Do your emotional reactions to news of a death, vary with the age of the deceased? I find that mine do. It is not a sliding scale of caring, but a human assumption at work: life is supposed to progress from infancy to old age.
Sifting through emotions is part of the process of writing condolence notes.In this 4-part series, I will:
- Paint a generalized picture of an age group
- Explore common reactions to death in that age group, and
- Suggest the best condolence elements for notes to survivors.
PART 1: Condolence Writing for a Death Under Age 45
This age group as I define it, are the young-to-established adults who usually have created some order and structure to their world. He or she likely has one (or more) job, one (or more) child, and a busy life! Death is a sharp—even traumatic disruption to survivors’ lives.
Reactions (these may be your private thoughts, not parts of a note)
- He/she is too young
- It’s awful and tragic
- How could this health crisis occur
- Should I be concerned about my health
- How will the survivors go on/get by
Best Condolence Elements
- Acknowledge the loss “the world feels upside down”
- Acknowledge a quality of the family unit “I admire how you support each others' different activities…”
- Acknowledge a quality of the deceased “ (name) had the biggest heart for …”
- Share a memory “I remember when (name) and I …"
- Consider/offer a contribution to the family (financial/assistance) "Can I help you get the kids to school?"
- Share steps you may take to regain peace “I’m going to start volunteering at…”
I learn a lot about myself each time I consider the life of –and my reactions to—a death. This is certainly one of the gifts we have been given by the person who died.
What have you learned during these losses? Share your comments, and thank you for caring!