Nancy MitchellNancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).
Host: What is an appropriate gift for a friend or a neighbor who has lost a loved one?
Nancy Mitchell: The first gift that comes to mind is flowers and they are always appropriate. Flowers can be sent of course, to the funeral home, to memorial service or better yet they can be sent to the home. So, the grieving family will have something there, after the service is over or if they ve invited people to come back to their home afterward. A permanent plant is sometimes even better than cut flowers or a flower arrangement. Think about the permanence of the plant. Think about giving perhaps a shrub or a rose bush or something that they could set out into their yard that would be a reminder of the loved one.
It all depends on your relationship to the person. If it is a casual relationship you may just want to contribute to, a fund that is being collected at your office for a business colleague. You sign the card; they know you are thinking about them. If your relationship is closer you may have in fact, contribute to this joint gift, but then do a separate card on your own. Then give the most thoughtful gift and that is the gift of your time and yourself. Call, speak to somebody, visit them, offer your help. Think about all of the things that happen when a loss of loved one takes place in a family. Could you be there to drive out-of-town visitors from the airport to where they are staying? Could you help transport people to the funeral home? Could you pick up extra food? Could you supply a meal for the family? Could you do something that s above and beyond signing a card or sending flowers? That will depend on your relationship to the person.