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Need some social etiquette advice (not related to religion)

I need some advice and I thought this would be a good place to ask without someone in my social circle seeing it.

There is a woman who is not my boss, but is the director of a school service that I am a part of. The service serves the region and she works in a different city. She directs meetings that I go to quarterly, and she organizes professional development workshops that I attend. She is exceptionally generous, I respect her and I consider her a friend although we don't socialize outside our professional capacity. I give that background information so you understand the nature of our relationship.

Her brother died a few weeks ago, and I just realized that the sympathy card I bought was not sent. What do I do? Send a new one with an apology and explanation inside? Send a note with a Christmas card? I feel like a heel.

carlyhorton 7 Dec 16

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Don't feel heelish...people make mistakes.


Just send the card and apologize for it’s timing.


I think the suggestion to send a Christmas card. when you see her give her your condolences. Grief is something that is an ongoing process. After the funeral it seems everyone disappears and no one checks on you ,at least that's been my experience. I'm sure she would appreciate your condolences even if time has passed.


Just send the card you have, unless it's dated or something like that. Grief is around for a while so getting a card later might actually be a good thing...people are still thinking of her and the pain she's going through. The holiday's are particularly hard if you've lost someone recently.


Send the card that you have, - there's no statute of limitations on such things.

It's the thought - right ?


Send the card with no further explanation nor apology.

SamL Level 7 Dec 16, 2017

I wouldn't link Christmas too it. Your sentiments and regards are enough. Otherwise it might appear you are trying to kill two birds with one note.

You're right. That would be tacky. Hadn't thought of it that way.


Best thing is probably hand deliver the original and verbally explain the mix up.


There's no real need for a new card. I do not recommend sending her a note in her Christmas card as it could possibly make her more emotional (mainly due to it being Christmas). If you are going to take any future action then I suggest a face to face consolation. People need that kind of interaction when it comes to an emotional matter such as this.

However due to the nature of your relationship I would not advise you speak to her about this matter. It is more of a personal matter and she has to go through it either alone or with friends who are closer to her than you (No offense intended).

As we all know. You are the one who needs to make the decision in the end. Do what you believe is right, that way you won't have any regrets. If you feel that she will benefit from you consoling her then do so.

Also this is coming from a 19 year old man so I understand it you disregard this comment completely as I have insufficient experience in dealing with events such as these.

Very good advice about not bringing it up in a Christmas card. Thank you.

You're welcome. Sorry I can't be of more help, I don't have much experience with people in situations such as these.

I hope it all goes well


I agree with @evidentialist
Just the right answer.


I see no reason to make an apology or excuses. I know from experience that there is a flurry of sympathy at the time of a death but then people fade away and the bereaved is left to "deal with it." You should just send a hand written letter of sympathy acknowledging that your colleague is still probably hurting and offer your friendship and an ear to listen to anything she has to say and offer to help in any way you can. Maybe invite her to dinner just to talk.


You don't sound very close to her. I mean, not close at all. Why would you even worry about it? I wouldn't send anything, and just let it go.

It was hard to sum up the relationship in a short post. She's the head of all the school librarians. So she's not my boss at work, but she's a HUGE advocate for us librarians in the region. She's a gigantic source of resources and money for our schools. She even takes some of us (including me) on trips to Book Expo America... I went to the one in Chicago and NYC. She sets up the trip and pays for it with her organization's money. Although we don't hang out socially outside work related things, I guess I'd consider her more like a scout leader. That kind of relationship.

But you're a bit right. It's that weird middle ground where I don't really know anything about her family, yet she's not just a person I work with. It's hard to describe. But I do feel bad that I failed to get the letter sent and wonder if it's better to just forget it and hope she didn't notice the absence of my letter in the flood of letters she probably got.

@carlyhorton That changes things a bit. And obviously it bothers you greatly. Why not just send the card you had originally intended to send? I mean, your sentiment about her brother dying is the same, right? I'm sure she's still mourning. I know, what about the apparent tardiness? I think that won't matter to her, especially given what you've told of her. It seems as though not sending it bothers you more than the tardiness. I doubt she's going to ask why it was late, if she even considers 2 or 3 weeks all that late.


A note with a new card would be appropriate.


Condolences should not be in company with Christmas greeting or any other festive notice. What I would do is send another sympathy/condolence card with a simple explanation, not an apology as such. Two days later, send the Christmas card so that the two are separate and distinct.

That's good advice. I feel like a jerk... when it comes to remembering birthdays and special events, I'm absolutely the worst. I know that card is sitting in the bag that it left the store in. And I actually don't even know where it is right now! I suck.

@carlyhorton - No ma'am, you don't suck. You're human, just like the rest of us. Don't beat yourself up about it. Do what you feel needs to be done, then don't worry about it.

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