An acquaintance had an aggressive form of cancer. I was kept in the loop via text messages and Facebook and so it seemed natural to learn of her death through a text. A friend of the bereaved sent a mass text, not one but a series, with funeral notifications, meal requests, and donation preferences. Friends of the bereaved began writing condolence messages on her Facebook wall.
My first thought upon hearing of the death was to send a condolence note; but I changed my mind when I saw the bereaved added a “like” to every Facebook condolence message on her wall.
One of the text messages had indicated that the deceased had requested donations be made to the American Cancer Society. I chose to write an email and honor the deceased’s wish for the donation.
I crafted a condolence message in Word. I edited until I was comfortable with the final text. I copied and pasted the condolence message from Word and sent it. I knew that I had handled the contact correctly when the bereaved quickly responded, telling me how much my message had meant.
Most non-profits allow you to donate online with a credit card and I decided to do just that so I wouldn’t forget. The American Cancer Society site was easy to navigate and they had a special feature to allow you to personalize a message to the bereaved which they will send along with a notification of your donation. I needed the address of the bereaved, which I did not have, and found that online using www.anywho.com.
This was rather unconventional for me. I find text communications concerning death to be awkward; it’s hard to be quick on your feet while trying to be tactful and compassionate. I do not post condolence messages on a Facebook wall nor do I like to send condolence messages via email. But in this case, the email was the correct thing to do. The bereaved is part of the generation that relies on text and Facebook messages and she found these communications very comforting.
It’s a new world out there and sometimes we must adapt and move out of our comfort zone to reach out to the bereaved in a way that is comfortable for them. After all, isn’t that what condolences are all about.
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 Store. Click here to order.
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