Q: One of your friends posted on social media that a loved one passed away. Is it OK to ask how the person died if it isn’t explicitly stated?
A: If you’re curious about how your friend’s loved one died but you’re not close enough to already know or ask in person, then asking is prying. Take your lead from the post itself: If your friend made a simple statement, respond with something short like, “Sorry for your loss.”
If you are close to this friend, it’s still a little weird to ask how the loved one died. A more supportive way to connect with your friend is to send a message with something like, “I saw your post. ‘Sorry for your loss’ seems as if it’s not quite enough, but I’m here if you need someone to listen.”
Many people are so worried about saying the wrong thing to a mourner that they say nothing at all. That’s the worst response. The important thing is to acknowledge your friend’s loss. Saying something is way better than saying nothing.
MEGAN DEVINE, author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand”
A: Appropriate reactions to a death online involve written condolences, kind memories of your friend’s loved one or offering assistance. The most inappropriate reaction: inquiring about the cause of death.
Before you start prying, figure out why it’s important for you to know. Ask yourself, “Will knowing the answer allow me to help my friend, or is it just morbid curiosity?”
Give the friend a call or pay a visit, and then give her space to share whatever she wants. Your friend will always remember the loving support you gave her in those early, awful days, just as she’ll remember if you acted in a way that was completely thoughtless.
REBECCA SOFFER, co-author of “Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome”