really impersonal and they tend to be unedited and horribly incorrect.

8) Hand write the condolence. Prepare at least one meal and send it to the family and make a charitable donation in the deceased family member's name before you even bother to write the card. I would hate to put Hallmark out of business but if you aren't willing to help before death than you really don't care about the family. Don't pretend just because it makes you feel better or you think you will have a higher status. Chances are everyone will see you are pretending. Hand write the condolence once you have made the meal and sent in the donation.

9) Try to respect boundaries when there is a death. The bereft don't feel like entertaining so be brief and to the point while being considerate.

10) And above all else don't cry to the family that has lost a loved one. It isn't about you. You can only be helpful, polite, respectful and considerate.

11) Write something kind about th deceased person and how they effected your life.

12) Write what the deceased person represented to you in a positive manner.

13) Steer clear of religious bantering. While my family is religious we are many religions and some of us are none. This can be a bitter dividsion in Death so steer clear of religion because what may seem kind to one person experiencing the death may offend another.

Condolensces Not So Consoling?

HAve you received Condolences that are No So Consoling?

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Interent Postings

Have your received an Internet Condolence that was Offensive?

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Consoling Others

Have you had to Consol someone outside your family as they due to a death in your family?

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The Howlers

If I could bring a gun to funerals I would. Although I must confess the next and only funeral I plan on attending is my own and I would prefer my family not receive condolences since they have become so cruel. Leave us be and we will survive.

I say I want to bring a gun because I can't stand the howlers in the church who scream and cry and throw down during my family member's's funeral while I am still trying to maintain my composure. If I have lost a family member and I don't cry then it is not okay for you to cry. And so it becomes and endurance test for me to have any kind of ceremony for my family because of the howlers who want attention at my loved one's funeral. If I don't want attention at that time and I don't, then no one howls to me.

I rarely attend funerals because I know this behavior goes on at funerals and I find it rather unfetching. So I usually send a home cooked meal over, provide flowers, sign guest book and make a donation and then sometimes I do follow up visits for the next six months if it is an elderly person who needs a litte help getting by independently.

Again Emily Post would spin in her grave if she knew this was going on.

Soberiety at Funeral

Nothing is worse than dealing with a drunk wasted person at your family members funeral. So if you drink or take madications don't attend the funeral. It isn't the time to go ballistic on the family. It is a hard enough day for the family. Yor attendance ta the funeral is to be supportive to the family and if you are drunk or wasted you are incapable. Therefore sober or not at all.

This is always the case but exceptionally true when there are children ttending the funeral. Nothing is worse on children than a funeral. Adults need to be able to be there for the family but to also show a strong support for the children that are left behind. If you can't be sober through this then forget it. This includes the Wakes. My goodness those can get really ugly and the Shiva which I haven't seen one of thos eout of control. As a general rule substances beyond your own body chemistry are a bad idea for funerals and grief let alone trying to support someone who ahs lost a fmily member.

Howlers at Your Family Member's Funerals

Have you been subjected to a Howler at a family member's funeral?

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Condolence and Death Etiquette

I would have liked to offer you follow up readings on Condlence Etiquette and Death Etiquett as I feel this subject really needs to be reviewed in the age of internet posting of condolences. But there are no books on this subject. It seems to be an opened field for publishing. Perhaps a publisher will contact me?


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    • njmanura profile image

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Nice hub on how to write a proper condolence message. Voted up

    • profile image

      jt walters 6 years ago

      I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the feedback and taking the time to respond. All your efforts are appreciated.

    • mkrandhawa profile image

      mkrandhawa 6 years ago from India

      Walter it is very Great hub and very informative and really it is true.Thanks for writing.

    • profile image

      jt walters 6 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to read, for providing feedback and for the vote up. I really appreciate your responses.

    • profile image

      jt walters 6 years ago

      I was hoping there was a template for well intended individuals to follow from the Etiquette books. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is a difficult subject to write about because most people don't want to see themselves in this situation. Thank you for responding.

    • ameliejan profile image

      ameliejan 6 years ago from Alicante, Spain

      Very informative - this is an important subject and I think you tackled it well. Voted up.

    • PiaC profile image

      PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Condolences are hard to do right. I've been in both positions of receiving well-meant but offensive condolences, and also being very confused about what to say or do in situations of death, divorce, illness and accident. Thank you for writing this. A lot of what you said rung very true.