Since this thread has gone from “bad ways to deliver bad news” to “inconsiderate jerks after the loss of a loved one,” I’ll throw in my story about when my grandmother died in 2000.
A bit of background: I’m an only child. My dad died in 1995. His only sibling, a sister, had died a few years earlier. She had two sons, who at the time of this story, lived many, many miles away from me, my mom, and our mutual grandmother (my father’s mother, hence my mom’s MIL).
In the years between my dad and grandma’s death, my mother had taken over the “care” of my grandmother, who was in a nursing home. She had power of attorney, took care of her money, was consulted on medical issues, visited her as much as possible … basically being a very good DIL.
I lived 70 miles away and was “second in command” regarding my grandmother, seeing as I was the next closest in terms of relationship and distance. So, one night I get “the phone call” (not really a surprise, grandma was 100 and comatose, but still), go in to work the next day and inform my boss. My boss is very sympathetic, and basically tells me to take care only of what is absolutely necessary, work-wise, and then get the heck out of here and down to Milwaukee to take care of everything. Remember, between just me and my non-driving, 76-year-old mom we need to inform the rest of the family, plan the funeral, and clean out her room at the nursing home. Guess who would be doing most of the work? Me, and I didn’t mind.
I send out an email to my coworkers which states: Due to a family situation, I will be out of the office starting at noon today and will be unavailable until DATE, with no access to email. Please contact COWORKER at PHONE for assistance. Thank you.
Phone rings. It’s a really demanding coworker (Jeanine) who had been using me to do at least 1/3 of her job on a regular basis.
Jeanine: I got your email about your family vacation …
Me: It says “family situation.” My grandmother died last night.
Jeanine: Oh. [pauses, begins to whine] But you haven’t finished that article for me! Can’t you do it before you leave for the funeral?
Me: I’m leaving today for Milwaukee. I have to plan the funeral. COWORKER can …
Jeanine: [interrupting and whining] So, um, if it’s your grandma, why can’t one of her kids plan the funeral?
Me: Because all of her kids are dead.
[Here I was hoping that would make her realize that meant that I’ve already lost at least one parent, and might evoke something besides self-absorption in her. FAIL!]
Jeanine: [whining] Isn’t there anyone else? I really need that article …
Me: No, Jeanine, there isn’t. I’m the only grandkid in the area and besides planning the funeral I need to call the rest of the family, pick out something for her to be buried in, and clean out her room at the nursing home.
Jeanine: [whi – oh, you know] This is just really inconvenient for me.
Me: You are so NOT my main concern right now!
Jeanine: [sighing] Well, I guess I’ll just call COWORKER.
Me: [hangs up]