Expressing Condolences during the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To even suggest that these are difficult times is a classic understatement. We all know and feel the challenges and pain of Covid-19. In one way or another, each of us has been affected. We are all mourning and searching for ways of expressing condolences.  We have lost family members, close friends, colleagues, coworkers or acquaintances. If we have not personally suffered the pain of loss, we know someone who has.

Helping those who are mourning has become complicated since we cannot gather to say goodbye, we cannot embrace the bereaved family and we cannot come together as a community to celebrate and remember a life well-lived. All that being said, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing you can do to reach out to people who are grieving. There are numerous ways of expressing condolences and showing that you care.

Attend the funeral or memorial service.

If the service is conducted in a place, such as a graveside, where you can social distance and wear a mask, by all means, go. Even if you cannot speak to the family, you can sign the guest book so they will know that you were with them.

Pick up the phone and call.

During this time of isolation, a phone call and the sound of another human voice may be just what the grieving person needs. If they do not feel like talking, they can decline your call. They will know and appreciate your effort. If you connect, do not attempt to be a grief counselor. Your job is to ask how they are feeling and listen to what they have to say.

Food is always appreciated.

There may not be the usual large family crowds around, but someone is going to need to eat. If you find out that enough food is already being provided, wait a week before offering to take a meal. It may be needed more later. For fear of spreading the virus and to practice social distancing, advise the family that you are coming. Call when you arrive and leave your nourishing gift at the door.

With today’s technology, there is no excuse for remaining silent.

While I am not a fan of using the Internet to send condolences, it is better than nothing at all. In spite of my aversion to emailing, texting, or using forms of social media to convey your sympathy, there are those for whom it is their preferred means of communication.  Options for expressing your condolences online include 1) writing a message in a guestbook published on the funeral home’s website, 2) sending a sympathetic email, 3) texting your acknowledgment—although that should be the channel of last resort. Online communication platforms are endless.

If you are a loyal subscriber to this blog, it will come as no surprise that when you cannot do it in person, my preferred manner of conveying sympathy is the time-honored handwritten note.

Nothing trumps that. If you want your kindness to make a lasting impression and offer the most solace, find your note or correspondence cards, your nicest fountain pen, your forever stamps and share your thoughts on paper with the one who is grieving. Those who have suffered a loss often save those notes for a long time and bring them out at anniversary dates and other times of remembrance.

During this time of Covid-19, people who are mourning need support more than ever.

They are often alone having to quarantine. They need love and support. Whatever you decide to do, do it immediately and make a promise to yourself that you will not let it end there. Go beyond keeping these people in your thoughts—keep them in your actions. Continue to stay in touch and do the little things that can mean so much.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your associates add the polish that builds profits through these tough times.

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