The Ineptitude of “Sorry”

Last night hubs and I found out that an acquaintance of ours had died.  He was 33.  Acute pancreatitis.  They have a 2 year old son.  We didn’t know him well, and I know his wife a little better and like her a lot.

I just ache for them both, even though we weren’t close and I wanted to say SOMETHING to express my condolences (and did), but everything I could think of felt like a trite platitude with no real meaning behind it, no matter how well intentioned. “Sorry” is quite possibly the most useless, meaningless, lamest word in our language.  And yet what else do we have?  We’re thinking about you.  We’re praying for you.

This is why I cook.  Because sometimes I can manage to say in food what I can’t say in words.  I need to make a casserole.

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14 comments

  1. So sad. I think sometimes we write because there are so many things in life–grief, death, loss, pain, love, hope–that everyday language can’t begin to explain or help us understand. But I do think just something small, even “sorry”, lets people know we’re thinking about them and that they’re not alone.

  2. I saw your tweet yesterday and wanted to say something – figuring that someone had passed. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t know what to say.

    Thoughts with the family who lost someone way too soon.

  3. As a former (and future) hospice volunteer, as well as a woman who lost her first husband to mental illness, I say don’t underestimate the gift of your presence. The fact that you care enough to say it with food matters, too. One of the best things you can do is call her up in a few weeks when the bustle is past, and the world is moving on. She will really need her friends for a long time.

    I kept a list of the people who were kind to me when my mother dying, even if they just asked about her. Some of them were people I barely knew. All of them will always be special to me. I kept the list to remind myself that even the smallest kindnesses matter. Many prayers for your friend and her son.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. My husband and I always hate to go to funeral homes because we just don’t know what to say that will be adequate to express our condolences. We just muddle through it but never feel like anything we can say is enough. When my best friend died last year, and I was devastated, just someone’s presence, a hug, and I’m sorry made me know they cared.

  5. Speaking from my memories of when my wife died .it does not matter much what you say now (i know you are wise enough to avoid the “it is for the best thing”) to the survior
    everything is painful blur. What matter is what you say 6 months from now… 9 months from now

  6. And I’m terribly sorry for you feeling so helpless and unable to put your caring anywhere. I think a casserole is an EXCELLENT place to put it. Also, when my mom died, all I wanted was sweets (and I’m not a sweets eater). Everytime her neighbor asked if there was anything she could do, I said “More rumcake please!”

  7. When my mom died I was surprised how much the sympathy cards meant to me. They meant people were thinking of me, and my mom, and were sad too. Anything you give from a place of compassion has value.

  8. I never know what to say. You said it perfectly that all the things that come to mind seem so empty at a time like this.

    I have to echo what Piper said. In a few weeks or a few months, it’ll feel to her like everyone has forgotten and that they expect her to be back to normal. And she’ll need someone who recognizes that healing is a long, slow process.

  9. Patrick is right about the “painful blur.” My father’s death was unexpected. I don’t remember any of the nice things people said, but I can remember that they said them. There are also a few unbelievable comments I wish I could forget, like, “I know this is a bad time… but I wondered if you’ll be putting your dad’s land up for sale.” (Yea… true story.)

    I think the food gifts are wonderful, becausethis was such a help to me and my family. We had people staying with us; relatives with nowhere else to go. I couldn’t be trusted to feed myself, much less a house full of out-of-towners, so these deliveries from friends and neighbors meant more than can be imagined.

    Your plan a great way to show both compassion and friendship to hurting people.

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