My last post created many interesting responses. Some thought I was not grieving. Some thought I was being callous. Some thought I was insincere. Some agreed with me completely. What I’m saying is “I’m sorry for your loss” has become a stock response when we are facing a person who has had a family member or friend die.
One friend was upset with me that I was relieved and not grieving, another flipped me off, another was how could I say that when they had lost a child and a grandchild, and another said she could not handle the ‘sorries’ after her husband died and agreed.
For the record, I have ‘lost’ both parents and both grandmothers (never met my grandfathers, they died before my birth), two children, my husband of 34 years, his wonderful parents, and more friends and family members that I want to count at this moment. Which was the hardest is hard to say, they all left memories of laughter and kindness and fun and some not so much fun too, but how quickly that can fall away. I have had a great deal of grieving.
When I heard “I’m sorry for your loss” these past few weeks, I choose to take it in the spirit it is given, but I think we can do better. We can be kinder.
Really, it’s the word ‘sorry’ I have the most problem with. More than 30 years ago, I had a wise teacher who talked about the word ‘sorry’ and he was right, we over use the word and we are not usually sincere when we use it. It had even then become a rote response. From the internet I found the use of that word alone had soared since the 1960’s. Because of this teacher, my family worked to eliminate ‘sorry’ from our vocabulary and when I’d say it, my daughter would catch me on it.
We say ‘sorry’ when we bump into someone at the store by accident, or step on someone’s toe, or when we’ve done something that another thinks is incorrect (not using the word ‘wrong’ here, no judgement). We use the word sarcastically, how many times how you said or you’ve heard “sooooorrrrrrrry!” We use it when we have hurt someone. And the list goes on and on.
We often use this one little word all the time without really having any regret or feeling or sincerity. I’m not saying we don’t use it with feeling behind it too, we do. But like in so much of our words, we just say them without feeling or thought behind them.
How often has someone said “sorry” to you and you know it’s just a word. That there is no meaning or feeling or true sorrow or regret behind it?
In my trusty dictionary sorry means: Feeling pity, feeling sympathy, feeling regret. Also arousing pity or contempt.
Long ago (at least it feels like it), my older daughter had a boyfriend that was always saying ‘sorry.’ It was his stock answer. How many of us do that? I know I was taught to say “I’m sorry” for just about everything I did that was not deemed correct.
This is why “I’m sorry for your loss” gets to me. It is a rote learned response. I too learned it. If we didn’t know the person who died and only a family member or friend, then it many be harder to say something different. There are no feelings behind the words other than we acknowledge that the person is grieving. We may feel a bit sad for that person or we may understand some of the feelings that person is going through, but it’s that word.
A few days ago, I had to take my car in for regular service and the check engine light had come on that morning and the car was not running well. I was worried that my car had a bigger problem than it turned out, but I would not know that for hours. The service desk man said they had no time today to look at my car for other then the oil change. I said I would wait all day. After I had sat down and pulled out my knitting (of course I would have knitting with me), I centered myself and said a quick prayer that the day would be in divine order. He came into the waiting room a bit later and said he still didn’t have space. I lost it and was crying. I had been talking to a woman customer about fathers. I told the service man that my dad had just died, I am having problems handling this right now. In his infinite wisdom he just came over and gave me a hug. Right before the lunch break, he returned to tell me he had a cancelation that afternoon. Just an FYI, a rodent had eaten a wire and it was fixed. I was there about 4 hours; my car is fine. I had met angels with skin on that day while waiting at the car dealers.
I may be sorry when a person dies but not in the rote use of the word kind of way. I could have a great many feelings. I may be glad, I may be saddened, I may be relieved, I may be shocked, I may be stunned, I may ask why, I maybe feel nothing for a long time, I maybe angry, I maybe numb, I may not cry or cry buckets. I may put on a brave face and do what is needed and drop into bed that night so tired I can hardly pull the covers up. I did that these this past week. We all react in our own ways and all are fine. For me, I’m extremely exhausted.
It is said that every thought is a prayer. I would rather pray that you find understanding, peace, love, and so much more from your memories of those who have died. That you can live. I pray you look for the good that can come from the deceased family member or friend, so much good can come from this energy. New laws to keep children safe, programs and scholarships to help others, charitable causes that benefit whole communities. And may be all that comes from the death is that people talk to each other.
In my opinion, being sorry for someone’s passing is putting a period on the end of the life, not using it to grow and expand. Being sorry isolates us more. How we grieve can help others also grieve and how we live after helps others also know they too will have life again. It will be different, but they will have life. If nothing else, from all that I have experienced in the past 2 to 3 years, I can help others out of the darkness.
So, no, I wasn’t being callous or insincere and yes, I am grieving in my own way. It will take as long as it takes. I’m just asking for us to think before we open our mouths and say some rote words and think we’re done.
Let us be kinder to all we meet.