DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. I found out through a mutual friend that this past Sunday, my doctor’s daughter passed away at the young age of 18. The last time I saw him, he had spoken of his daughter fondly (this was while she was still alive).
He is my gynecologist, and I am currently pregnant, so I will see him again very soon, and very often, for the next few months. I feel almost guilty about the upcoming birth of my child while he grieves for the loss of his.
I want to write him offering my condolences and maybe somehow mention the beautiful thoughts he had shared with me on my last visit. Any ideas how to approach this?
Also, I’m unsure of how and how often to bring her up in my upcoming appointments, if at all. How do I ask how he is doing without sounding like I feel sorry for him? How do I share my joy without stomping on his pain? Should I suppress it? Should I comment on it?
I have no idea how to move forward with this. I want to let him know that my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family without suffocating him with my condolences.
GENTLE READER: That is the beauty of the condolence letter. It allows the sender a forum purely to express sympathy without requiring a response from the mourner other than thanks. Write a letter, including, as you stated, how touched and affected you were by the stories your doctor shared with you.
Miss Manners suggests that you do this before you see him next. Then at appointments, keep it professional and ask the questions that you would normally ask. He is your doctor, and a gynecologist. He will surely have realized that he will be around expectant mothers -- and figure out for himself how to manage that. If he wants to talk about the situation, he will. Your only duty is to make his job as easy for him as possible.