Thursday, April 25, 2013

“I’m Sorry.”

People, we must decide a better alternative to “I’m sorry” as the response to hearing that someone’s someone has died. I recognize that “my condolences” makes you sound like a count who is visiting the Americas as part of some sort of world tour and who is likely near death himself, and I unfortunately have nothing better to suggest, but I can only report that “I’m so sorry” is conversational homicide. Upon being told this, there’s simply nothing I can think to say or do. “Thanks?” can’t cut it. And “No worries, you didn’t do it on purpose,” never gets the response I think it will, even though I think it hits on the fact that “I’m sorry” in just about every other conversation is an admission of guilt and not a simple expression of “I have sorrow.” Yes, I do understand that “I’m sorry” is basically the death empathy version of “namaste” — “I recognize in you the ache caused by the recognition of mortality, for I have it too” — but I just can’t figure out what to say in return. “Bingo”? Is the answer “bingo”? Is there a hand signal I can be giving? (Folds hands, bows solemnly.)

... Just tell me how I should be doing this.

7 comments:

  1. People who are mourning don't want to talk, so there's nothing good to say to them. Just say "I'm sorry for your loss. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help." Hug or pat their shoulder as socially appropriate. The end.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd tend to agree with Carl up there. My last living grandparent died of a very long drawn out Dementia a week before my wedding. Since she hadn't really been mentally/verbally present in the last 8-10 years, it was sad, but like closure. So I just didn't tell anyone about it. I wasn't Bridezilla about it or anything, but I felt badly about having such a perfect wedding day knowing she died the week before. I know this isn't exactly relevant to your post, but it's the most recent deceased story I have. I think what I mean to say is if I had told someone that she died they would have been like "A week before your wedding!?" and that would have made things really awkward.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Go up to them and yell "Blarglesnarf!" It's as good an option as anything else.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's not ideal, but I think the response "Thank you" is the least awkward... acknowledges their "I'm sorry" statement in an equally namaste-ish way, essentially saying "I recognize that you are expressing sympathy."

    Of course, my superpower is saying dramatically inappropriate things to grieving people (for example, I have learned the hard way that "sometimes the world is just a shitty place" is not what one writes in bereavement cards, however true it might be), so what do I know?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I generally say "Oh man, that's awful. You okay?"

    ReplyDelete
  6. Agreed, we are in dire need of lingual reform as it pertains to the passing of one's friends, family members, and others close to us.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for your suggestions, all. I will add this much: I think it's telling that society -- American society, at least, but probably other ones -- is so ill-prepared to deal with a facet of life that all but the most miserable and friendless of us have to deal with: the loss of someone we care about.

    ReplyDelete