Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, November 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 48° Partly Cloudy
News >  Features

Miss Manners: Sending sympathy card to stranger not custom

By Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one address a person one does not know, or even has any vague connection with, on a sympathy card?

I am often asked and expected to put a word of encouragement to a friend or acquaintance’s friend’s cousin whose daughter is going through surgery. I am at a loss for anything meaningful to write, and I feel like I am intruding on them. I usually either sign my name or say something such as “Thinking of you.”

Is this acceptable? Is there something more appropriate to write? Alternatively, is there a polite way to decline offering my sympathy to a complete stranger while making it clear I bear them no ill will?

GENTLE READER: Let us go with the alternative. Sympathy is of comfort to the bereaved when it comes from those who care about them or cared about the deceased.

To have a stranger’s generalized lamentation about death would, in Miss Manners’ view, only confuse and therefore distress someone who is already emotionally overburdened. The well-meaning instigator needs to be told that, very, very gently.

Visit Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com