And even though their intentions are good, they sometimes can say and do the stupidest things. 

Let me start off by saying I get it. Not everyone is comfortable around grief and not everybody knows what to say or do around someone who’s grieving. I get it. So even though the title is a little jusgemental, this is more of a guide of what appropriate responses would be if you happen to bump into someone who’s recently lost a loved one. And I use the word ‘bump’ on purpose. 

It seems a lot of people think sadness or death is contagious and instead of carrying on a friendship like normal they just disappear. And that’s why I use the word ‘bump’. People you considered good friends, or at least close acquaintances, suddenly stay away. No phone calls, no spontaneous visits, no messages. Nothing. Let me put your mind at ease. You will not catch my grief. 

On the other side of the spectrum are the friends you still see, as you normally would, but they don’t ask how you are. Not once. It’s like they’re thinking ‘if we don’t mention it it means it hasn’t actually happened.’ These are friends who know your mom or dad, who would ordinarily ask how they’re doing, but now…nothing. It’s as though the person I loved the most in the entire world, the reason for me being, just never existed. I promise you can ask me how I’m doing. Besides been acceptable it’s also just good manners.

In case you’re getting bored, I beg of you that you just read this next point. And then you can:

unfollow

delete

block

All of the above 

You know the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing”? Well the same applies here but it’s more a case of “if you don’t have anything intelligent / kind / empathetic to say then say nothing.” I know this sounds awful and is possibly the reasons you stay away or don’t ask how we are but here’s a tip. You know how when you ask your partner if your bum looks fat in a pair pants, or if he thinks the cute little blonde standing next to him is prettier than you, he instinctively says “no, of course not!” That’s a learned response. A very clever one. One that has probably saved many a relationship and a life. If he were to elaborate he’d probably dig his own grave, so ” no, of course not!” is where he should stop. Same with someone who’s lost a loved one. 

If you don’t feel equipped to say ‘all the right things’ then just say “I am so sorry” and leave it at that. That’s the smart thing to do. If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of death and dying do not feel you need to elaborate with things like:

Well they were old so at least they lived a good life (if a parent has passed away)

At least they didn’t suffer (if anyone has passed away)

The upside is you can have another one (if you’ve lost a child)

You’re young enough to find someone else (if a spouse or partner has died)

Shame man, you’ll feel better soon

It was God’s will (if anyone had died)

They’re in a better place (if anyone has died)

These are often standard responses but in case nobody has told you, let me be the one. They are stupid responses. They leave the grieving person feeling worse than before. 

On Friday I went to have my haircut, and the woman cutting my hair asked me why I look so tired. She also asked why I had eczema on my head. I answered that I wasn’t sleeping well and that the eczema was probably from stress. She asked why I was stressed. “The usual stuff I suppose. It’s almost the end of of the year. It’s been a long one and my mom recently passed away!”

Granted she’s from the Ukraine so her English isn’t great, so I can forgive her slightly, but she then went on to say:

Ah, the old age? (I’m assuming from the way I look she thought my mom was ancient)

No, not really. She wasn’t that old. It was sudden and we weren’t expecting it. 

Ah, an accident? 

No. She passed away in hospital

Ah at least she died in a hopsital. With people around her. It would have been horrible if she was on her own!
Before I stabbed her with her own scissors I asked her if we could change the subject and chat about something a little more upbeat. Which we did.

My best moments since my mom died have been: 

Friends messaging me with a beautiful quote or just to say they’re thinking of me 

Friends who didn’t know my mom but acknowledge her and my pain. And openly talk about it 

Talking to friends who have a lost a parent because they just get it. They understand the desperate void left

Friends who meet me for a cup of coffee and we sit and talk crap for an hour or so and don’t visibly cringe if I mention a moment that happened to include my mom

 Hopefully this will be of use to you. If not, delete it and move on. At your own peril.

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2 thoughts on “I see stupid people…

  1. I could have written this post and I’ve written it a thousand times in my head since I lost my mom suddenly (in an accident) last year and no she wasn’t that old… What I found the hardest was friends who I considered close friends not “dropping by” because where I grew up that is standard. I even had to ask another friend if it was common place for South Africans not to
    Visit friends who have lost loved ones (generalist i know), but it was bothering me for me and if I admit over a year on it still bothers me. Only one friend came to visit (the best, we cried and laughed so hard, the first time I laughed in the few days since the incident happened) and only one colleague got me flowers. That hurt a lot but of course pales in comparison to losing my mama.

    Death is not contagious and neither is grief, but it helps friends to know you are thinking of them, an email a message a call or best still a visit just to check up is always welcome. And if it is someone you are close to and you are both thousands of miles away a visit is definitely welcome and do check up every few days especially in the early days

    I tell friends This is the one time when it is not ok to say nothing because you don’t know what to say. A simple I’m so sorry for you loss is better than saying nothing. And no don’t say let me know if you need anything… Seriously I don’t need anything except my loved one coming back to life

    The one thing I’ve learnt though in the last year is that there will be good days and there will be not so good days

    Sorry; I think I’ve written an epistle.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am so sorry about your mom and you are so right with everything you’ve said.

      Also for me it’s not a time for a friend to say ‘let me know if you need anything’ it’s the time to actually just do it. Even if I do need something I’m not going to ask but it would mean the world to me if you just popped past and said you’re taking the kids out for an hour. Or if you just arrived with a decadent piece of cake and a sense of humor and a wad of tissues. Since my mom passed away I’ve reconnected with our neighbors who have known me since I was maybe three or four. And my best times are with them. Both their partners have passed away but whether it’s via whatsapp or face to face, we laugh about the strange things our parents did, childhood memories, bad hairstyles and everything in between and one of us might get a little teary eyed but it doesn’t change the entire mood of the day. It’s the cheapest and most effective therapy in the world

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