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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: I skipped a funeral for work. What can I do to make it up?

You can apologize for missing the funeral, but what you must not do is make it about yourself. Refrain from making excuses, or explaining how bad you feel, or begging for forgiveness.

See more Ani at etsy.com/ca/shop/anicastillo.

Ani Castillo / For Metro

See more Ani at etsy.com/ca/shop/anicastillo.

Dear Ellen,

I think I made a social faux pas and I don't know how to fix it.

My partner and I run a small business. One of our first and most loyal clients, who has been working with us for more than 10 years, lost his elderly father almost a month ago. There was a large Italian funeral for him, and we know it would have been proper for us to pay our respects. But both of us had to work. Then we spent three weeks hemming and hawing about the proper thing to do to acknowledge his loss, and now all this time has gone by and I feel like anything we do will look like an afterthought. What do you think?

Joanna, Winnipeg

Dear Joanna,

It’s never too late to apologize for missing an important event. And when someone has suffered the loss of a loved one, it’s never too late to tell them you’re sorry for what they’re going through, and that you’re thinking of them.

As for worrying that anything you do “will look like an afterthought” — uh, yeah, it will, because that’s what it is. An afterthought.

So be it. Better late than never. Your feelings and embarrassment are irrelevant here. The right thing to do now is buy a card, write a note of sympathy, and send it off ASAP.

You can apologize for missing the funeral, but what you must not do is make it about yourself. Refrain from making excuses, or explaining how bad you feel, or begging for forgiveness.

The point of the card is to express sympathy to them for what they — not you – have gone through.

In fact, if you’re going out to buy a sympathy card, do yourself a favour and pick up half a dozen. Sending a sympathy card is one of the easiest and kindest things you can do for someone after the death of a family member or friend — even if you’re late by a few weeks, or even months. I learned this after a work friend told me how much she appreciated getting a card from me when her mother died. And I had the same experience a few years later when my father died. There was something about opening the envelope, holding the card in my hand, and feeling the warm regard of friendship that was powerfully comforting.

So don’t delay. Send it today. And you’ll feel better too.

Need advice? Email Ellen: askellen@metronews.ca

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