Author Topic: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.  (Read 3059 times)

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Raintree

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BG: My friend Sue's mother was very very ill, in hospital for the past couple of months. I know Sue quite well, and knew that she was stressed out to the max over this. Everyone knew. She'd post openly on Facebook about the latest happenings, express her sadness, and lately, asked openly for help in one big task that she was too overwhelmed to handle herself. A community of mutual friends, including myself, pitched in to help. This was only about two weeks ago. She's also been sending me the odd PM to say that things were getting worse. She knows I am also dealing with elderly parent issues, and I have been suggesting trying to come over and keep her company. We have commiserated on such things in the recent past. She agreed but both of our schedules were hectic and it hasn't happened yet. On Monday, I was going to go over there but something came up with my father and I couldn't go. She said "soon" and we left it at that.[end BG]

On Tuesday, Sue's mother died. I only know this because a mutual friend, Cathy, was going to go visit her and Sue texted her to say her mother had died. Cathy told me, but told me not to say anything because it was Sue's news to share, not Cathy's. I agreed and said nothing.

Now, several days have passed and I have heard nothing. I want to offer Sue my condolences, but officially I haven't been told yet, and Cathy is adamant that I must not reveal that she told. I am sure Sue is overwhelmed and the first thing on her mind is definitely not, "I must inform Raintree." Sue knows that I am much closer to Cathy than she is and my feeling is that she would probably assume if she told Cathy, Cathy would automatically have told me. I know Sue well enough; she is not the type to be very private about such things, or get angry about the sharing of that kind of info among friends, while Cathy has always had some extreme (and IMO odd) issues surrounding privacy, and I believe she projects her own issues onto others.

Back to the background: I mentioned I had been trying to get together with Sue for a while, while her mother was still alive, to keep her company and support her. And now it just feels weird to me, knowing what I know, to just say, "So! How are things? Want to get together?" And now I find myself waiting in silence and I feel really horrible for saying nothing at all! Or for being a horrible friend who was going to come over but suddenly drops out of the picture.

I guess since Cathy swore me to secrecy, I'll say nothing in order not to get Cathy mad at me, but I want to know what other e-hellions think. If Cathy hadn't sworn me to secrecy, would it have been a terrible faux-pas to PM Sue and say, "I heard about your mother and I'm sorry for your loss. Would you like me to bring over some dinner?"


Lindee

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2012, 03:22:46 AM »

I think news like Pregnancy is private to announce yourself but deaths are fairly public and are usually announced in the newspaper and often other people are involved in the death/funeral etc so keeping it private is almost impossible. I'd have no problem saying "I heard about your mother and I'm sorry for your loss. Would you like me to bring over some dinner?"  I can't imagine her response would be to grill you over your source.

Lindee

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2012, 03:31:55 AM »
Or if you are really worried about Cathy just say I'm sorry about your mother, which could cover a whole range of options and allow her to let you know what the situation is.

BC12

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2012, 04:38:18 AM »
Cathy put you in a very awkward position by telling you the news but swearing you to secrecy. She couldn't keep it a secret - why should she expect you to? If she honestly thought that Sue should be the one sharing the news, then why didn't she keep quiet about it and actually let Sue share the news? Frankly, I'd be upset if my friend put me in this position. She's asking a lot from you, I think. She's asking you to remain silent while knowing your friend is going through something huge, and to pretend to be shocked when Sue finally tells you, apparently. She's asking you to be dishonest.

So for those reasons, I would contact Sue to offer condolences. Cathy can deal with the fallout, if there even is any. Like Lindee mentioned, it's unlikely Sue would ask where you heard it, and I doubt she'd then confront Cathy and say, "How could you?!" News like this usually travels fast. It's not juicy gossip that must only be whispered about. Cathy is being pretty strange about this.

Or you can let Cathy know of your plans. "It's ridiculous that I'm having to pretend to not know about this. I'm calling Sue to make sure she's okay." If Cathy gets mad at you over it, maybe she's not such a good friend.

cicero

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 04:53:20 AM »
call Sue and offer your condolences. It's the kind of news that is expected to travel through friends and family. Sue may have *thought* that she would make the rounds herself and just got overwhelmed. THe fact that Sue has been open about this throughout the ordeal makes it even more clear (to me) that you should just call her

IMHO - the important thing here is sue and not the fact that Cathy may or may not be in some kind of hot water of "telling".


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Momiitz

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 07:44:25 AM »
I think you should call her and give her your condolences.

My mother passed away unexpectedly two years ago. It was very overwhelming.  I called two people from the hospital, my uncle and my sister. I knew they would start calling family and friends. They both passed on the news to other family members and friends. I remembered weeks later about some people I had forgotten to call about her passing. I was very relieved that my uncle had remembered to call them with the news.

It's my experience that a death in the family is not a big secret or news that must be shared by only one individual. I think Sue may have been overwhelmed and forgot to call you or assumed Cathy would pass along the message.

If you want to keep Cathy out of it you may look for an online death notice or obituary and then if Sue asks how you knew you can say you saw the obituary. I don't think Sue will ask how you found out though.

kckgirl

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2012, 07:47:47 AM »
Think about this: Sue may be wondering why you haven't called since she told Cathy and was sure you would hear it from her.
Maryland

bloo

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2012, 08:50:25 AM »
Think about this: Sue may be wondering why you haven't called since she told Cathy and was sure you would hear it from her.

This. Please call Sue. Now.

peaches

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2012, 09:07:24 AM »
I agree with everyone. The death of a loved one is not something people can or want to keep secret.

Call and offer your condolences (no need to say how you found out).

BarensMom

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2012, 10:46:50 AM »
Call Sue and simply ask how she is doing.  Give her a chance to tell you.

jpcher

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2012, 11:01:04 AM »
Call Sue and simply ask how she is doing.  Give her a chance to tell you.

I agree with this approach.

Especially since you've been planning to get together with her anyway. There's nothing wrong with calling just to say "Hey, how are you?"

A non-call while waiting to hear the news from her would be wrong.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2012, 11:04:26 AM by jpcher »

Deetee

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2012, 11:04:51 AM »
Agree with everyone. A death is not "news". I mean you don't share a sudden death on twitter if you happen to witness it but in this case just reach out with sympathy. When these things happen it is hard to imagine that there is anyone doesn't know.

gramma dishes

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2012, 11:50:47 AM »
I'm with those who suspect that Sue assumed that Cathy would tell you.  Call her and offer your condolences.  As others have said, no need to tell her how you found out and it's extremely unlikely that she'll ask anyway.  But if she DID expect Cathy to tell you, she's probably wondering why the heck she hasn't heard from you?    :(

Raintree

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2012, 02:45:57 PM »
Thanks all. I thought Cathy was being ridiculous as I know Sue well enough to know that she wouldn't be offended by condolences! I understood not saying anything the first day, but several days later??

Anyway, there is an update. Sue has posted the news on Facebook now, and I've sent her a message offering condolences and asking if I can bring her some dinner. And I said if she's feeling too overwhelmed at the moment, just say so.

I just remember that when I was having a mini-crisis (not a death), if anyone had asked "is there anything I can do?" I would have said no, but one friend, without asking, dropped off a load of yummy and nutritious food. It was much appreciated as I didn't have the time or inclination to cook. So I hope I too can be helpful in some concrete way.

rashea

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Re: Offering condolences when you haven't been "officially" told yet.
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2012, 09:20:39 AM »
I think you made the right move getting in touch. And bonus for asking if you could do something specific. I know when my Grandma passed, the best offers were for people to actually do a task (I think the best one was an offer to stop at the store for toilet paper). You are a good friend, and hopefully you can be there for each other.
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