Florence Isaacs's Blog (93)

When Someone's Adult Sibling Dies

Q. My neighbor's elder sister died and I will be attending the funeral. I've met the sister a few times over the years, but I don't know much about their relationship. What should I say at a time like this?

The loss of an adult…


Added by Florence Isaacs on September 4, 2014 at 9:00am — No Comments

Expert Advice for Offering Condolences in Messy Situations

Q. My co-worker was in the middle of a messy divorce when her soon-to-be ex-husband died of a sudden heart attack. She has a 4-year-old son. My question is should I send a condolence note – and if I should, what can I say?  It’s such a complex situation and I don’t want to write anything inappropriate.

“Complex” is certainly the right word. In your place, I would send a note.…


Added by Florence Isaacs on July 28, 2014 at 2:00pm — No Comments

The Order of Service at a Funeral

Q. A friend of mine, who is planning her mother’s funeral, mentioned working with the funeral home on “the order of service.” I’ve never heard this term before. What exactly is the order of service?

I’ve had to plan three different funerals myself, and never heard of it either. Now I’m enlightened, thanks to your question. The order of service is essentially a program of how a funeral or memorial service will proceed.…


Added by Florence Isaacs on June 20, 2014 at 2:00pm — No Comments

The Basics of Hospice Care

Q. I’m going to visit a friend who is receiving hospice care at home. I don’t know exactly how hospice works, and would feel more comfortable if I had some basic information. Can you educate me?

As I researched the answer to your question, I was astonished to learn that about 45 percent of…


Added by Florence Isaacs on May 27, 2014 at 9:30am — No Comments

The Basics: How to Write a Parent's Obituary in Advance

Q. My friend’s father just died unexpectedly, which left the family scrambling to write an obituary for him. Their experience made me think about writing an obit for my own 75-year-old father now – while I have the time and composure. If I do it now, I can also ask him questions about what information he’d want me to include or…


Added by Florence Isaacs on April 17, 2014 at 11:00am — No Comments

Arlington National Cemetery Burial Isn't Limited to Heroes, Government VIPs

Q. I heard that an acquaintance of mine, who just died, is going to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Is that possible? He was just an ordinary guy. I thought you had to be a military hero or someone important in the government. Also, how much does it…


Added by Florence Isaacs on March 18, 2014 at 1:30pm — No Comments

Tips for Holding a Memorial Service Months After the Funeral

Q. Can you have a funeral followed by a memorial service at a later date for the same loved one? I want a memorial service for my father on what would have been his birthday, although the funeral was eight months ago. Would it be appropriate? Will it make people sad?

The body…


Added by Florence Isaacs on February 19, 2014 at 11:30am — 1 Comment

The Latest News on Bereavement Leave for Employees

Q. My brother is now in hospice care, and I will be in charge of the funeral arrangements. Am I entitled to bereavement leave from my employer?

You probably are if you live in Oregon. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Oregon became the first state to require employers with 25 or more employees that are subject to the Oregon Family Leave Act to offer up to two weeks of leave…


Added by Florence Isaacs on February 11, 2014 at 12:30pm — 1 Comment

Top 10 Things Not to Say to the Bereaved

Q. During a recent funeral, I overheard someone tell the adopted son of the deceased, “Well, at least it’s easier for you that he wasn’t your real father.” How can people be so insensitive? The son was speechless. 

Some people do speak inappropriately to…


Added by Florence Isaacs on December 19, 2013 at 11:00am — 5 Comments

What to Say When Someone Dies of AIDS

Q. What can I say or write to someone whose brother just died of AIDS? I haven’t heard much about AIDS in recent years, except for newspaper stories about epidemics in Africa. I thought people were living with it in the United States — that it was treatable. Also, I don’t know the circumstances. Is it OK to ask questions?…


Added by Florence Isaacs on December 1, 2013 at 6:30am — No Comments

Seven Tips for Writing a Condolence Note to a Widow or Widower

Q. My co-worker’s husband just died, and I’m at a loss for what to write in a sympathy note. She and I are friendly – occasionally we have lunch together with a group of other associates – but we’re not close friends. What should I say?


The death of a spouse (or life partner) is an extraordinarily complicated loss that turns a widow’s life upside down. She loses a…


Added by Florence Isaacs on November 26, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments

Obituary etiquette: Who qualifies as a "survivor"?

Q. Are there any guidelines about mentioning survivors in an obituary? Should an ex-spouse of the deceased be listed — and if so, what wording should be used? How about step-parents and step-siblings, or in-laws?


Most of us think of “survivors” as closest kin, but that leaves a lot of leeway in these days of blended families and serial marriages.  In practice, a survivor can be anyone the grieving family says he/she is, and it can get very…


Added by Florence Isaacs on September 23, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments

Funeral Processions and Hearses

Q. I will attend a funeral in a few days and plan to join the procession of cars to the cemetery afterward. I’m curious. When did the custom of funeral processions start – and how much does a hearse cost today? 


     Funeral processions go…


Added by Florence Isaacs on August 27, 2013 at 9:00am — No Comments

Attending a Muslim Funeral

Q. My colleague, who is Muslim, just lost his wife. I will attend the funeral, but feel uneasy because I’ve never attended a Muslim service before. Can you educate me on what to expect and any etiquette I should know about?


In our fluid multicultural society, more and more of us are attending funerals that may include unfamiliar customs, rituals, or prayers. In the case of a Muslim funeral, Islamic law prescribes that the deceased be buried as quickly as…


Added by Florence Isaacs on July 30, 2013 at 11:49am — No Comments

Secrets of Great Eulogies

Q. My dear cousin has terminal cancer, and it won’t be long now. We grew up together and have remained friends throughout the years. She’s the one who made sure we never lost touch, despite many moves on my part to other parts of the country and even abroad for a few years. I want to start working on a eulogy for her. I know the basics, but are there any special tips you can give me?


The advice is different depending on who is being eulogized and your…


Added by Florence Isaacs on June 30, 2013 at 10:30am — No Comments

How to Write a Condolence Note to a Customer or Client

Q. The mother of a relatively new client of mine just died of a heart attack. I’m a lawyer, and am thinking of sending the condolence note below to the client:

“Janet: So very sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. When the days seem dark, remember to cherish the good memories the two of you created. It will help carry you through the dark. You are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Do you think this note is appropriate?




Added by Florence Isaacs on May 17, 2013 at 3:30pm — No Comments

Legal Issues When Scattering Ashes

Q. My father is very ill and wants his ashes scattered in a lake near the family summer home when he dies. Are there restrictions on doing so? Who should I contact for specific information? Also, there will be no minister present when the ashes are scattered. Is there a protocol we should follow or particular words that should be said?   


Your questions raise some complicated issues. One is location. Is the lake on private or public property? The owner’s…


Added by Florence Isaacs on April 25, 2013 at 11:18am — 1 Comment

Condolence Note, Years Late

Q. I just attended an event where I briefly met a colleague whose 18-year-old daughter died in a drowning accident four years ago. I meant to send a condolence note at the time. But I never did, and I’ve always felt so guilty about it. Is it out of the question to send a note to her now? If it isn’t, what should I write?


I’ve always said it’s never too late…


Added by Florence Isaacs on March 28, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments

Socializing with Grieving Parents

Q. The 16-year-old son of friends committed suicide a week ago. My wife and I are thinking about inviting them to attend a social event coming up next month and wonder whether that is an appropriate thing to do. Is it too soon after the death, and would it seem as if we don’t recognize the depth of their grief? Or not?


The death of a child is unimaginable agony for the parents. Your children are supposed to outlive you, and the enormity of the loss just…


Added by Florence Isaacs on February 26, 2013 at 3:18pm — No Comments

The Funeral Director Is a Woman

Q. When my uncle died recently and funeral arrangements had to be made, the funeral director turned out to be a woman. I’d never heard of a female funeral director before. Is this common today?


Times have changed, and women funeral directors are no longer unusual. Neither are female embalmers. In 2010, 57.1% of mortuary science students in the United…


Added by Florence Isaacs on January 28, 2013 at 9:00am — No Comments

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