Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thank You for Not Being A Jerk

It's hard to know how to deal with others' loss. Everyone grieves differently, and words that one person finds comforting can seem insensitive to someone else. I've definitely been insensitive to mourners in the past. But there are some things that everyone should know not to do:
    When a friend loses a loved one, don't send sympathy form letters of the variety that a CEO might send to an employee.

    When a young person loses an intended life partner, don't say, "well, you're still young," and start pointing out attractive members of the opposite sex.

    When a parent loses a child, don't tell him or her that suffering is spiritually rewarding or a sign of God's love.

    When someone loses a grandparent, don't assume that it's no big deal because you're not close with your grandparents, or because grandparents are old and are supposed to die, anyway.

    Don't talk during Mourner's Kaddish. It may just be another kaddish to you, but people saying Mourner's Kaddish are in mourning, and they deserve consideration while they remember their loved ones.

    Don't make assumptions about people's beliefs about God, angels, and the afterlife, and definitely don't try to push your beliefs on those who are in mourning. It's not the time.

11 comments:

Janet said...

Yikes, I hope no one did these!

katrina said...

A great post, elf. My sentiments exactly. As usual, I applaud you for taking the time to make important points in an articulate and non-pissed-off manner.

And Janet, people certainly did those.

elf said...

Thanks. Do I really seem non-pissed-off?

David said...

Revolting but not surprising. oipqejglHard to believe how dense and insensitive people can be.

fleurdelis28 said...

When a young person loses an intended life partner, don't say, "well, you're still young," and start pointing out attractive members of the opposite sex.

@#$%&?!*

I'm not sure why this shocks me even more deeply than the others -- possibly because I can't picture any worldview in which it would make sense.


* Does not represent actual swear-word equivalent. There probably aren't any strong enough.

Knitter of shiny things said...

Wow. I'm usually at a loss as to what to say to someone in mourning, but I think I'm sensitive enough not to be ridiculous. Usually I say nothing, since I think that's the safest, since you don't know how someone is going to react to you saying "baruch dayan emet" or even anything sympathetic, such as "I'm so sorry." There's nothing good you can say. It's a lose-lose situation.

katrina said...

By "not pissed off," I mean, "not as pissed off as I would be," and/or "not to pissed off to post." I realize that's not the highest standard in the world.

hesh said...

I am the master of tactlessness- you know the guy who means well- buy always things like- "with the price of fuel these days you sure could use that life insurance policy"

I just wrote a huge post about how much fun I had at this shiva house I went to last week in fact

Mar Gavriel said...

Don't talk during Mourner's Kaddish.

*YAWN*. That's one of the few places in the service when I can talk-- and I sure do. :-)

Mar Gavriel said...

Oh, I forgot. In other communities this is much more important than in mine. In mine, we still stick to the old practice that the real job of a mourner in shul is to lead the whole service; if there are two mourners, one leads the service and one says the kaddish; if there are three mourners, one leads the service, one says a kaddish, we add on a second kaddish for the third. If there are four mourners, we even add a third kaddish.

And if there are five mourners, we tell the fifth: "Sorry, everything has been assigned already. Try again tomorrow."

So, the whole thing is no big deal-- whoever is saying kaddish today may not be doing so tomorrow, and vice versa.

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