Straight Dope Message Board

Straight Dope Message Board (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/index.php)
-   In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?f=12)
-   -   Is it rude to send a sympathy card 3 months late? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=512177)

MerryMagdalen 03-29-2009 07:44 PM

Is it rude to send a sympathy card 3 months late?
 
My uncle died of complications of lymphoma right before Christmas. I bought a card to send to my aunt, but with one thing and another it has sat around in my notebook until now. I have warm relations with this aunt, but we're not particularly close - we've never talked often, but we enjoy it when we do. I spent a week at their house about five years ago but haven't seen them since.

My inclination is to send a card, since I doubt it's slipped her mind that her husband of many years is dead. On the other hand, I'm wondering if I should change from a straight "sympathy" card to something more along the lines of a "thinking of you" card/letter.

I realize I'm a total dweeb for not sending something in a more timely manner. I just want to know what I should do now. I welcome opinions, and also any links to etiquette sites that mention this situation.

PunditLisa 03-29-2009 07:50 PM

"Thinking of you" is probably the best choice, IMO, though there's really no wrong choice here.

twickster 03-29-2009 08:02 PM

She'll be delighted to hear from you, esp. since the first outpouring of sympathy has probably died (sic) down. Share a memory or two of your uncle and tell her how much they both mean to you.

Omega Glory 03-29-2009 08:15 PM

I'd also do a "thinking of you" card with a nice memory about your uncle.

glee 03-29-2009 08:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by twickster (Post 10984827)
She'll be delighted to hear from you, esp. since the first outpouring of sympathy has probably died (sic) down. Share a memory or two of your uncle and tell her how much they both mean to you.

This is sensible.

(One alternative is to take your original card and mis-address it, so it appears to have been lost in the post...)

matt_mcl 03-29-2009 08:23 PM

Don't send a card; send a handwritten letter instead, touching on the loss but focusing more on the good memories you have of your uncle and how important he was to you, and expressing your love and best wishes for her.

As others said, this is actually a really good time to send something, since she may be feeling abandoned after the initial outpouring of sympathy. Making it a personal letter will quell the hint of making up for your lateness.

TheScogg 03-29-2009 08:42 PM

Send her a "thinking of you" card as opposed to a "sorry for your loss" card. She'll appreciate it either way, but it'll be less psychologically tolling if you don't directly bring up his death on the front of a Hallmark card. When old friends told me 3 months afterward that they were "sorry for my loss", it really just brought back bad memories. It just made me think of the 800 million times somebody told me they were sorry for my loss during the week of the funeral. Nobody wants to be reminded of a funeral. When they just asked how I was doing , that was perfect. If they knew my cousin, I would of course bring it to their attention that he had passed. It allowed me to approach the subject from my own comfort zone instead of being ambushed with the subject. Then we'd share some teary eyed, but joyous stories that helped me work out some of my lingering issues while still validating the importance of his existence and the sorrow of his passing.

Maybe send her some pictures of you and a SO (if you have one) and a nice letter. Tell her something exciting going on in your life. Ask her how she's doing. She'll probably know that you're writing her now in part because of his recent passing (I don't mean this in a crass way, like you don't normally give a damn about her), but this approach puts the ball in her court. If she wants to talk about your uncle, she will in the return letter. Then, you can bring him up.

I apologize if this seems a little preachy and overanalytical, but it really would have been the best approach in my experience. Take this for what it's worth - I'm sure she'll love to hear from you, regardless of approach.

appleciders 03-29-2009 08:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by glee (Post 10984860)
This is sensible.

(One alternative is to take your original card and mis-address it, so it appears to have been lost in the post...)

Won't it have a postmark that gives you away?

twickster 03-29-2009 09:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by matt_mcl (Post 10984878)
Don't send a card; send a handwritten letter instead....

I was taking that as a given -- but yeah, definitely, handwritten and your own words will mean a huge amount to her.

MonaLizaT 03-29-2009 09:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by twickster (Post 10984827)
She'll be delighted to hear from you, esp. since the first outpouring of sympathy has probably died (sic) down.

This.

My aunt's husband died before Christmas. I bought a card and wrote a message but the card ended up under stuff on my desk and wasn't mailed until last month. I spoke with her afterwards and she said that the card arrived at a time when she needed it.

MerryMagdalen 03-29-2009 10:56 PM

Thanks a bunch. I will probably get a more generic "thinking of you" card and write a message inside it (including a brief apology for not doing it sooner).

TokyoBayer 03-30-2009 09:48 AM

When you lose someone that close to you, then 3 months is barely a moment. She'll love to hear from you.

MerryMagdalen 03-30-2009 11:45 AM

Quote:

When you lose someone that close to you, then 3 months is barely a moment. She'll love to hear from you.
See, that's what I think too. They'd been together since college and had one of those marriages most people only dream about.

Hampshire 03-30-2009 11:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by matt_mcl (Post 10984878)
As others said, this is actually a really good time to send something, since she may be feeling abandoned after the initial outpouring of sympathy. Making it a personal letter will quell the hint of making up for your lateness.

Yes and yes. If someone very close to you had died (spouse,child) it takes a long while to get over it (and often you never really get OVER it) and it can feel like everyone else has forgotten about it and gotten on with their lives. It feels great when someone months or even years later remembers your loves ones and lets you know they were think about them and you.

Zsofia 03-30-2009 12:04 PM

I do agree with everybody who has said write a letter, not a card. The difference in meaning is by orders of magnitude.

Zjestika 03-30-2009 02:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hampshire (Post 10986615)
Yes and yes. If someone very close to you had died (spouse,child) it takes a long while to get over it (and often you never really get OVER it) and it can feel like everyone else has forgotten about it and gotten on with their lives. It feels great when someone months or even years later remembers your loves ones and lets you know they were think about them and you.


My grandma died 2 years ago. My grandpa and I correspond through letters and recently one of his letters was so sad, about how much he missed my grandma. So I wrote him a letter saying how much she meant to me and how much I love her and miss her, and that I love him too. I let myself just be as sappy as could be. He told my mom it was the sweetest letter he's ever gotten.

I almost didn't send it, though. I felt uncomfortable and unsure of what to do when faced with someone's grief. I'm so glad I did, and would do it again.

RickJay 03-30-2009 04:29 PM

How topical.

Just two nights ago my wife and I had dinner with friends; the guy was my best friend in grade and high school. About seven years ago, IIRC, his father died suddenly. We got onto this topic, and he mentioned that the sympathy he received at the time was nice, but expected. He explained it was the kind words and memories that came months, and even years, afterward that REALLY mattered, because he'll always remember his Dad and it means so much to him that other people do too.

jsgoddess 04-21-2010 03:22 PM

It's nice to be remembered, and it's nice to hear from someone I don't have to inform about my husband's passing. Card or letter wouldn't have mattered to me, just a kind word of affection for both the one who died and the one who's still hanging around.

It's been over a year since Steve died and I'd still not look askance at a sympathy card.

Zsofia 04-21-2010 03:25 PM

Heh, I didn't realize it was a zombie and I was scanning through the responses before I replied with "write a letter!" and damn, there I was, saying the same thing. It kind of gave me a "goose walked over my grave" feeling, as if I had travelled in time to give the same advice I always give.

jsgoddess 04-21-2010 03:40 PM

Oops. I didn't see the zombieness.

Enderw24 04-21-2010 04:02 PM

So dead for 1 week: sympathy card

dead for three months: thinking of you card

dead for 15 months, rising from the grave and eating brains: fruit basket.

redtail23 04-21-2010 04:29 PM

The original question was beautifully answered, but I had to toss this in.

I know some people who knew a teenager who died in an accident some years back.

They still send flowers to his parents each year for his birthday.

Even after all this time, it still makes his parents feel better, to know that someone else remembers and misses their son.

Perciful 04-21-2010 07:26 PM

I would say no. It is the thought that counts.

True story. My client who is almost 90 got a late sympathy card from a former landlord! I mean it had to be years ago when she was newly married. He lives in a different part of the state so it may have taken him a while to find out her husband passed.

The strange part she said was that this landlord treated them awful. He would not turn up the heat when they had a new baby until she put her foot down. The landlord would never speak to them outside. Still 50 years later he sends his condolences.


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:52 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.