Author Topic: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette  (Read 2548 times)

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WorkerB

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Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« on: September 11, 2012, 08:12:50 PM »
A situation last month had me thinking of what the proper response was:

My close friend's Grandmother passed away last month. She was emotionally, verbally, and otherwise abusive to both of her children, Jane and Jill (the mother of my friend) as well as her grandchildren. She drove a wedge through the children as well, favoring one and then the other, and since the two children lost contact with each other, neither knew that the other had, for all intents and purposes, given their mother the cut direct.

Towards the last couple of years of her life, grandmother seemed to want to try and reconnect Jill. She never acknowledged what she did to her children or their families, but she would occasionally show up for family events, and would stand on the side not interacting with anyone.

When she passed, her family was not upset - she left some things for her family after death that was extremely cruel, of course as well as the way she treated them while she was alive. However, many people who met grandmother within the last few years, seem to think she was absolutely the kindest, most generous person. People want to share their stories with my friend, spending time talking about how kind her grandmother was, how she would always stop with a kind word or a gift. To my friend, who was treated nothing short of cruelly by grandmother, these words cut through her. She does not want to diminish the memories of others, but she would prefer not to hear their extended memories. What can my friend say to these people that would at least extricate herself out of the situation?

For the record, my friend listened to their comments, made the appropriate noises, and then moved away when the opportunity presented itself, but she would have rather been more proactive.

violinp

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 08:19:49 PM »
"I'm glad to know she was beloved by you and so many others, but right now, this is a painful topic. I'd rather talk about something else."

It is true; She was beloved by many people - just not her family, and it's a painful topic because she was so cruel to her family.
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends" - Harry Potter


Cosmasia

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 08:21:26 PM »
If she wants to be honest, but short, she could say "I'm afraid we didn't experience her in the same way" and then excuse herself.

If not, it's fine to just say "I don't really want to talk about this/her right now, excuse me".
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WillyNilly

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 09:30:23 PM »
My grandmother was emotionally and physically abusive to my mother and later ended up disowning my mother and my brother and myself - her first two grandchildren by over a decade.  She was not however abusive to my mother's 4 siblings or my 5 cousins.  when my grandmother passed my cousin who was especially close to "Nana" did not really understand the history of it all.  She invited me to the wake, has invited me to see the ashes, speaks about her, etc.  I simply give a smile and say "I'm glad she was a good grandmother to you, but lets focus on the here and now for a moment. How about that beandip?"  It seems to work.  I'm sure substituting "friend" or "woman" or "neighbor" for grandmother would work just as well.

MrsCrazyPete

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 09:43:31 PM »
I like Violinp's wording. It's something you can say in the middle of a recollection without being rude about interrupting.
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squashedfrog

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2012, 04:52:29 AM »
I agree, Violinp's wording allows the friend to nip the hurtful conversation in the bud, whilst allowing her to avoid dragging into details as to why she does not want to talk about it.  I think a reasonable person hearing this would draw their own conclusions and be respectful enough not to press the conversation.

O'Dell

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2012, 06:54:26 AM »
I too like Violinp's wording. Cosmasia and WillyNilly's wording are good to use when someone just won't let it drop.

The thing I like about Violin's wording is that it preserves your friend's privacy and the other person's memories, and you say that is what she wants. Personally I don't think she's under any obligation to cover for her grandmother's past deeds, but she's also not obligated to inform others.

Good luck to her! So many people don't understand that the "nice" person they know may not have been (or even still be) as nice to others.
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magician5

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2012, 10:00:46 AM »
Am I missing something, or are we discussing how WorkerB's friend can tastefully bash the deceased grandmother?

I've never been fond of "never speak ill of the dead", but what would it help to "straighten out" mourners who are only looking to say something kind and comforting? At least it should be asked, "what would it help ... right at that moment?" WorkerB's friend did the only appropriate thing at the moment. Contradicting these people would be rude - not to "sweet old dead grandma", but to these kind people.

I had bad relations with my mother, which left me with many justified resentments and a long term of therapy, but at the funeral I did the "nod, smile weakly and thank the person" thing. Of these people, 90% I'll never see again, so it doesn't matter what they think, and the remainder I can speak more frankly to at another time (if the subject ever comes up). Those closest to me already know. If WorkerB's friend can't bear the conversations, it might be best not to go to the funeral.

I got my private comfort from remembering what ventriloquist Wayland Flowers used to say: "They say you should only speak good of the dead. Well, she's dead ... good." I'll never have to go to the cemetery or pretend I'm sad about this again.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2012, 10:03:47 AM by magician5 »
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MyFamily

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2012, 10:42:03 AM »
She does not want to diminish the memories of others, but she would prefer not to hear their extended memories. What can my friend say to these people that would at least extricate herself out of the situation?

Magician5, I am only quoting the part of the OP's post that makes it clear that she wasn't asking how her friend can bash her grandmother, but what can she do so that she doesn't have to hear these memories or comments anymore, because they are painful to her.  I believe Violinp's suggestion is right on target. 


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Sharnita

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2012, 10:54:18 AM »
Am I missing something, or are we discussing how WorkerB's friend can tastefully bash the deceased grandmother?

I've never been fond of "never speak ill of the dead", but what would it help to "straighten out" mourners who are only looking to say something kind and comforting? At least it should be asked, "what would it help ... right at that moment?" WorkerB's friend did the only appropriate thing at the moment. Contradicting these people would be rude - not to "sweet old dead grandma", but to these kind people.

I had bad relations with my mother, which left me with many justified resentments and a long term of therapy, but at the funeral I did the "nod, smile weakly and thank the person" thing. Of these people, 90% I'll never see again, so it doesn't matter what they think, and the remainder I can speak more frankly to at another time (if the subject ever comes up). Those closest to me already know. If WorkerB's friend can't bear the conversations, it might be best not to go to the funeral.

I got my private comfort from remembering what ventriloquist Wayland Flowers used to say: "They say you should only speak good of the dead. Well, she's dead ... good." I'll never have to go to the cemetery or pretend I'm sad about this again.

I don't know that they are looking for an opportunity to run down grandma but I do think there are situations where everyone is taking there turn sharing stories about how great she was and this person needs to know what to say when their turn rolls around.


WorkerB

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Re: Sticky Situation - Mourning Etiquette
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 11:05:08 AM »
Thank you for all of the advice! I think violinp's wording would probably have worked best in the situation.  I don't think any of the family including my friend had any intentions other than to be gracious and kind to the mourners who actually were sad. They definitely were not planning on sharing how they were treated, their bad experiences or wanted to rehash or bash grandmother in any way. My friend simply wanted to know what she could say to extract herself from a situation where hearing about how well her Grandmother treated others while treating her so shabbily hurt her. She ended up doing the weak smiles, thank yous, etc, but I was just curious if there was any other way she could politely remove herself from the situation.