Condolence call

To condole or not to condole

My father always said that there are two events that a person must never miss : a person’s wedding and a person’s funeral.

I’ve always been socially awkward at both especially since, in my opinion,  more often than not, one knows either the person who is getting married or the one who is dead. And neither has the time to talk to you at that time.  Especially the one who is dead.

As I am getting older, I seem to be attending more funerals or at least offering condolences. But often, because of  the traffic , it kind of becomes difficult to attend obsequies. An often times when you go to condole, the family is busy with other matters that need their immediate attention.

I then wonder how does one offer condolences to the family in mourning?

  • Can one make a condolence call by telephone or WhatsApp ?
  • Is it polite to call in advance and make an appointment?
  • Then for how long does one sit at a prayer meeting?
  • Can one make a condolence call after the stipulated time of mourning?
  • Is a phone call or an SMS rude?
  • How appropriate is a condolence email?
  • How close should you be to the deceased to offer condolences?
  • Or is it ok to condole if one only knows the next of kin?
  • Does one offer a floral wreath or a bouquet or a garland?

All this confusion set in when I first had to make  my first ever condolence call. Sister Mary Anselm asked me to take a wreathe to the funeral of a class mate who had lost her father.
I had to make the trip on bicycle with the wreathe slung over the handlebars as it would have got crushed had I strapped it on the carrier . Luckily  I managed to get the wreathe there in one piece. But when I went up the stairs to the house, I found it strangely empty. The servant who answered the door told me that the family was at a prayer meeting and accepted the flowers on their  behalf .

The entire episode seemed so meaningless.

Closer to home

Earlier this year when my father-in-law passed away, we didn’t have a prayer meeting.  It is not our custom or tradition to have one and people are expected to drop in any time during the 10 days of official mourning. Yet it was quite annoying and inconsiderate even when someone came to condole at 2 in the afternoon! Imagine disturbing a siesta !

Yesterday 6 months after the event someone came to make an official condolence call. This was all by appointment. Unfortunately while it was convenient for him, it was not particularly convenient for us.  Plus he was delayed in traffic and came an hour late. So by the time he did show up, it was more appropriate to have a sundowner than a cup of tea!

So much time had elapsed between the call and the funeral  that calling it a condolence call was quite meaningless.

Of course we were glad it turned out that way because in my opinion the loss of a person is felt each day and talking about it makes things easier.

What do you think ?

Sharing these solemn and somewhat morose thoughts this Monday evening with Corinne of EverydayGyaan at #MondayMusings.

Image for MondaymusingsImage of Bellybytes


A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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16 Responses

  1. I think each person has circles of friends and family around them, from small, tight-knit ones, moving on to larger and looser circles.

    When expressing condolences, I try and figure out where I stand for those bereaved and the person who has passed on, and express my condolences accordingly.

    We need to be sensitive to the grief, and only extend what support we can, without bothering the bereaved.

    It’s a tricky situation, to be sure.
    Damyanti Biswas recently posted…Do You Read The Humans of New York ? #WATWBMy Profile

  2. Balaka Basu says:

    Even though it is a dark post yet I could control a chuckle when I read the line “And neither has the time to talk to you at that time. Especially the one who is dead.” I also feel awkward visiting both. It is a post with an open-ended question.

  3. Great questions, Sunita. Having had my share of receiving condolences recently, I find the most crazy thing is condoling on one’s Facebook profile page – a direct message would be better, right?
    Also, I hate people asking questions at condolence visits. Questions like ‘How did it happen?’ Especially given that my father was 92 and ailing for 6 months, when someone asked me that I wanted to hit them! 😉

  4. I have always found it extremely difficult to offer condolences. i always avoid texting as I persnally feel it doesnt really bring in the desired effect. I either make a call or pay a visit. And that makes it all the more difficult. I struggle to utter those first few words. But then came a situation in life, which taught me, that condolences are actually not just a mere formality, it actually does bring in a whole lot of warmth to the other party, even if you are distantly connected to them. When I lost my father, I wanted people to give me a hug, hold my hand and just face me eye to eye, even if wordss ere not said. I made me feel better and helped me get put of my shell. This episode taught me that it is ok to not say anything. Just be there for them.

  5. Oh, I’ve had the very same doubts! I’m not even sure what to talk about when you go for condolence to their homes. A friend of mine had lost her father and I’d gone to visit her with a few other friends. I tried talking about unrelated things to get away with the awkwardness, but I guess it was inappropriate to do so? I felt like we shouldn’t’ve gone at all because we did not seem to make her feel any better. Also, I don’t think I would want constant visitors in my home during such a situation either. Even when people came to visit me when my dad was hospitalized, I used to wish they’d let me be on my own. Or this could all be just me shying away from human interaction.
    Darshana Suresh recently posted…ChoicesMy Profile

  6. Shalzmojo says:

    Oh man this is a toughie – weddings are still cheerful and bright; one can lose oneself in the laughter and fun. But at a funeral its just awkward and strange. I havent attended many funerals (Thank God). The ones I have so far have been for parents of my very close friends and I could just hug them and hold them to let them know how I feel.

    Asking weird questions at funerals is such a no-no; I dont understand why everyone needs to be regaled with the “what happened?”

    A note on the side- you see these bollywood funerals where everyone is dressed in White and can be seen laughing and joking – what a social gaffe it seems to be. And a hugely lavish affair! Do they all trot out to show off the latest gadgets/jewellery /clothes – I do wonder often!

    Hugs to you Sunita – I dont think there is a correct protocol for condolences; do what seems appropriate to you, depending on how close or distant the person/his family is to you! Ummm not the best of advice to the questions you have asked here!!
    Shalzmojo recently posted…Save the Aravali Bio Diversity Park in GurugramMy Profile

    • Bellybytes says:

      Well Shalz glad to know that you agree with most of my views ! Our weddings are normally quite dry- and the major activity apart from the ceremony is eating and meeting – many people who want to avoid you or you want to avoid . I like to think I’m invited to most weddings simply to make up numbers – like a Bollywood extra 🙂

  7. Ashvini Naik says:

    I agree offering condolences isn’t easy, specially when the grieving family isn’t that close to you.

    But what’s appalling is that some people who attend funeral meetings end up chit chatting about any random stuff under the sun. Now THAT is what can solemnity be called ‘rude’ when the least that’s expected from them is respecting the departed soul with a few ounces of calmness & sensitivity.

    I was startled when my friend told me that her parents’ match was fixed at a common relative’s funeral.

    • Bellybytes says:

      That’s quite something – marriage made at a funeral !! Well I suppose it was good that both of them attended the funeral that day….. but honestly the funniest things happen in life …

  8. Parul Thakur says:

    All valid questions. Personally, I find this part hard too. When I have to offer, I do it depending on the kind of relationship I had with the person.
    The little humor in the post was reflective of your writing, Sunita. This one is a good post!
    Parul Thakur recently posted…Gratitude List – October 2018My Profile

    • Bellybytes says:

      Thanks Parul for your kind words. Actually writing this post and getting people’s comments made me realise I’m not alone in feeling awkward about offering condolences….

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