Good GriefAvoid the impulse to give a grieving person space. Reach out without the expectation of a prompt reply, says etiquette expert Margaret Shepherd.

Good GriefAvoid the impulse to give a grieving person space. Reach out without the expectation of a prompt reply, says etiquette expert Margaret Shepherd.

When it comes to acknowledging death, we’re often puerile and ill at ease. Despite being desperate to console a loved one, we find ourselves anxious and stammering for the right words.

Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself with Style and Grace, believes talking about death is still taboo in Western society because many people have never had to deal with it directly. “It happens in a hospital or when they’re not there, so they’re talking about something they don’t know about personally and it makes them uncertain,” she explains in a call from her home in Boston.

For Shepherd, sitting by her mother’s side while she died took the mystery and eeriness out of death, and helped her get over the fear of talking about the s...

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