I have been thinking about what happens when loved ones die for a while. The thought has been niggling in the back of my mind and has refused to let go. I first started having them in the weeks following my mom’s passing.
That unhappy event opened my eyes to a lot of things people go through when dealing with a loss. One of such things was the questions people were wont to ask when they heard the news of a person’s passing.
They ask, “What happened? Was he/she sick? Was it an accident?” and lots more. I was bombarded with dozens of these questions or their close substitutes. I discovered that the questions put me in a position of having to defend myself.
Sounds odd, right? I will explain.
The circumstances surrounding my mom’s death were a bit confusing. She was very active up till the hour of her passing. One minute she was there, hale and hearty, settling down to a meal and the next, she was gasping for breath and bidding goodbye to the world.
We were bewildered, grievously confused and full of “Whys?”
We were trying to wrap our heads around what happened and trying to see if there was something we could have done to prevent it – all while battling feelings of guilt.
I have come to recognise that guilt as Survivor’s Guilt.
Amid this emotional upheaval, I had people asking me questions like, “Was she sick?”, “Was she hypertensive?” and others like it.
Every time I answered one of these questions, I found myself asking if there was something I could have done to prevent her from passing. Maybe I should have insisted she rested more? Or barricaded the door to prevent her from going about her business? Or being sensitive to some illness she had been battling with?
The crux of the matter was that I found myself in a position of having to defend me.
And I was not alone.
My dad had a spotlight on him. He had to narrate the events leading up to her death every day to varying groups of people. He had to relive the horrors of that terrible day every time people came to visit him.
And why was that?
Because people had a morbid need to satisfy their curiosity.
The point I am making is this:
Asking those questions and having them answered by the bereaved has no benefit to the bereaved or the questioner – except to satisfy one party’s curiosity.
Is that not an unkind thing to do?
Why give a person more pain because you are curious?
It got so bad with my dad that he came to me one night with deep pain in his eyes and asked me, “Tobi, did I not take proper care of your mom?”
Can you imagine that?
I was now put in a position of comforting him and reassuring him that his wife’s passing was not his fault. Where were all his questioners at this time? They had gone back to their own lives without a thought of the mayhem they had left behind!
I remember only once where somebody exercised tact when they came visiting.
It was a group of pastor’s wives. They had come to see dad and he was about to start his narration all over. One of the women reached out to him and said, “Reverend, there’s no need to go over it again. We all know what happened.”
I felt such a rush of gratitude towards that woman!
The thrust of this post is to draw attention to this seemingly innocuous behaviour. It is not innocuous, people! It is not a show of concern either! It is a tactless show of curiosity and it should be stopped!
When a person you know becomes bereaved, try to have the strength to offer comfort without asking probing questions. If the bereaved wants to talk, let ’em. If not, leave ’em alone!
Let them know you are there for them and will help them in whatever capacity they need and keep your questions to yourself!
Believe me, the person will remember – and be grateful.
Do you have a similar experience or a comment? Share with me in the comments section and let’s get better together. Also, please feel free to share this post and spread the word. Let’s get more people educated so that we stop being unintentionally hurtful.