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Miss Manners: Abusive parent is dead, and I don’t know what to say

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Dear Miss Manners: How do you properly express condolences when told that a distant family member who abused you and whom you hate has passed away?

“I’m sorry for your loss” sounds wrong. I’m not.

“I hope he didn’t suffer.” It wouldn’t be sincere; I hope he did, a little. “Is there anything I can do?” No, the family was complicit in their denial of the abuse. I don’t want to help them at all.

Silence is not an option. It would be noticed and questioned, and I would end up looking like an insensitive asshole. What to do?

Although it can help you, Miss Manners warns against too much complacency for your intention to be sincere. You want the words you speak to be true, but the false impression you leave is that you are sensitive to their loss.

All right: “Thank you for letting me know. I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. My condolences.” It might be compromising you too much to offer you your “deepest condolences.”

Dear Miss Manners: My husband’s dentist called, mumbled something about a dental office and said, “Mr. Jones?” »

Because I’m a woman and because I thought it was a telemarketer, I asked, “Do I sound like Mr. Jones?” and the lady said “sorry” and hung up. When my husband came home, I told him what had happened and he called them back.

A few days later they called back, asking for Joseph Jones. At least they asked for him by his full name this time, but again I thought he was a telemarketer, so I asked, “Who’s calling?” before giving the phone to my husband.

I told him later that they really should learn phone etiquette, and he said, “That’s not my job. So I took it upon myself and wrote them a letter explaining what had happened and saying that I hoped it was more helpful than rude.

However, when I gave the letter to my husband to review, he told me not to send it and that was more rude than helpful.

Is he right ? I don’t expect them to write to Miss Manners anytime soon. But I’m not going to tell anyone who calls, asking my husband, whether he’s home or not.

hard like that is to comment on your draft letter to the dentist without being authorized to read it, Miss Manners will try.

The dentist’s office called and took you for them. When they received a sarcastic reply, they apologized and hung up (thinking maybe they were being told your husband wasn’t home?).

When they called back, they guessed a different form of your husband’s name that might be more acceptable than the one used previously. You asked who was calling, and they answered.

You have now written a letter to correct their manners. As Miss Manners has yet to hear of any breaches of etiquette committed by anyone at the dentist’s office – and that correcting another person’s manners (even a telemarketer’s) is in itself rude – she will agree , except additional information, with your husband that the letter should not be sent.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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