20-40-60 Etiquette---Sorry for your loss?
YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
Question: I recently saw an acquaintance that had lost her husband nine months ago. I had not seen her to talk to her and so I expressed my condolences. She started crying. Should I have not mentioned her loss or what is appropriate?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Obviously, it didn’t turn out how you thought it would. When you give your condolences you should know that this might occur. If you cannot handle this, then I would not say anything.
It is very nice of you, though, because it means that you care. I am sure if you are on the other side it would be different, although I have never been in this situation. Each person and situation is very different. Take that into account.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: This is highly personal, but just because your friends started crying, does not mean you were wrong in saying something about her husband. It sounds like you were concerned about her and wanted to let her know you were thinking about her.
To me, that is gracious and kind, which is basically what good etiquette is anyway. Once you say you’re sorry for a loss, take the cue from your friend’s reaction. If the person starts crying, offer a hug. If they cut off the conversation, then drop it and move onto something else. If they want to talk, let them. Just as I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to grieve a loss, there isn’t perfect way to show someone you care.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It is always appropriate to communicate your sadness about a loss…whether it is the next day or the next year. However, the condolences can be made in private, so that if the feelings are very tender, that the person you are talking to can respond in whatever manner she wishes.
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