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It’s common knowledge that the loss of a loved one can be very heartbreaking. That’s why when we learn that a friend, colleague, or acquaintance has been bereaved, we feel the need to do something. As Nigerians, most times, we pay a visit. The problem however, is that we can be quite unsure of what to do during this condolence visit. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Crying More Than the Bereaved

There seems to be an assumption amongst most Nigerians that you must arrive weeping and wailing. This sometimes gets so dramatic that they roll on the floor or even collapse on the bereaved to deposit their tears. Whether this display of emotions is heartfelt or just an act is another matter entirely. However, whichever it may be, please don’t!  The essence of a visit is to help the bereaved regain emotional stability, not to tear away at the little they have left.

What Happened?

The most common question that follows after arrival is “What happened?”  This is a ‘no-no!’ You need to ask yourself: did I come to make this person feel better, or am I here for piping hot gist I can serve my social media community. Some may want to argue that asking shows concern. In as much as you may think so, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only visitor they will have. Most times the bereaved is made to retell the incident over and over again. The feeling is like opening a wound that is attempting to heal. If the bereaved chooses to tell you, then that’s fine. If not, let it go. Hearing the story won’t bring back the dead anyway.

It is God’s will.

This line is a classic, especially amongst religious folk. The flip side of it, which seems worse to me, is the conclusion that the devil found a way to attack, because the bereaved was not prayerful.  Please, this can come off as judgmental and insensitive. Your opinion as to God’s hand or the devil’s role in the matter should be kept to yourself. After all, you’re not God.

“Let me have…”

I find this the most baffling. People come on a condolence visit and subtly request for refreshment. This is very selfish! Even if the bereaved offers you some out of politeness, it is only humane that you decline.  It is not a wedding. Somebody DIED! A drink of water is more than enough.

Do you really have to?

Nigerians seem to have a customary mission when one is bereaved. I’d like to call this mission, “OPERATION VISIT”. Every person; child, old, young, unborn, feel they must ‘show face’. The result of this is the bereaved being forced to entertain visitors from morning till evening, for days. Some span till weeks! This robs the bereaved of time to process what has happened, and delays the healing process. Moreover, for the religious, they need alone time with God. A phone call or text message enquiring if it’s okay for you to come over reflects thoughtfulness.

After Many Days

After the bombardment of visits; particularly after the burial, people just zoom back to their personal lives not bothering to check on the one that was bereaved. Yes, you moved on but the bereaved still battles with the absence of the deceased. Economics teaches us that scarcity of a thing increases its value. I believe the same principle applies here. Instead of throwing your visit amongst the countless ones at the initial time, try saving yours for much later. This resonates with the bereaved more. So, with all the above points cancelling out all the techniques in your “condolence handbook”, you might be wondering what’s left? Are you supposed to sit there and say nothing? Candid answer… yes! In fact, contrary to what you assume, that is the most heartfelt condolence strategy. Your presence, plus a few, or no words at all, says a whole lot more. It would be nice to make our condolence visits more about the bereaved than ourselves.

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This article was first published on 2nd June 2017


Chioma Diru is a prolific writer, agricultural entrepreneur and life coach with a heart for children. Chioma works freelance for the BBC Media Action. Her work titled “The Twin Logs” was nominated for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize, 2016. She is Creative Director and Co-founder, Canuli Media which specializes in children’s entertainment. She is the author of “Sodality”, a children’s novel which you can buy here.Email her:

Comments (4)

4 thoughts on “What Not to Do When On A Condolence Visit”

  • Oby

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (comment token failure) *]
    May we nor know a bereaved in the near future, amen!

    • Amen to that Oby. Thanks for your comment.

  • Couldn’t have been better written!

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