The Fine Line between Gossiping and Information Gathering

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Dear Katie & Kelly: I’m relatively new to our neighborhood so don’t have a ton of friend or acquaintances here yet. Recently someone died but I don’t know how. He was a dad, in his 40s and as far as I know, hadn’t been sick. Is it gruesome to ask someone if they know how he died? I’m an Organic Structure.

Signed: Creepily Curious

Dear Creepy: Of course, it’s gruesome to ask. Lol. You knew that though — you’re a thoughtful Organic Structure  — or you wouldn’t have double checked with us, you would’ve already asked someone how he died! Everybody is naturally curious what causes someone’s death because death reminds us of our own mortality. Some people would have no problem with you asking, others would be secretly offended. The way around seeming like the uncaring, creepy new neighbor is not to ask for the details five seconds after you hear about his death, i.e., today, but to instead respect his life and passing by just letting it be for a while. Six months from now if you brought it up with a neighbor, chances are you wouldn’t seem creepy to any personality type but just rather a concerned neighbor.

Best of luck: Katie & Kelly

Death & Etiquette Matter

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Dear Katie & Kelly,

My friend’s dad just died. There’s a wake on Friday night and then funeral on Saturday. I didn’t know him very well. Do I go to both or one? What’s considered polite?

Sincerely,

Mourning in Missori

 

Dear Mourning,

It’s not really about being polite. It’s also not necessarily about how well you knew the man. It’s about supporting your friend. Do what you can and what you have the time to do. Funerals are not planned so sometimes you can’t make them or the events surrounding them. Kelly will always feel sad that she missed her best friend’s mom’s funeral because she’d booked a non refundable trip to Buenos Aires with her husband and another couple. Do your best to be there for them. If you can’t attend services in anyway, make sure you send your friend a condolence note. In addition, check up on them periodically because sometimes it takes a long time to get over a loss as big as losing your dad.

Our condolences to your friend,

Katie & Kelly

Losing a Friend

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Illustration by Carol Breckenridge available for purchase at BreckWorks

Dear Katie & Kelly,

One of my best friends from college died recently. We’d been out of touch over the past year but that’s how we were. We’d go for eons without talking and then pickup right where we left off. Two Organic Freedom peas in the pod. Anyway, I live overseas and by the time I heard about her death was unable to get back in time for the funeral. Obviously I wouldn’t expect her family and kids to hold something like that for me but I feel awful that I missed it. I love her so much and miss her so much I just wish there was a way I could pay my respects. I guess what I’m trying to say is that having missed the funeral, I never got to say a proper goodbye and it makes me miss her more.

Signed,

Sad in Seattle

 

Dear Sad,

Gosh, you made us cry. Don’t beat yourself up. We can’t always make it to people’s funerals. Life gets in the way. It happens to us all and it sounds like if there’s anyone who would understand, it would be your friend.

There’s a reason people write condolence letters. First, it comforts the grieving family but second it often comforts the author. It’s not just the family that misses a person when they’re gone. It’s a ritual that helps bring closure on many fronts. So start with a letter to her husband and then write letters to her kids and regale them with tales of your hilarious youthful exploits. If the kids are underage perhaps postmark them to the husband so you don’t have to make them Rated G. I bet they’ll be stories they’ll treasure forever and almost better than if you’d been there in person telling them tales they might forget in time.

Sending you a big hug across the ocean,

Katie & Kelly

Death & Parties

By Carol Breckenridge: BreckWorks

Illustration by Carol Breckenridge: For Sale at BreckWorks

Dear Katie and Kelly,

I had planned to have my husband’s birthday party with a bunch of his closest friends and their wives in a couple of weeks but one of his best buddies’ dads suddenly died. They were really close so naturally he’s devastated. We went to the funeral a couple of days ago and now my quandary is whether I should go ahead with the birthday dinner or not. I fear if my husband asks him, he’ll muck it up somehow.

Sincerely,

Sad in Saratoga

 

Dear Sad,

Death hits everyone differently and losing a parent is a doozy. So it’s best to ask the people closest to the loss and defer to their wishes rather than do what you think is best. In your scenario — it’s not your closest friend but rather your husband’s— we wouldn’t go direct to the source. It’s legit to leave the birthday boy out of it as you’re throwing the party, not him. We’d write to/call his wife and ask her opinion. Sometimes cheerful events are a great distraction from our intense grief and sometimes they’re too much to handle. Depends on the personality and the situation. Hopefully his wife will know what will soothe his soul or ask him for you. Either way it’s not your call, but theirs.

All our best,

Katie & Kelly

Miscarriage in Manhattan

Dear Katie & Kelly,

Recently my brother told me that his wife had a miscarriage and they’re both really upset about it. I’m not super close to his wife so I didn’t say anything to her the next time I saw her. I heard later from my husband that she was really hurt that I didn’t acknowledge it. Should I have said something about it? It seems a weird thing to talk about with someone who is not your friend. I think I’m a Fun Structure.

Miscarriage in Manhattan

 

Dear Miscarriage ,

Yes. You should have. But you’re not alone in not knowing the etiquette for miscarriages. Offering sympathy should be simple no matter who you are or who died. Whether it’s someone’s husband who has passed away or an unborn child, a simple, sincere “I’m so sorry for your loss” almost never gets you into trouble. You can always say more or be more personal about it but anyone who quibbles about this phrase is just intensely sad and looking for someone to be angry with because being angry feels better than being sad.

As for your particular situation, think about it, friend or no friend, it’s the love of your brother’s life, the (future) mother of his children. Have a heart. Next time you see her find the right opportunity to say, “I should have said this the last time I saw you but (insert your brother’s name) told me you had a miscarriage and I just want you to know that I am so sorry for your loss.” For other personality types who want to go a step further or if it’s a friend, a meaningful greeting card (not some cheesy one about death but something more poetic) goes a long way.

All our best,
Katie & Kelly