There are a lot of greeting cards and many condolence options are available to the needy consumer. However, some people just don’t get it. I am a firm believer in the concept that stupidity should be painful. Of course, there are the people who are disconnected and clueless on purpose. Don’t even get me started on that one. But maintaining a dark sense of humor for special occasions does seem to help.
We don’t have any idea of how to conduct ourselves in difficult situations and have lost the ability to extend comfort or empathy to someone else. Some day you may be in this horrible situation, having to endure the loss of a loved one. I can tell you that you will be numb with some people and want to beat the crap out of others. You will want to scream and rant and say “Don’t you know that my mother is dead?” (Of course, please only say this if it is true) How can the world keep turning when the person we love is gone, lost to us seemingly forever. Those who are blessed with no experience, in such matters, need a little guide book explaining some basic etiquette.
When you express condolences, try to use your “indoor voice”, make eye contact, and express the brief hope for healing and compassion. This is a fairly quick process and can be conducted in most open, common areas such as a school, home, office or grocery store. No special clothing is necessary and you don’t need to know which utensil to use.
Wasn’t that easy?
It is not hard to have a shred of humanity. Attached to data packages and technology as we are 24 hours a day, a ten second email or text “Sorry for your loss” is not complicated. It is not heartfelt either, but hey, at least you took the ten seconds out of your day to share the full depth and range of your emotional wattage.
A tweet that says “There should be comfort….” just sounds disdainful. An ellipse????? Really? Is this a punch line? Will this be followed by a 2 second frowny emoticon?
Have we lapsed so far from human interaction that we cannot even use words to express pain anymore? I know, the iPhone gives you a wide range of emojis so that you never have to try to find the words to say you are sorry. All you have to do is pick out some freeze-dried, dehydrated, animated facial expression and the hard work is done.
But maybe that is the problem. We have taken away any need to use words or face- to- face communication. We run from the car to the door, so that we are not speaking to the neighbor and don’t know the names of our childrens’ teachers or our coworker’s family members. Simple communication, that is sincere and gracious, is the smallest piece of humanity we have left.
Life, birth, death, loss – – these may all be part of the cycle of life, but it is not black and white. Someone, somewhere, is mourning something every single day. Loss is loss. Whether, it is a pet, a spouse, a friend, a job, a piece of jewelry, the sense of community, foreclosure, or a favorite sweater that gets bleached in the washing machine. How we deal with it, feel, and live with that loss is uniquely individual and immeasurable to the naked eye. Who am I to say what loss feels like for you or what triggers hurt you the most? Yet, I do understand how it feels, in my own way, because I have had to say goodbye too many times, and, truly, it never gets easier.
It is hard to handle death. There may be an awkward pause until you carefully choose your words and your throat might feel a bit tight or moisture will bathe your eyes. Persevere, take a deep breath, push through the pain, and please put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If it was you, you would want to rant and scream too. I assure you that it hurts me more to have to hear it than it will be for you to have said it. We should not meet under these circumstances, but remember, all that means is that from here on in, there is nowhere to go but up.