Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
My Brother Passed Away. How Do I Respond When People Ask Me If I Have Siblings?
Q. My adult brother passed away two years ago after a long illness. When I meet new people and they ask me whether I have
siblings (and how many), I get upset, because I don’t want to have to launch into a traumatic story. What is the proper reply?
A. The folks asking that question have no idea it is causing you pain. They are merely attempting to make conversation. So the best answer is a simple one that deflects further questioning on a sensitive topic. If you have other siblings, mention them, then add, “I also had a wonderful brother, but I lost him.” Then change the subject.
With this response, you honor your brother’s memory by acknowledging that he lived. But by avoiding giving details, you discourage additional inquisitiveness.