When someone you hardly know has died, it can be shocking to experience strong emotions. This happened to me several years ago; I read the morning paper and realized that the 15-year-old who died in an automobile accident was the daughter of long ago friends. I had only met the daughter once, shortly after her birth, and yet I remember sobbing as I read her name.

We can’t possibly predict how we’ll feel when someone we know dies; and it’s even harder to imagine how a loss might affect us when it’s someone we barely know. It’s helpful to digest the news and process your feelings before deciding how you’ll respond. And there is no established protocol you’ll need to follow upon learning of an acquaintance’s death.

In my case, my husband and I chose to attend the funeral. The family was Jewish and sat shiva for seven days; during the shiva, you visit the home and pay your respects. Even though we hadn’t seen the parents in over a decade, we chose to attend the shiva to show our support and to pray and grieve with the bereaved.

You have the option to attend the viewing or funeral, or write a condolence message. There may be times you’ll learn of a death and choose not to act. Trust your instincts and do what feels appropriate.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.


Image via Flickr Creative Commons / NYCMarines

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