Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I just learned that a childhood friend lost her older brother in an accident last night. Of course, it’s horrible news, though I didn’t really know her brother. He had already gone off to college by the time I met my friend.

My friend and I have drifted apart through the years; we go for months without communicating, but I still feel close to her.

Should I reach out or let her grieve in peace?


Dear Uncertain,

If your friend lives far away, send a note. I don’t mean a pre-printed condolence card. I mean a thoughtful and heartfelt personal letter followed up by a phone call at a less traumatic time.

If your friend and her family live in town, go to the funeral, unless it’s a private event. Even though you may not be personally grieving the loss, your physical presence is important. Your friend and her family need to feel surrounded by a community right now, and numbers count.

Don’t worry about saying the “right thing,” just be poised to help because it matters and will always be remembered. For example, I’ll never forget an old friend who went to her car and brought my mother a blanket as she sat at my father’s gravesite service that cold November afternoon. At a time like this, it really is the little things.

There’s another reason to acknowledge a death and extend condolences. It gives your friend and her family the knowledge that you’re aware of the loss. I can tell you from personal experience that there are few things worse than running into a family friend months after burying a loved one, not knowing whether or not they heard about the death, and having to bring it up because you feel they ought to know. Friends don’t put friends in that excruciating position.

May your friend and her family find comfort in those around them, as well as in their memories.


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