• April 23, 2018, 04:43:14 PM

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Author Topic: Sensitive,Etiquette-Approved Way to Express Sadness? *Warning: Pregnancy Issues*  (Read 3349 times)

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Angel B.

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Hi all! Been a while since I've had anything to post.

BG: I'm an ESL teacher, currently based in Asia. I travel to my student's homes or meet them in coffee shops. My students range from 3-65 years of age with varying levels of English. My more advanced students are more comfortable telling me personal things about their lives. Obviously, I try to maintain a relatively professional distance from my students, though my students will be more friendly than formal.

2 weeks ago, one of my students told me his wife had been very sick. I expressed my sympathy. This week, I asked after his wife and he told me she had suffered a miscarriage. . I again expressed my sympathy and he told me about the infertility issues his wife and him were having. I wasn't sure what to really say.

Is there anything I could/can say that is appropriate that is a little more friendly than "i'm sorry"? My heart is breaking for my student.

My greatest treasure is love beyond measure.
-Il barbiere di Siviglia

White Lotus

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If a Western man told you these things in English, in the US, UK, etc., you would express sympathy in the first instance, and would probably find the second a little inappropriate and a bit uncomfortable, given your relationship.  I would express sympathy, and might make inquiry about his wife's health without getting into details about the fertility issues or encouraging him to discuss them.  You're speaking and teaching English -- and that includes appropriate topics of conversation and courtesies.


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I taught English a few years ago, and I often  had the same thing happening. Whether it's because it's in a foreign language and the words don't have as much emotional weight, or because so many people believe that Americans and the British talk about anything and everything in our lives with anyone, I don't know, but people came out with some astounding things. If I objected I got a lot of 'Oh but you Americans, you are frank and blunt, are you not?'


Teaching conversational etiquette is a neat idea.


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I think you tell him you are sorry for their loss, and that you hope things get better from here.

Later, it would be a good idea to bring up appropriate boundaries for conversations. But I've had people tell me very personal things and been okay with it, it really does depend on the circumstances.
"Manners change, principles don't. It's about treating people with consideration, respect and honesty." Peter Post



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I donít know what to say other than, ďIím so sorry.Ē But I can tell you what you NEVER say is, ďDonít worry, there will be another baby,Ē or ANYTHING along those lines. This is because, First, you donít know that there will be another baby, and Second, another baby will not make up for the failure of this pregnancy. And Third, in this case, it would be wildly inappropriate given how you know them.

My momís best friend fed her this line after Momís third miscarriage. Mom subsequently didnít talk to that woman for 20 years. (Mom went on to have me and my younger brother, and then another three miscarriages, so although I was young, Iíve been aware of the reality of miscarriages my entire life. And I really think my mother should have become a sort of grief counselor for the fertility-challenged. If thatís a thing.)

Seriously. Stick to the "I'm sorry."


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  • ♪♫ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪♫ ♪ ♪♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫
 There is such a thing!
When our 2nd dd was stillborn 40 weeks full term, were went to a pregnancy loss support group at our hospital.  A wonderful couple ran it with z great lending library and lots of support.  Sometimes all we needed was someone to listen. 
And that is what you did.
Love in any language.
Fear is temporary...Regret is forever.


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Were you uncomfortable at the "overshare" or just because you didn't know how to appropriately respond?

Sometimes not much response is needed - they just want to talk.


  • That's just tacky, tacky, tacky!
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^This is very possible.  Also, I don't know the specific culture in the particular region, but in many area men are expected to be stoic about this sort of thing.  He could be sharing because you're an outsider that he feels won't judge him weak like a relative or local friend.
 If that makes sense.