Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Art of Condolence

"Offering a written expression of condolence (from the Latin word condolere, to grieve or to suffer with someone) used to be a staple of polite society. 'A letter of condolence may be abrupt, badly constructed, ungrammatical — never mind,' advised the 1960 edition of Emily Post. 'Grace of expression counts for nothing; sincerity alone is of value.'
"But these days, as Facebooking, Snapchatting or simply ignoring friends has become fashionable, the rules of expressing sympathy have become muddied at best, and concealed in an onslaught of emoji at worst. 'Sorry about Mom. Sad face, sad face, crying face, heart, heart, unicorn.'"
This touching article in the NYT reminds me how difficult it is to express heartfelt words to the grieving. I just lost a wonderful UW Critical Care MD friend who taught and cared for patients in the ICU at Harborview. Brain cancer, surgery, radiation, chemo - then a few great years. But now he's gone leaving wife, children and other loved ones behind. What can we say?
I used to call families about a month after a death of their loved one in the ICU. Things had become quiet for them and the loneliness had begun to set in. They seemed so happy to talk and often had lingering questions about the care. The human connection in the main thing we need. Words help but don't suffice. The hand squeeze, the look, the note - it's all about caring. Click here to read The Art of Condolence.

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