Just as he says he avoids writing biographies in which that person "never met a stranger," had a "smile that lit up a room" and the rest of those hanky clichés that come out when somebody dies, he also avoids the opposite.
"Had I written (the Johnson-Reddick obit) as a news story, I would want to talk to somebody who knew their mom," he said. "Not necessarily to sanitize it, but she was a human being after all."
Meanwhile, trying to console a person who has experienced a loss is tricky -- especially if the relationship was contentious. Above all, Friedman recommends being mindful of the words you use.
"I'm sorry for your loss" doesn't work, Friedman said. "'I'm sorry' is a dangerous line if you didn't know the person who died."
Friedman suggests instead using open-ended phrases like: "I don't even know what to say. I can't imagine what this has been like for you." Turn the statement into more of a question, giving the person an opening to tell you the truth if they feel up to it.
"'I'm sorry for your loss,' doesn't cut it when a person is a monster," Blanton said. "Having someone say, 'I'm so sorry for what he did to you. I wish someone had been there for you' does wonders."
Blanton sees where the Reddicks were coming from. They are trying to be heard because they might not have been able to express anger as children (or were too scared to), she said, and they're doing the best they can with the tools they have.
Her response: "We hear you."