Expressing condolences to strangers

| 14/02/2018

Is it appropriate to offer condolences to people who are not your friends, family or even acquaintances? Online condolences to complete strangers? Kim Cattrall’s response to Sarah Jessica Parker has made me think about etiquette for expressing condolences.

Ask Auntie CNS Local LifeAuntie’s answer: For those of you unfamiliar with the reference in the question, and without dwelling too much on it, actress Parker offered condolences via Instagram to actress Cattrall on the loss of her brother. Cattrall’s response, also on Instagram, was a very strong and quite vicious rebuke, to say the least (see below).

My first reaction to this public spat is that we should not use that as an example to follow for our own behaviour. We do not know the story behind it, for one thing, and for another, as a rule I do not take my cue from what a celebrity might or might not do in any situation.

Please don’t take that as a critique of you. I think it is an important question in general because at some point or another we all will find ourselves having to offer condolences.

But you asked specifically about online expressions of sympathy to someone you don’t know. I will admit right away that I have never done that. What I have found in my own experiences, though, was that no one has ever reacted badly to my offering condolences on the loss of a loved one regardless of how well I knew the one who passed or those they left behind. Therefore, I feel comfortable in saying that most people would appreciate you taking the time to express your sympathy at their suffering.

Personally, I have never felt compelled to offer an online message of sympathy as you describe, but I tend to keep a low profile (which I suppose is no surprise considering the name of this column). I’m guessing that if you post a public condolence to someone, you would not necessarily expect to get a reply. The person it was addressed to can choose to read it, ignore it or possibly acknowledge it.

So, if your intentions were simply to offer words of comfort then I think you should send the message without any expectations and with the hope that your condolences were well received.


Category: Ask Auntie, Misc Questions

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Twitter/Instagram Twits . If only they realised no one cares what they say or think.

  2. Anonymous says:

    No harm in it. I’ve seen, what appears to be family members reacting positively to anonymous messages of condolences.

    I think your example is more about personal ax grinding between those particular ladies than it is about sincerity or etiquette.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That response from Kim says more about her mentality than it says about SJParker.Get some help Kim.