Sunday, December 4, 2022

How to Express Condolences to a Stranger


Helping Someone You Don’t Know Through a Hard Time

So the premise of this writing may be a little abstract. How would you know a stranger well enough to offer you condolences? Isn’t the concept itself a bit of an unrealistic abstraction? Well, in most scenarios, yes. But there are a lot of situations where, for example, you might work with someone for years that you never really got to “know”.

Sure, you saw Earl the tech guy walking his cart down the hallway every day around 3:22 for a full decade, but you never introduced yourself. Suddenly you hear around the water cooler that Earl’s favorite pup got hit by a car yesterday, and he’s trying not to show it, but it’s hurting him bad. Well, then you might want to express some condolence to him, even as a stranger.

Your and Earl’s situation isn’t the only circumstance where you’re in a position to offer a stranger some condolences, and the best way to go about it can be hard to determine. Here we’ll go over a few tips to help you determine what would be most appropriate in terms of comforting someone who, truly, you don’t know.

1. Tier the Gift to the Situation

Sometimes someone is experiencing a great loss, sometimes they’re experiencing a minor one. How bad the loss is may be subjective. Earl might be sadder at the loss of a favorite pet than an ex-girlfriend. He might be sadder still should a family member pass away. In all three of these situations, condolence flowers are appropriate; it’s their size that’s at issue.

You wouldn’t want to get Earl a huge bouquet of condolence flowers for his deceased pup. A few will do, with a nice little card of some variety, and maybe some candy. For the loved one or the lost girlfriend, you’d want to go a bit further. Even if Earl doesn’t seem sad that Cammy bought the farm, a big bouquet is appropriate.

2. Not All Gifts Require a Giver

Offering condolences isn’t about being seen as a comforter, it’s about actually comforting someone. A lot of people, men especially, don’t like leaning into emotions, even when the time is right to do so. Just being there, whether or not you’re known to the grieving person, could incidentally throw a “wrench” in the “works” of their grief. It won’t always, but it could.

What you might do is drop off a little box of sweets, maybe a little bouquet of flowers, or something else at their desk when they’re not there. As they return, they’ll find the gift, and at least for a moment, they’ll be curious about who dropped it off and forget their grief. When you give a gift in this way, you also give someone the ability to respond without any social mask.

 3. Being There to Listen

Sometimes it’s better for someone not to know you when you come to offer condolences. If someone is sad and doesn’t know you, they don’t have to be embarrassed about how you perceive them. If you see someone sad, who you’ve never met, and maybe don’t even work with, it can be worthwhile to sit with them and simply listen.

When you’re in an emotional state, you’ve often got much to say, but you’re not quite sure how to say it, and most people have their own issues to contend with and don’t have time to listen. If you encounter a sad person who needs help and has some free time, just letting them vent can be very helpful. If you can’t give a physical gift, the gift of time is worthwhile.

Helping Someone Through Grief

Life is the most beautiful thing in the world, and as a result, when there are difficulties, they can be some of the saddest. Everybody is in a hard spot at some point, and often the hardest of straits develop when no one is around to help you through them.

You will have an opportunity to offer condolences to a stranger at some point. Flowers, anonymous gifts, and just listening will do much to help them through their grief.


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