I won't (at least initially) provide links to specific questions: if I'm later asked to, or you find them anyway, please be careful of triggering any "meta effect".

A question from October 2018 from a woman whose husband died just over a year ago has appeared on the front page of PF&M by dint of being "Protected" a couple of hours ago. Nearly two years ago (October 2017), another "old bereavement-related question" (originally asked in 2015) popped onto the front page because someone else provided a new (not very good, IMHO) answer. I answered that one before I realized that the original was so old.

In both cases, the person who asked the question has very likely already dealt with the issue they were asking about: answering such questions is unlikely to help them but will – if they are still active on PF&M – bring the bereavement back into their minds when they see the notification of a new answer. However, as PF&M is trying to be a "library of detailed answers to every question about money or personal finance", having such questions answered is part of our raison d'être, and we should be trying to help anyone else with the same problem in the future.

Should we:

  1. Answer such questions completely "as normal". Take the view that if the OP asks a question on PF&M about a bereavement, they accept the risk of being reminded of that bereavement at any point in the future.

  2. Answer normally, but with a preface along the lines of "This may no longer be of help to the OP (and apologies if this stirs painful memories), but for anyone else in the same situation..."

  3. Lock or delete such questions to avoid generating potentially painful alerts for the OP. Locking is probably more appropriate where there is at least one good answer; deletion perhaps more appropriate if there are no answers.

  4. Something I've not thought of.

2 Answers 2


Bear in mind that many users just post once and don't come back. If we're lucky they at least stick around to read answers to their question :-) Unless they get email notifications, which I think is opt in, they will never know about new answers.

My view is that (1) is the best option. It's pretty hard to second guess what people's reaction will be, and adding an explicit apology probably doesn't help much. If the user has stuck around, they'll probably have some idea how the network works so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. If repeated answers are an issue they can always flag the post for us to disassociate from them. Of course I appreciate the user would have to know they can do that and may not want to go to that extra effort. But we do at least have that safety valve.

BTW in the example you refer to, the question is on the front page because someone posted a nonsense answer that has now been deleted. The protection was done after that to prevent future junk. Because the answers were deleted quite quickly, it's unlikely they'd have made it into an email notification, which are only sent every 24 hours by default.

  • I'm tending to side with (1) as well (I did add a comment to my answer to the other question once I realized the age, but in that case, the user no longer active). For the current question in question, this link seems to cover things: do you think it worth adding an answer based on it, or – given laws around tax credits etc. may change (and therefore today's answer might not benefit future readers), is it best to let it lie?
    – TripeHound
    Jul 23, 2019 at 8:16
  • @Tripehound I think that question is a good example of one where the user will never know anyway, so you might as well answer it if you think it's worthwhile otherwise. Jul 23, 2019 at 8:49

As a bereaved person, I strongly recommend #2. I would appreciate the consideration the preface showed. (It also demonstrates that the person answering is not just going after rep.) As for stirring up painful memories, finding an old Q on Stack Exchange would be pretty low on my scale of painful memories. I find #3 condescending and underestimating the toughness that I and other bereaved people I know demonstrate nearly every day.

I fully agree with:

...having such questions answered is part of our raison d'être, and we should be trying to help anyone else with the same problem in the future.

The exception would be if the Q were trivial.

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