Florence Isaacs's Blog (93)

Family Rifts and Funerals

Q. My father died recently, but I did not learn of his death until weeks after the funeral. He lived with his second wife, who caused a family rift after their marriage, and kept me out of the loop. (I live halfway across the country.) I feel angry and bereft at the same time. Are there any words of comfort you can offer? Also there is no head stone at the grave. Can I put one up?

A. I can’t imagine how painful your situation is. You’ve been denied closure and the…


Added by Florence Isaacs on June 17, 2009 at 12:00pm — 3 Comments

Children and Funerals

Q. I want to take my six-year-old son to my father’s funeral, but my wife feels it’s inappropriate for children to attend. She thinks it will scare him. What’s your take on this issue?

A. I recently attended a funeral where two toddlers made the rounds of the reception room, as friends and relatives paid respects to the mourners prior to the service. A baby slept soundly in a carriage, then woke to bellow for a few seconds. It was a room filled with life—and…


Added by Florence Isaacs on May 17, 2009 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

Choosing a Burial Location Can Be Difficult

Q. The love of my life died a few years ago after a long illness and was cremated. His sister kept the urn in her home. He was all she had and I felt I had to accede to her wishes. She planned to bury the ashes near her home. However, her company has now transferred her 2000 miles away and she wants to lay him to rest in the new location. I won’t be able to regularly visit the grave. There is a cemetery plot in our area where many members of his family are buried, and I…


Added by Florence Isaacs on April 17, 2009 at 11:30am — 1 Comment

Memorial Contributions

Q. My colleague’s wife died, and I can’t decide whether to make a contribution in her memory to my favorite charity or find out what the family’s preference would be. What’s your advice? Also, how much should I contribute?

A. Most bereaved will appreciate your thoughtfulness at a time like this, no matter what you do. But since this is about them, not you, I would always try to get the name of their preferred charity. This makes sense especially if your personal…


Added by Florence Isaacs on March 17, 2009 at 11:30am — 1 Comment

Giving a Great Eulogy

Q. An old friend of mine has died, and I’ve been asked to give a eulogy at the funeral service. I’m very nervous about it because I’ve never done this before. I’m afraid I’ll sound boring or trite. Can you give me some tips so I don’t make a fool of myself?

A. Today it’s rare to attend a funeral without at least one eulogy, and sometimes many people speak. We seem to need formal, thoughtful words to make sense of the death and give us closure in this era of…


Added by Florence Isaacs on February 17, 2009 at 11:30am — 1 Comment

Choosing the Right Condolence Stationery

Q. What type of stationery is appropriate for condolence notes? Is a printed condolence card the best idea?

A. A correspondence card, whether imprinted with your name or not, is the perfect stationery for a condolence note. A correspondence card offers at least three advantages. The stock has weight, which somehow adds weight to your message. Due to its size (usually 6-1/4”x4-1/2”), a correspondence card also limits how much you can say. A few lines can…


Added by Florence Isaacs on January 18, 2009 at 4:30pm — 1 Comment

Youth Suicide - How You Can Help the Survivors

Q. What can you say or do when there’s a suicide in someone’s family? My cousin’s 21-year-old son killed himself, and she and her husband are inconsolable. What can I possibly say to them in such a devastating situation? I feel powerless to help them.

A. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group in this country with only injuries and homicides claiming more lives, and suicide on college campuses is more common than most people…


Added by Florence Isaacs on November 18, 2008 at 4:30pm — 1 Comment

What Is a Memorial Service?

Q. What’s the difference between a funeral and a memorial service? I plan to attend a memorial service for an old college classmate, but I’ve never been to one before. What should I expect?

A. Memorial services have become more and more common in this country, and in a way are a sign of the times. A memorial service is held without the remains present. Perhaps there are no remains, as in the case of some 9/11 victims or soldiers killed in combat. Or the…


Added by Florence Isaacs on October 18, 2008 at 4:00pm — 1 Comment

What to Say When Someone's Ex Dies

Q. My friend’s ex-husband just died, and I feel awkward about what to say to her and her children. I’m also concerned about talking to her ex’s family at the funeral. I met the in-laws a few times during the marriage. Do you have any suggestions?

A. It can get very complicated when someone’s ex-spouse dies. The surviving ex-wife or -husband may feel deep sorrow. For a time, the couple did share a life together. There can be good memories as well as bad, and…


Added by Florence Isaacs on September 18, 2008 at 4:00pm — 1 Comment

Sending Sympathy Flowers

Q. My colleague’s elderly mother just died, and a group of us at the office want to send flowers. What is the protocol at such a time? Should flowers go to the funeral home or to the bereaved’s apartment? What types of flowers are best, and what should we say on the accompanying card? We want to show our support in the most appropriate way.

A. Thanks to Hollywood movies, we often think of lilies as traditional funeral flowers. In fact, the most commonly…


Added by Florence Isaacs on August 15, 2008 at 12:30pm — 1 Comment

What to Say When Someone Dies: Rocky Relationships

Q. One of my customers, someone I’ve done business with for many years, just lost his brother. I know from numerous conversations that my customer didn’t get along with his brother and barely spoke to him recently. What should I write in a condolence note in these circumstances? Somehow, “This is a terrible loss” doesn’t fit.

A. Complicated family relationships are all around us, and it’s definitely awkward when the connection between the bereaved and the deceased…


Added by Florence Isaacs on July 15, 2008 at 12:30pm — 1 Comment

Acknowledging Condolences from Others

Q: When my father died recently, I received flowers and many condolence notes. Do I have to send acknowledgments right away? What should I say?

A. It’s courteous and important to acknowledge notes of sympathy, as well as flowers or food baskets you’ve received, or contributions made in memory of the deceased. Finding the right words can be difficult, however, especially if you must write to a great many people. One widow I know had to compose 75…


Added by Florence Isaacs on June 15, 2008 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

What to Say When Someone Dies Suddenly

Q. A neighbor of mine in her late forties drowned in a freak boating accident when her canoe overturned. I want to go to the funeral, but what can I possibly say to her husband and her children, who range in age from 8 to 14?

A. Accounts of sudden accidents grab our attention in the newspapers or on TV virtually every day. Someone survives cancer,…


Added by Florence Isaacs on May 15, 2008 at 12:00pm — 2 Comments

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