Condolences etiquette is a way for you to express your sympathy to family and friends of someone who has recently passed away. It is difficult to find the right words or gesture to show how much you care, however being there is powerful enough.
What is the best way to react when you hear the news? What do you say when you hear the news that a family member, friend, loved one or acquaintance has passed away? What can you do for the family and friends of the deceased? These are all questions that anyone who has experienced this has asked and using condolences etiquette will help you find the answers.
I remember when my husband called to tell me his father had unexpectedly passed away. The shock led to disbelief. It was very hard to wrap my brain around what he was telling me. I am sure he was having the same difficulty as he was explaining what had happened. I distinctly remember thinking, "This is all a nightmare and I will wake up soon." I didn't and I needed to be there for my husband.
It is vital when you hear the news to listen without interrupting. It is not something that they want to repeat, because of questions and disbelief. The details will come as they can and need to. As the recipient of the news, it is best to leave the questions of where, why and how for later. If this information is offered, keep it safe.
Once you have heard the news, it is good condolences etiquette to say, "I am sorry. What can I do for you? How can I help?" This will let the person know that you care without being overbearing. They may not have any answers, however the mere fact that you care and are simply there for them will give them strength to carry on. Also, continue to check on them throughout the following days and weeks. They will need continued support from you as they plan the funeral and begin life again.
If you are not in the same area as the family of the deceased, it is good etiquette to call and offer your condolences. It is also a good idea to send a card or letter to them. These are physical reminders of love and support from those who love them. It is never good etiquette to express your sympathies through texting, email, voice mail or social media. These are very impersonal.
When you attend the wake or funeral, what you say is very important. You do not need to be eloquent. Show good funeral etiquette by your actions and words. It is important to recognize that we all deal with death differently. There will be those who handle it quietly and those who don't. Show your respect by loving them for who they are and the situation they are in.
When speaking to the family or friends of the deceased always refer to them by name. Sharing memories of them is good condolence etiquette, however make sure that they are good, happy memories. Speaking of their good qualities, special things they have done or their accomplishments is a wonderful way to pay tribute to them. It is also nice to say how much they will be missed by all.
Another good way to offer your condolences is taking meals into the family. It has been an honor to do this for some of our family and friends as they have passed through a difficult time such as this. It is as if time and all necessities stand still for a period. Offering to help with housework or other day to day events will be something that can carry them.
As someone who has gone through a period of grieving, those who offered their heartfelt condolences in one form or another were the ones who blessed my life beyond any words or deeds. Share your love and bless lives.