DEAR AMY: My father recently passed away. It was sudden. I texted or personally informed my closest friends and a few days later posted a memorial notice on Facebook.
I’m now wondering if sympathy cards are passe. My mother-in law and father-in-law each sent a card to me, as did a group of my co-workers. Other than that, I’ve received a few brief comments on Facebook. Is this the “new normal” among my cohorts of 40-somethings?!
I really would have appreciated having something I could hold, display and perhaps save in my memory box to ease my grief. Is a Facebook “like” or “sorry for your loss” comment underneath a post the best that people can do?
I’m talking about people with whom I’ve had or have a substantial friendship or family connection, not my wider circle of friends. I would really appreciate your thoughts. -- Grieving
DEAR GRIEVING: My sympathy goes out to you. My own experiences with loss and grief have taught me a lot about how people do — and don’t — respond. I do think that sympathy cards and handwritten notes are still very widely sent, and I agree that these personal expressions are extremely meaningful and memorable.
However, when people are notified about a life event on Facebook, they tend to respond via that medium. This is one context where registering a “like” with a virtual (thumbs up!) gesture is actually hurtful and (I think) offensive — when surely that is the opposite of the person’s intent.
The difference between your cohorts (in your 40s) and mine (50s) is that by my age, many people have experienced loss themselves. These are often the people who know from their own experience more about how to respond to others’ losses.
I hope you will let your experience inform your own actions toward other people in the future. A note, a phone call, friends bearing casseroles and hugs — these are welcome and memorable gestures. There is a reason that these things are traditionally done, and that is because they work.
DEAR AMY: I work in an office with a group of very amazing people. We consider ourselves an extended family.
One of my co-workers, “Stanley,” is probably the kindest person I have ever known. He always has a smile on his face, or a joke, or a kind word to brighten our day. He’s like a big brother to all of us, and “Uncle Stan” to many of our staff’s children (mine included).
Stan has always been a big guy, but in the last year he has gained a considerable amount of weight. Many of us are increasingly concerned for his health.
Is there a graceful way to address this issue with him, as he is so loved in our office and we would hate to see anything happen to him — or do we keep quiet and hope for the best? -- Worried Co-Worker
DEAR WORRIED: If you think this through, what, really, would be the purpose (and the result) of asking “Stanley” about his weight gain? Are you considering an intervention? I hope not.
So “we” should not do anything as a group. You are obviously very fond of Stan, but other than asking him, “How are you doing?” his health is his business, to share news of as he wishes.
DEAR AMY: Recently a group of us went to lunch with a female friend. She ordered nothing, saying she wasn’t hungry. When the food arrived, we offered to share. She decided to share.
The bill came and she did not offer to help with the bill or the tip. This happens very frequently. My friend and her husband have good jobs and make good money, so that is not the issue. How can we diplomatically suggest that she pay her way? -- Hungry Friend
DEAR HUNGRY: If you have volunteered to share, you should not then expect compensation. You can diplomatically ask for compensation by saying, “Sherry, could you pitch in for the tip?”
But if you know in advance that this is going to happen, you should not feel pressure to share your meal.