A Comfort's Food for Thought

Consoling Myself


What do you say when someone dies? I have read the comments of many grieving people who have been hurt by tactless remarks from their “miserable comforters.” Fear of offending someone who is already hurting has often made me feel awkward and self-conscious. Sometimes it has stopped me from saying anything, perhaps making me look uncaring when, in fact, I feel deep concern for the other person. Other times, I wonder if perhaps my self-consciousness has caused me to say something unintentionally offensive.

For the past nine months I have been on the receiving end of condolences, and either I have remarkably unself-conscious, thoughtful, socially adept, and caring friends (a very likely possibility), or I have chosen to appreciate the fact that they care enough to express their concern and would never knowingly offend me. I cannot remember receiving a single hurtful comment.

I have been impressed that even strangers are quick to say the right thing when they learn of my loss. I have had to make many phone calls changing accounts to my name or taking care of my husband’s business affairs. Without exception, before conducting the business at hand, the person will say, “First of all, let me offer my condolences,” or “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss,” or some other expression of concern.

Frequently I receive phone calls for Ted from telemarketers—usually stereotyped as rude people, right? They, too, are so taken aback when I tell them Ted has died that they quickly offer their condolences and tell me they will update their records. They don’t even think to ask me if I would like to contribute to their worthy cause!

Today was an exception. I received a phone call from a cheery woman asking for Ted. Since she didn’t say “Theodore,” I thought she might be a personal acquaintance who was unaware he had passed away. I braced myself to tell her the news. “May I ask who is calling?” I said. She gave the name of her charity. I told her Ted had died last September. “Will you repeat that?” she asked. I repeated it. “Oh, no problem,” she replied. “I’ll update our records.”

No problem? I think not. But I console myself that one fewer telemarketer will be dialing my number.

posted under Family, Uncategorized

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I am a Christian, a mother and grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a widow, a friend. . .  My life is first of all defined by relationships–to God, to my family, to my students, to my friends. Of course, I am many other things: a reader, an e-mail writer, a piano player, and a somewhat reluctant traveler, for example.  And now I am a blogger.  I’m not sure why, except it seems to be a logical next step for someone addicted to e-mail.