Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Not To Say When Someone Dies

The other day Peanut Queen discussed someone dying, and here was my answer:

You know, I used to question why this person dies and another doesn't, but knowing the answer would not make the grief any easier.

Sometimes we want to tap God on the shoulder and say, "Kill that bitch that cut me off in traffic, not that friend who brought joy in our lives with his smile and stories." I am not sure God takes our advice, for if he did, surely my lottery ticket would have won a few years ago (325 million, baby).

I feel for you, babe!

I want to correct one thing from my statement to the PQ: I think the lottery topped 350 million, before taxes, amortization schedules, deadbeat relatives and everything else. I know that 25 million is not a big deal to most of my readers, but it would be to me.

But that is not the point. Not saying the wrong thing to someone who has lost a loved one is the point.

Now, you may not know this about me (I hide it well), but I am a bit of a smarty-pants. And so when someone dies, I generally, make a joke at the expense of the bereaved. Now you may be asking yourself how to hire such a person for your next wake, but after doing this for some years, I would not recommend the tactic because even if you say something funny, well, the bereaved rarely crack a smile. Bitter SOBs.

Mostly true stories (aided by my selective memory):

Death of a "Friend"
I knew a woman who had a "friend", and by friend, I mean a friend with benefits. Well, her friend was a good ten years older than her, and he died unexpectedly. He had a heart attack.

Now how do you give your condolences when the person was a friend like that? I have no clue. What I do know is that you should not ask if the bereaved caused the heart attack (that happened, not by me, but by someone else). But I thought it. And the woman was sort of crushed for a while, sort of because she really did not feel close to him, and apparently he did not have too many close friends. Turns out she meant more to him than he to she, and that weighed on her consciousness.

And if you are a guy, volunteering your "services" is inappropriate in this setting, no matter how tempting it may be. Saying, "Need a new feck buddy" normally doesn't get you anywhere.

He is in a Better Place
I have heard many people say, "He is in a better place." And you know, the people grieving don't really care about this, from what I have noticed. He actually is in a new hole in the ground, and he doesn't even have a headstone yet (it is on back order). For the perfectionist atheist among us, that is not a better place.

And at someone's death, we do get a bit selfish. We think of our relationship to the person, how we will miss them. We don't really, or should I say, I don't really think about their spirit and that they may be in a better place. I just remember joking with them, talking with them, crying with them, and now, they are not there. I can't share, even when I see something that the person would absolutely love. "Goodness, he would have liked to see that squirrel fall from the tree. It made my side ache." Okay, I am strange.

College Roommate
When I was in college, a girl I knew died. Car accident. Suddenly.

She was the roommate of a close friend. And this is all I really remembered about her now – we used to tickle her because when she laughed, she farted. We would tickle her and make her fart.

I have known no one else with this particular skill, and this is all I really remember of her. Over the years, I wonder if we were mean to her, or if she did not like it. We only ticked her when we were all drunk. Okay, we tickled her one-hell-of-a-lot.

She had the prettiest long, brunette hair, and she farted when she laughed. Not on her headstone, but that's the stuff I remember about her. I met her parents, and although they probably knew she farted when tickled, none of us told them of that particular experience with their daughter.

I know how you are feeling . . .
The worse phrase to use would be, "I know how you are feeling." Well, the worse phrase may be, "Sorry your husband is dead; I fucked him often and he seemed dead in bed, too." I just made that one up (never used it), but you know, that is a way bad way to comfort the grieving (I am not a professional, but I think I am right on this one). But I mean, a phrase that we hear all of the time is "I know how you feel." I have had friends lose babies, and people who have been through a similar experience may say this (there are more people who have this experience than I would have ever guessed), and you know, it is not appreciated. It seems to never be appreciated.

We are all unique, and our feelings are similarly unique. People who have lost someone don't want to hear, "Been there, done that." And this phrase sometimes gets heard that way.

I apologized to my Queen because I can be irreverent at times. I love my Church, but I joke about it. I love my president (okay, I don't know him, but I am pretty sure I would be tempted to cut out his eyes with a butter knife, and with all of the secret service, I would not be able to do so) but I joke about it.

You know, my point was to talk about what to say, and I gave examples about what not to say. Basically, when I go to funerals (the free food is often not worth the grief) I keep my mouth shut. And I cry like somebody died. Oh, yeah, someone did die.

Is it too late to erase this post?

Random Blogging Awards
The Really Fecking Blogging Awards are back. So if you want to check out the categories and email the woman responsible for this, you can nominate one of your fellow bloggers. I won (Best "free" blog- free of children that is) once, according to the award page, but I thought I won twice. Oh, well, they are stupid awards anyway. If you nominate me, I will campaign, and if you don't, I will find you in your sleep, and er, I mean, no biggie.

Where did I put my feckin' pills? And now that I have a crap post, I am looking for a nomination. That's like Chevy Chase doing "Spies Like Us" and wanting to be nominated. Or was that a good movie? Ishtar, that's the movie. It is like Chevy Chase doing Istar. Thankfully, Istar never made it to DVD (I just checked).

I wanted to adopt the phrase, "Why isn't (insert name of great movie) on DVD yet; Istar is on DVD." But I can't.


Anonymous said...

I have no idea what to tell people when they die. It's sad, maybe I should tickle them and see if they fart?


mal said...

I think the only way to handle a death is to turn the funeral into a party. (I have seen folks do the opposite at times)

When ever we bury some one in our family it turns into a major joke fest. The funeral people must think we are nuts when they hear the laughter during the memorial. We all walk away with a smile ready to move on.

One of my eldests sorority sisters was killed in a pointless motorcycle wreck in her senior year. The whole sorority went in a funk over the thing for months. Dead is dead, you can not change it. Accept it and move on.

Grief is something to be dealt with, not dwelled on.

MMMMMMMM,,,,are regards to new "feck buddies", should the OH and I be grooming the replacements? *L*

Leesa said...

GND: funny girl.

mal: some need to wring hands and mash teeth. If that gets them through it, that is fine by me.

Bruce said...

I've had a lot of death in my family, both immediate(both parents and a baby brother) and extended, and have lost friends to sickness and suicide. I'm one of those people that grieves openly and honestly, and "moving on" does not come easily for me. For that, I apologize to no one.

Leesa said...

bruce: I was not implying that people should not grieve in the way most appropriate to themselves. In fact, that's how I answered mal. I just don't do death well.

Celtic bhoy said...

In Ireland we merely say "im sorry for your loss" Its sutle but honest and you dont have to worry about offending someone or putting your foot in it.

Ian Lidster said...

Black, irreverent, and very, very funny, Leesa. A few years ago a former female colleague died unexpectedly and tragically of a brain aneurism. A number of years prior to that she and I had a brief liaison. It was nice, and just one of those fleeting "why not?" things. At her service I went to her grieving husband, at a loss for what to say. I decided that "I fucked your wife once, and she was very good. I know you'll miss that," would not be appropriate. At the same time, I was feeling guilty, hoping that he never knew.
And, babe, you've got my nomination since you brighten my spirits so much.

~Deb said...

There’s really nothing you can say basically. All the cliché condolences and the “I’m so sorry” statements have been said so many times. If you’re close with the person who lost their loved one, hug them. Say nothing. Sometimes the unspoken is more appreciated than anything else.

I also think I know someone in particular who has this 'tickling' talent down to a science!

LarryLilly said...

I have buried my parents, my first wife and my only daughter. Death is a bitch, it sucks. But I am one that believes in that people are here like a lottery ball. You are here until your turn comes up, so make the best of it.

There is nothing you can say. But, there is nothing that you NEED to say.

Your attitude Leesa is actually a good one. Tell the parents that you used to tickle her until she farted. The parents would like to hear that something that their daughter did, while here on this planet, that made an impact on others, and that they remember HER for/about.

Farting may not be a big deal, but its what made her remembered by someone else. And that is most important to the bereaved, that their (fill in the name) made an impact on someone else, even if it was just laughter.

Now, at the funeral may not be the best time to tell them, but reconnect later, after the raw wound has scabbed over. Trust me, I love to hear from others my daughter knew that would tell me snippets of her life, most that I did not know. Yeah, she is gone, thats a bitch, but still, I smile in hearing them.

Leesa said...

celtic bhoy: that's good advice.

ian: thanks, sweetie. Sometimes irreverent humor is not appreciated.

~deb: I do have a Master's degree in tickling.

larry: I was wondering how someone who has lost so many people might take my post. Thanks for your comment.

Monica said...

Leesa.....I loved this was all over, badly connected and fantastic.
I like hearing your voice.

~Deb said...


Leesa said...

monica: you love this post.

~deb: really.