Author Topic: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....  (Read 13211 times)

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Bottlecaps

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Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« on: June 16, 2012, 03:33:16 AM »
Whenever someone I know experiences the loss of someone they love, the only thing I say is, "I'm so sorry for your loss," because from my understanding, that's really the only appropriate thing (or something along the lines of it) to say. I've read about people putting their foot in their mouth when trying to console you, but I just actually experienced it for the first time. Maybe I see this as bad etiquette just because I'm still raw from my Pappaw's death (as we haven't even had the viewing or funeral yet), but on another forum that I visit for support and help with an issue that I've dealt with for a long time, I posted about my Pappaw's death because they've always been a very supportive community and I'm close with many of the members there. In the thread I started seeking a little support, one of the other members (to whom I'm not close) said, "My grandpa is dying of cancer, so I know the pain." I know the poor girl meant well, and followed up with an offer to PM her if I need to talk which I really truly appreciate, but I can't help but think, "No! You don't know how I feel! Your grandpa is still WITH you! Mine isn't and you may understand how it feels to watch someone you love die, and that hurts like ****ing hell but you don't know how I feel at this moment because your grandfather is still WITH you!" Of course, I won't say that - all I am doing is thanking them all for their kind words. Like I said, I know this girl meant well and bless her heart for at least trying, but what is the consensus on something like this? Bad etiquette or am I being a little overly-sensitive about it?
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Iris

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2012, 05:09:32 AM »
I wouldn't say bad etiquette as such, more a misguided attempt to empathise. Perhaps she would be better to have said "My Grandpa is dying of cancer, so I know something of what you are feeling" rather than trying to claim ownership of your feelings. I think you're right to just let it go and thank her for the thought.
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Oh Joy

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2012, 08:13:21 AM »
I am sorry for your loss as well.  I hope you're working out your questions about what to wear and what role to serve at your Pappaw's service.

You are right - it is strongly suggested to not reference your own losses when consoling another, and for the very feelings that you're experiencing.  However, it is very commonly done with the best of intentions (even on this forum...the I Need a Hug folder and others are full of examples). 

My recommendation is that you view these references as well-intentioned but clueless...kind of like if you said you were going to Tampa for vacation and someone responds by sharing their experiences in Orlando (for non-US folks, they're cities in the same state but a long drive apart and very different).  Figuratively smile and nod, and move on.

Best wishes.

Sharnita

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2012, 08:14:16 AM »
I think it falls somewhere in the middle.  People should avoid saying "Iknow how you feel" and you are probably feeling a bit sensitive to it now.  even if she had most her Grandpa there is no way her and your experience would be exactly the same.  even relatives in the same family experience it in slightly different ways.  The only one who knows exactly how you are feeling is you.

That being said, I do think there are some cases where you can personalize it a bit more than "I'm so sorry for your loss" - if oyu know the person well and they have regularly been talking about their thoughts and feelings with you.


kareng57

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2012, 09:40:51 PM »
I am sorry for your loss.

However - I think you're being unreasonably hard on the other forum-member.  No, her grandfather has not yet passed away but she knows that it's close - so I think she deserves some acknowledgement of her empathy.  She didn't say "I know exactly how you feel", but "I know your pain" and there's indeed a difference.

She didn't say something like "I know how you feel, my hamster died six months ago".  I truly do not see this as a foot-in-mouth situation at all.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2012, 12:39:39 AM by kareng57 »

MariaE

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2012, 05:28:46 AM »
I am sorry for your loss.

However - I think you're being unreasonably hard on the other forum-member.  No, her grandfather has not yet passed away but she knows that it's close - so I think she deserves some acknowledgement of her empathy.  She didn't say "I know exactly how you feel", but "I know your pain" and there's indeed a difference.

She didn't say something like "I know how you feel, my hamster died six months ago".  I truly do not see this as a foot-in-mouth situation at all.

I agree with this. Had your father just died and she compared it to her grandfather dying, then I'd agree with you, because the pain just isn't the same, but this seems like a reasonable thing to say. My grandmother was dying for 6 months - I'd started grieving her long before she actually died, so I could see myself saying the same thing.
 
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O'Dell

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2012, 07:27:02 AM »
I don't like "I know how you feel" as a statement. Emotions are complex and individual. At best it's an inaccurate platitude that people think will be comforting. At worst it's dismissive of another person's feelings.

I wouldn't call it bad etiquette, but I do think it shows a lack of empathy...which ironically is what a person is trying to say they have. I don't think you are over-sensitive to be put off by her statement, but I do think your grief is making you overreact. Her comment says more about her than it does about you or your grieving for your grandfather.

I'm sorry for your loss.
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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2012, 11:26:05 AM »
I'm sorry for your loss. Grandparents are truly special people. The memory of him will be a comfort to you forever. Out of the blue, you will think of your Pappaw and you will smile. You will tell stories about him to your children and grandchildren. What a lovely legacy!


Bottlecaps

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2012, 07:11:18 PM »
I don't like "I know how you feel" as a statement. Emotions are complex and individual. At best it's an inaccurate platitude that people think will be comforting. At worst it's dismissive of another person's feelings.

I wouldn't call it bad etiquette, but I do think it shows a lack of empathy...which ironically is what a person is trying to say they have. I don't think you are over-sensitive to be put off by her statement, but I do think your grief is making you overreact. Her comment says more about her than it does about you or your grieving for your grandfather.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you for your kind words.

I've never been one to like that phrase, either. No one knows how you feel except you, you know? I like how you put it - her comment says more about her than it does about me or my grief, so I think that's what I took most offense from. Yesterday, I posted about how I was going to write a big, long letter to Pappaw and put it in his casket (which I did), to get a little closure and feel like I said the things that needed to be said. Her response? "Writing a letter is a very good idea, I'm writing a letter about my greatest memories to my grandpa, but I'm leaving it to him now." She went on to say how sick he is, etc. I think the first comment was very tame in comparison to what she said yesterday. I know I'm overreacting a bit, lol. Hell, my Pappaw would just tell me to settle down and quit whining, lol.

However, I feel I must note that I didn't air any of this to her, as in any situation it would be rude, but this one especially because I'd basically be saying that my pain trumps hers, which isn't the case at all, it's just that it's a different kind of pain for everyone and I get the feeling that she was kind of trying to turn the tables and hijack the thread to get some sympathy for herself. (I try not to think that though because that would be a "What an interesting assumption" story in and of itself, lol.) I just thanked her for her sympathy.
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kareng57

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2012, 10:10:44 PM »
I don't like "I know how you feel" as a statement. Emotions are complex and individual. At best it's an inaccurate platitude that people think will be comforting. At worst it's dismissive of another person's feelings.

I wouldn't call it bad etiquette, but I do think it shows a lack of empathy...which ironically is what a person is trying to say they have. I don't think you are over-sensitive to be put off by her statement, but I do think your grief is making you overreact. Her comment says more about her than it does about you or your grieving for your grandfather.

I'm sorry for your loss.


And the person-in-question did not say "I know how you feel".

MariaE

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2012, 01:09:40 AM »
I thought you were overreacting to the first comment, but with the second, I definitely don't. I'll give her the benefit of doubt that she means well, but this really comes across as "this is all about ME!".
 
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O'Dell

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2012, 09:10:37 AM »
I don't like "I know how you feel" as a statement. Emotions are complex and individual. At best it's an inaccurate platitude that people think will be comforting. At worst it's dismissive of another person's feelings.

I wouldn't call it bad etiquette, but I do think it shows a lack of empathy...which ironically is what a person is trying to say they have. I don't think you are over-sensitive to be put off by her statement, but I do think your grief is making you overreact. Her comment says more about her than it does about you or your grieving for your grandfather.

I'm sorry for your loss.


And the person-in-question did not say "I know how you feel".

I really don't see the difference between "I know how you feel" and "I know the pain". It's the same message, and I feel the same way about it.
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gingerzing

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2012, 04:05:37 PM »
I don't like "I know how you feel" as a statement. Emotions are complex and individual. At best it's an inaccurate platitude that people think will be comforting. At worst it's dismissive of another person's feelings.

I wouldn't call it bad etiquette, but I do think it shows a lack of empathy...which ironically is what a person is trying to say they have. I don't think you are over-sensitive to be put off by her statement, but I do think your grief is making you overreact. Her comment says more about her than it does about you or your grieving for your grandfather.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you for your kind words.

I've never been one to like that phrase, either. No one knows how you feel except you, you know? I like how you put it - her comment says more about her than it does about me or my grief, so I think that's what I took most offense from. Yesterday, I posted about how I was going to write a big, long letter to Pappaw and put it in his casket (which I did), to get a little closure and feel like I said the things that needed to be said. Her response? "Writing a letter is a very good idea, I'm writing a letter about my greatest memories to my grandpa, but I'm leaving it to him now." She went on to say how sick he is, etc. I think the first comment was very tame in comparison to what she said yesterday. I know I'm overreacting a bit, lol. Hell, my Pappaw would just tell me to settle down and quit whining, lol.

However, I feel I must note that I didn't air any of this to her, as in any situation it would be rude, but this one especially because I'd basically be saying that my pain trumps hers, which isn't the case at all, it's just that it's a different kind of pain for everyone and I get the feeling that she was kind of trying to turn the tables and hijack the thread to get some sympathy for herself. (I try not to think that though because that would be a "What an interesting assumption" story in and of itself, lol.) I just thanked her for her sympathy.

Up to a point I was with this girl. Then when she started in on giving the letters to her grandfather... ::)  Not so much.    (I am glad that you did write a letter for your Pawpaw. That must have helped some)

I have on occasion used the phrase of "I understand how hard it is."  Though said to friends who may be going through something that I did.  For example, my father died after a long bout with cancer when I was 28.    Several years later my best friend lost her dad to a long illness of dementia.  And while I couldn't say I knew how she felt (different relationship/different illness/she was a primary caregiver at one point), I did understand the bundle of emotions she was having. 



Midnight Kitty

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2012, 04:16:44 PM »
I thought you were overreacting to the first comment, but with the second, I definitely don't. I'll give her the benefit of doubt that she means well, but this really comes across as "this is all about ME!".
I think I missed something; Where was the second comment?  I only saw "My grandpa is dying of cancer, so I know the pain." in Bottlecaps's initial post.
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gingerzing

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Re: Death and people putting their feet in their mouths....
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2012, 05:36:49 PM »
I thought you were overreacting to the first comment, but with the second, I definitely don't. I'll give her the benefit of doubt that she means well, but this really comes across as "this is all about ME!".
I think I missed something; Where was the second comment?  I only saw "My grandpa is dying of cancer, so I know the pain." in Bottlecaps's initial post.

Bottlecaps had another comment #8 of the girl taking BC's letter to put with Pawpaw and made it all about her giving her letter to her grandfather. 


Bottlecaps, I forgot to mention in my post above.  Most people who say "I know how your feel" normally mean to relate to your pain.  Not to make what you go through less but to let you know that while it is dark period in your life, it does get better.