Q: One of your friends posted on social media that a loved one passed away. Is it OK to ask if the person died of COVID-19?

A: Whenever we hear of someone passing, if we are not aware of the cause, it's a normal response to wonder how it happened. Was the person ill? Was it an accident? Was it self-inflicted? This year, of course, our minds immediately jump to: Was it COVID-19?

It's always been a good idea to think through how we respond before we post a comment or DM with a question about how the loved one passed away. That has become paramount during a sensitive situation like the pandemic.

I recommend thinking through your response and leaning toward "less is more" for the time being. You probably will discover the cause of death eventually. If your question isn't addressed organically, chances are that another friend who is close to the source will learn what happened.

The only change would be if you were in close contact with the loved one, or if you have a medical reason for needing to know.

MELANIE ROSS MILLS, relationship expert and temperament therapist

A: If you read online that someone has died, asking how oversteps social bounds. This was true long before COVID-19 came along. The rule is simple: If no one volunteers, it's none of your business.

People die every day from a wide range of reasons. A question about the death may come across as insensitive and force that person to make excuses for their loved ones to maintain their privacy. Further, it may bring back unnecessary pain of the loss.

If an obituary doesn't offer the cause of death, never ask. No matter what your intentions are, it's rude to ask how someone died. A good rule of thumb is to say, "I'm sorry for your loss. How can I help?"

LISA GROTHS, etiquette expert