Monday, January 03, 2005

What Not To Say: Illness and Death

Welcome to another episode of What Not To Say. I'm your host, Esther, and today we're going to deal with a very sensitive topic: Illness and Passing Away. Let's jump right in, shall we? Okay!

What Not To Say (based, sadly, on the experiences of friends and family)[followed, of course, by some snarky retorts you might try]:

Illness:
"Wow. You look pale."
How nice of you to say. You look fat/old/puffy/some other element of a person that is hard if not impossible to change.

"Are you getting enough sleep? You look awfully tired!"
So do you, but I'm sick. What's your excuse?
OR
How did I get lucky enough to know someone as brutal, I mean, brutally honest, as you?

"Have you tried aromatherapy/prayer/nutrition/macrobiotics? I have a friend who goes to this clinic in Malta/follows this diet/prays to this lifeforce that you should call."
Believe me, if there was something to try that would change my circumstances, I'd have done it by now.
OR
If there was a cure for this disease already, my doctors would have heard about it.

"I think those meds you are on aren't good for you."
And you got your medical degree at what school?

"I read this thing on the internet...."
Yeah, you and 100 million p*rno lovers.

Passing Away:
"He's in a better place now."
Yeah? Well then why don't you join him?
OR
F*** You.

"How are your finances?"
Is your question "can I offer you financial help?" or is it "May I please pry into the deceased's financial affairs?"

"How did your {relative} die?"
Same way we all do: s/he stopped breathing.


There are so many more, but I will spare you the rest. Let's just boil it all down, shall we?

If someone is sick, say any variation of the following:
"I don't know what to say, and I know there is nothing I CAN say. But I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts/prayers and that I am here for whatever you need."

If someone is bereaved, say any variation of the following:
"I don't know what to say, and I know there is nothing I CAN say. But I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts/prayers and that I am here for whatever you need."

Get the picture? Editorial comments, pointed questions and broad statements of your personal opinion or belief are most likely neither appreciated nor necessary. It's okay for us to feel awkward when we are faced with grief or illness; it is not okay to embarrass yourself or others as a result.

Well--thanks for joining us on this month's episode of What Not To Say. Stay tuned for our next segment focusing on What Not To Say about an Interracial Marriage. (Many of us have already transcended calling marriages between two people of different cultures "interracial" and have opted instead to just call them "marriages," but since we are in the minority, next month's episode is sadly still necessary.)

4 comments:

Vigilante said...

Yeah, I get that all the time:
"Yeah, and how are YOU doing?"

What's your advice, ol' great Haggis? What's the best fucking thing to say to that, from someone you want to retain as a friend?

Vigilante said...

Yeah, I get that all the time:
"Yeah, and how are YOU doing?"

What's your advice, ol' great Haggis? What's the best fucking thing to say to that, from someone you want to retain as a friend?

E said...

Two options, dear Vigilante:

1) Have someone run interference for you, eg, someone else coaches people, "Don't bring up his diverticulitis when you see him; it bums him out."

2) My favorite: Completely enthusiastically in a way that says 'Don't pursue this further:' "I'm good! Thanks! But you know, since I got myasthenia gravis, I feel like all I do is talk about myself. I'M bored with ME, so let's talk about you."

Raine said...

Here's something only partially related, but nonetheless amusing that I would like to share:

Friend: Geez, you look pale! Are you feeling okay? Do you need to rest?

Me: I've got the bloody Plague. Stay away from me.

*cough violently*