Thursday, March 08, 2012

Condolence Don'ts

Guest Blogger Isa Catto continues with her series on Condolence Etiquette. Today's topic is Condolence Don'ts

Don't stand in front of the person with head cocked and spaniel eyes and say nothing. This happened more times than I care to remember. At one family event, I was approached by an acquaintance who just stood there and I decided to ride it out as a social experiment. After a minute she let out a long exhale, the kind you hear in a yoga class. Her left eye was twitching. Still silence. Our young son needed immediate attention and interrupted us. Which proves that there is a God. That was agony. And really annoying. It shouldn’t be up to the bereaved to read minds or make someone else feel better by jump starting the conversation.

Don't allude to inheritance. This is not your business and only go there if the bereaved specifically mentions it. Fortunately this did not happen to me, but someone did insinuate to a friend of mine that she was going to be on “easy street” after her father died. And since the estate was left to charity, this assumption wasn’t true.

Don't indulge in competitive grieving. This is not about your loss, but the bereaved’s. I had one acquaintance imply that he suffered much more when he lost his mother at age 25, than I did when my mother died, since I was already an aged 43 . I am sure he suffered, but that was not the time to talk about his loss.

Don't offer unsolicited advice. The barista at my coffee shop offered me the name of her psychic so I could talk to my parents. That left me speechless.

Don't urge people to “get over it.” Mourning is a solitary and individual process. There is no timeline.

Don't indulge in platitudes like, "well, life must go on" or "life is for the living" or "they are still with you". There may be some wisdom in them, but they sound condescending and trite. I had woman ask me how I was (how I hate that phrase – avoid it) and I when I replied that I was alright, she countered: "Oh are you still sad?" Why yes, I was still sad six weeks after my father’s death.

Next up: Tips for the Bereaved. What are your suggestions?

1 comment:

Ruby's said...

There is so much to learn everyday.
Thanks for sharing these etiquette with us.