Saturday, April 5, 2014

Death Over 85

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 last post of a 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 4: Condolence Writing for a Death Over Age 85

    As a Baby Boomer, I have parents in this age group. Dubbed by journalist, Tom Brokaw, as the "Greatest Generation," these men—and, for the first time, women—served in World War II. Unprecedented front-line coverage brought the horrors of the war into everyone’s daily life by radio, in-theatre newsreels, newspapers and magazines.
    1932: My grandfather's Hupmobile (Lawrence has arm out window)
    As boys and girls living through the Great Depression (1929 —mid-30’s) and World War II (1939—mid-40's), that generation invented recycling. The household norm was: if you need it, fix it/sew it/craft it/build it. My father, Lawrence, born in 1928, wrote his memoir a few years ago. In it, he shared colorful stories of his family’s frugality and resourcefulness, which didn’t diminish his or his siblings' happy childhood. Overhearing ones parents worrying about the next family meal instills a high priority on frugality and financial security through saving and investment.
    With good health and financial security, life over 85 can be happy, rewarding, and challenging. Conversely, poverty and poor health impacts an over-85’s life and outlook dramatically.

    Reactions (these may be your private thoughts, not parts of a note)
    • She lived through a remarkable span of history 
    • I've lost a wise friend
    • His body just 'wore out' 
    • His family always came first
    • She outlived a lot of her friends
    Best Condolence Elements

  • Acknowledge the loss “I could sit for hours listening to your Dad's stories. He will be greatly missed.”
  • Acknowledge a quality of the survivor(s)  “You fed her love of music by taking her to concerts ___."
  • Acknowledge a quality of the deceased "While ushering at church, (name) greeted everyone with such warmth...”
  • Share a memory “I remember when your Grandpa bought groceries for the neighbors after that blizzard …"
  • Share about the deceased's impact on your life "Her volunteer work inspired me to ___ " 

  • 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 this post with your favorite social media button, above.  

    Thank you for caring!

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