QUESTION: How do you feel about offering a condolence message about a death via email?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: There is not a wrong way to give your condolences or prayers. The fact that you’re thinking of them and praying for them during this time is really what matters.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: If you send an email offering sympathy to someone, keep in mind that it’s not as personal as a handwritten note or other gesture would be. However, it is one, quick way to reach out and let the person who has lost a loved one know that you are thinking about them.
Of course, it’s important to know whether the person who is grieving uses email. An email can be comforting to a person, too, but a handwritten note or your presence somewhere else (a meal, funeral attendance, donation, etc.) is even better.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It is still proper to send a hand-signed sympathy card or note. It conveys the message that you are thinking of the people involved with more than just a couple of informal lines over the Internet.
If you learned about the death via email or other social media, emailing can be an immediate response as it is sometimes necessary to get in touch with the sender right away. Then you might follow up with a written message later. Generally email is used for casual or informational brief messages.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, night news director at The Oklahoman and media ethics chair at the University of Central Oklahoma: Today we often learn about death and tragedy via the digital sphere, especially social media. If a friend or distant family member puts the news out there, it is certainly appropriate to respond that way.
But for close or in-town friends and nuclear family, a more personal message is warranted. How about reaching out to that person or family member and lending a helping hand?
It’s often appreciated even if not asked for.
And remember to “show up.” Just being there at the funeral or memorial service can mean the world for those left behind.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.