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Human Touch vs. Human Type

May 1, 2012

This past week, I sent two sympathy emails and two sympathy cards – one each for a person and a pet. While the younger generation thinks nothing of sending condolences through emails or Facebook, and the older generation thinks that unacceptable in sensitive matters and flocks to the handwritten note, for me in the middle, I feel torn.

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to express feelings instantly, so for the person in mourning, right away they receive support. However, there’s a human touch element in writing a note that conveys much more than an instant message.

But is one better than the other?

Maybe it depends on how you receive the news. My Auntie M. posted on Facebook that her beloved cat died. Right away friends and family responded with sympathetic messages. Sure, it may only be a cat, but to her and the millions who love their pets, their deaths still leave a void. But it’s not just pets that people are posting of loved ones passing.

A younger friend of mine found out via Facebook that her college roommate’s father passed away. The distraught friend, like so many others, had reached out to the masses to share this most horrible news in the only way a 20-year-old would. Instantly her page blew up with friends and family sending condolences and short messages of compassion. And it turns out, in her time of need, that instant comfort was exactly what she needed.

But for someone stuck in between these two generations, I choose to do both. While sympathy doesn’t need to be spelled out in longhand for it to be effective, I do find that when the flurry of messages cease and the mourner is left with their thoughts and heartache, there’s something about receiving a colorful envelope in the mail – one that stands out from the bills and the junk – that offers a special little lift of support, something that cannot be found online.


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  1. Felice this is a well-thought-out solution to a common problem. Thanks for sharing.

  2. shelly cohen permalink

    Good observation of a conflict many of us have. Doing both is a perfect solution: instant support
    and personal tangible support weeks later when the mourning is still real and the loss maybe even harder….

  3. I too love to do both. I recently visited a neighbor in the hospital, I had spoken to her via facebook and new she had broncitus and was going to have to stay in the hospital for a number of days. So, I took her a card on Sunday night, and the response she gave me and I felt really made me feel good. She even posted on facebook how much my surprise visit to her and the simple card we gave her meant to her. Why is it that sometimes we feel facebook or e-mail is enough. People love to see us in person, or get that bright colored envelope in the mail. (Perhaps all they ever receive in the mail is bills). What a treat to get something other then a bill that needs to be paid.

    Thanks for reinforcing my thinking that I need do do both.

  4. I agree. I love FB and e-mail, but for things such as the death of a loved one, nothing beats a handwritten note!!

    • marcia boland-wells permalink

      Thanks for this column Felice. Yes, I announced (and was able to put a picture up) that our wonderful cat Max had passed. I posted it on FB & also sent it out to some friends via e-mail. It made me feel good to do it and even better to get instant responses. Several days later we received flowers & then cards started coming in. These are cards that Hallmark makes designed especially for the loss of pets. It’s Universal! We have been touched by people’s response to our loss no matter how they sent it. Most of all these responses remind us that we are loved.

      Auntie M.

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