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A Friend's Dead Grandma

A friend's grandma just died. Friend? I don't really know her... or her grandma. What is a friend anyway? A 'person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection'... yeah, I guess we are friends. It's funny how even basic textual exchanges build bonds. How they can make me care about a strangers death, when at least one stranger dies in the world every second.

When someone tells you they've lost a loved one, how do you respond? What do you say? "Sorry for your loss?" That's so American. Like how they say "Hey, how are you doing?" and don't expect a response. It's just a formality. Here in Sweden you'd get an exclusive account of all their daily events prior to that question. And "sorry for your loss" would be an insult. It's not their loss, but we are "sorry". That'd suffice. Though we usually mourn in silence.

I don't mean to say American's aren't heartfelt - they probably care more than people in most countries/cultures do, yet we say things so differently; mean things so differently. If I say what I mean, I doubt it'd come across. Like how my mom likes to say that "Grandma's better off dead"... since she no longer has to suffer. She means that in the most well-meant sense, but it just feels wrong, especially when translated (I mean it doesn't sound so bad in Swedish).

I can't offer a prayer because I'm not religious. Should you offer sympathy or empathy? I lost a grandma too, but I didn't post about it expecting responses. I posted to vent. So how do other people react when people pry on their business, do they want sympathy or do they want distraction? It seems customary to only make public that which you want a response on, but then again you don't go to a funeral to gain a response. You go there to say farewell, and in this digital realm a blog post may just as well be the second best thing.

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  1. S3C
    Thursday Dec/4/2014

    A bunch of words, all that have the same good intentions, but have a negative meaning that no amount of semantics can twist.

    Never thought of "sorry for you loss" being negative before...Now I cannot unsee. It almost seems insulting as you said, you wouldn't say to an opponent in a game "I'm sorry that you lost"...loss is such a negative word in truth. Perhaps, "I'm happy that you spent so much time with the good person known as your grandma, and gained good experiences and insight on life" because knowing an individual is a gain instead of a loss. But then that sounds a bit pompous. I usually just say "my condolences, he/she was a great person, please let me know if you need anything". I'm not very good in comforting people who are mourning.

    In the states, even on the internet I've seen, "how are you doing" / "what's up" / "what have you been up to" / "how was your weekend" are synonymous with "hello" and 99.9% are not meant to elicit a response other than a simple "good" or a synonymous "hello" or "hey" or "chilling" or a reciprocal "what's up". Slicker responses such as "another day in paradise", "just living the dream", "if I was any better I would burst", "better than I deserve" are thrown in every now in then to spice up the mundane culturally mandated introductory small talk. I try to avoid asking people how they are doing, unless I genuinely want to know (not to say I wouldn't mind hearing what's on their mind or what they did, if the person at hand needs to vent and wants me to listen).

    "better off dead" certainly wouldn't be used in America!! that just has a very negative connotation from my point of view, something that would be reserved for a criminal's passing. What you would say here would be "he/she's in a better place" and that doesn't inherently imply a religious connection.

    You wouldn't have to offer a prayer, but as Dr. Sumir Thripi Chandra "S3C" would say, "sending you good vibes and positive karma" is always a good gesture. Prayers and good thoughts that transcend through the air are metaphysically the same and bring the same results.

    Not everyone can offer empathy, because by the definition of the word, you have to share an experience. Everyone can offer sympathy, and kind words and thoughts always help make the world a better place in the inevitable times of sadness. Great conclusion to this blog post.

  2. Cyber
    Thursday Dec/4/2014

    As in... this blog? The phrase?

    I just realized the phrase can be read with emphasis both on 'your', or on 'loss', both negative, didn't consider that above... ahh, that sounds much better, I usually do a 'he/she was a great person' summary if I have anything to say about the person in question... yeah, same here, guess it's not something most people get enough practice with. ;) Which is GOOD! Hope it stays that way!

    Gotta keep some of those slick responses in mind! Yeah I've had plenty of PMs with a simple 'What's up' in small unbold letters, to which I still, despite all my better knowing, usually offer a response to. :P So... how do you ask a person how they're doing if you really want to know?

    Ah yeah, he/she’s in a better place rings much better. But if you're not religious, or don't know what you believe, such a response would need slight modification to befit the situation. Doesn't 'a place' symbolize more than potentially: a coffin? If it did I doubt people would keep saying that. ;)

    Might've not translated the above in the most conveying way btw, just the most direct, as mentioned it's not really that harsh in Swedish.

    Dr. Sumir Thripi Chandra "S3C" speaks the truth! Problem is how to word that in a way that anyone will understand.

    Yeah, but if you share an experience (ex. a certain family member of both parties has died), would that be enough to offer empathy, or is each situation individual and completely different and thus sympathy all that can be offered?

  3. Doomroar
    Friday Dec/19/2014

    Man Dr. S3C i can't believe you i agree with most of what you said except with the following:

    It is their loss, they just lost a loved one, so "sorry for the lost of your loved one, which is no longer here with you", is simplified to "sorry for your loss" this is done in part because the person speaking doesn't wants to be overly specific reminding the person of what happened, for in mourning acceptance is not the first feeling that occurs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model, and even when this model is criticized, if someone doesn't knows of the circumstance or relationship that someone had with the deceased, reminding them of the person now gone, is actually more rude.

    The sorry, just means to show sympathy, as Dr S3C already said, sympathy is not given it is demonstrated, when you say my dearest sympathies, you are not really giving them your sympathy, that is just figure of speech, more specifically a dead metaphor (a metaphor that has been adopted into normal everyday language), what you are doing is showing them that you are sympathetic towards their situation, in this case the sympathy experienced is that of sadness (because someone died), and sadness is a negative feeling, the transmitted message thus may insinuate that since the other person feels similar to the grieving one they care for them, however this is not the case, and this is why the phrases "if there's anything i can do to help you" or "if there's anything you need" are included apart from "i am sorry for your loss", and empathy is not given neither empathy is felt, for someone to gave their empathy to someone else they would need to pass their perceived experiences to the other person, and our technology is not able to do that... yet; the sorry thus, is a replacement for the more elaborate "it saddens me too, ...", but as far as sorry goes, the person doesn't really has a responsibility to excuse itself, so this too is just a figure of speech.

    So "sorry for your loss" is not only accurate, but also a more mindful way to express sympathy, by means of simplifying the original message: "It saddens me too, that you have lost a loved one", that is what is being said, now if what is being said is what is being meant, that is a different issue, a formality can be said by everyone, but it does has to carry the same weigh for everyone.

    Ok that is what i wanted to clarify, now this is what i would like to elaborate, Dr. S3C already does a very good exposition of it but here go:

    A greeting doesn't really entitles an elaborate response, true indeed Dr. S3c, and with the passing of time the greeting in which one's day (or even life) is questioned became a synonym with other less formal ways of greetings, thus nowadays the answer to a "what's up" is just another "what's up", of course what's up, is in itself a simplified greeting that actualky ask what's up with your day/life, up in itself is a replacement for "what is currently happening"; then there's Up (just up) is an even more simplified one of the previous example, this is known as popularization of language.

    Over here people still expect an elaborate response from a "how's going", however the answer to that is just a "good, and you?", eventually the answer to a "how's going" and similar greetings will become a mirror of the original greeting, at that point, all these questions equate themselves to nothing more than hello, or any other mundane mention of the day/weather ("good afternoon"; "beautiful morning"; "what a rainy day"), this is due to people not having time to engage in long conversations, and due to people not being close enough to each other, so they don't really want to know or tell about their days or the days of others, and even if they actually had an interest, they still lack the time, yet greetings that ask about these things are still customary, even when cultural changes makes them irrelevant in their initial context.

    For further documentation i recommend the Wikipedia articles about "Figure of Speech"; "Idiom"; and more importantly "Language Change". It is interesting to know that despite the name bastardization/corruption of lenguage, doesn't necessarily means that a bad thing is happening to language, for example greetings that are just a Yo! Sup, and the like are actually just adaptations to the current cultural trends, which actually facilitate the process of communicating a message, in this case it is just an informal greeting, without mayor connotations behind it.

  4. Cyber
    Friday Dec/19/2014

    Well the point I was mainly trying to make is how saying that it's 'their' loss implies that no one else has lost anything, as if it was something they owned that has been taken away, when really it's much greater than them. A 'sorry' may not sound as profound, but it says all there is to say: that you are sorry. Sorry for them. Sorry this happened. Sorry for *insert other potential meaning here*. It may not come across well in writing, but if you say it face to face they'll know if you ARE sorry. S3C interpreted the statement differently I think, with focus on loss, but that seems like a viable point as well. Why remind them? Why make it a loss? shouldn't there be a better way of saying this?

    Giving someone verbal sympathy would be a way of enforcing the thought. You may already feel sympathy, but they may not know it if you don't say it. Though I'd agree that something along the lines of 'let me know if you need anything' shows you have enough sympathy to actually take action, which is much better. Plus actually offering help is a big step up from just offering understanding. It's like telling a homeless person that you're sorry for their situation when they'd be better off with a sandwich.

    As for the reduced implications of greetings: I hope phrases don't take that same route in all locations! Though it'd be useful with a unified form of greeting that bridges cultural differences, that serves as just a greeting - nothing more, it's also nice being able to swap daily experiences, all initiated by a simple 'how's it going?'.

    Well, I guess what everything really comes down to here is how differently we interpret different words and phrases based on our cultural heritage. Loss and objectification for us is something entirely different as far as the optimal funeral phrase goes, so even if you go by definition and phrase things the optimal way according to textbook English, that doesn't mean the implications of said phrase will change for me. It'll still feel wrong.

    Btw, speaking of topics like weather, I run into a lot of awkward situations where someone shouts a greeting and you don't know if you're expected to stay and talk or just greet back and keep going. At some times there's no time to stop, but they might take it as an insult if you don't so I guess there are still some issues to be worked on here. :P Mmm, thanks for the tips, might read up some more on those topics some time! There are soooo many idioms...

  5. Doomroar
    Saturday Dec/20/2014

    The problem is that when you encounter these people usually at funerals, or shortly after or before them, they are sad, so they have to search an ambiguous way to express themselves, but that also delivers the message.

    Yeah most people say "sorry for your lost" not because the feel it, but because they are culturally obliged to say it, even more they are people that don't really mean the "if there's anything you need", that kind of people should have stop at the first sentence.

    Yeah but not everyone has the time to engage in such social practice, even at home, and then there are the people that really have no interest on your life, and you have no interest on their life, coworkers for example...

    Well i tried my best to explain why they use that phrase, it also depends a lot from the context in which the person died, if it was an unexpected dead it is actually more rude to go and start talking to the person about all the happy times they had with the deceased, and they wont be ably to have anymore XD, probably with enough time, verbosity, and a proper explanation you will be able to get away with it, you would also need to make some ass-pull about how dying is not so bad, yeah...

    Here's what i do, i always answer with a "Hey", or "Hey-fine, and you?", if i don't have time i say a "Hey-fine, but am really late, see you later." in essence it is always a thing marked by brevity that doesn't has much compromises, specially because my response doesn't tells them much about what is going on with me, and more importantly by body language, i usually don't stop walking if i really have no time.
    The context of the greeting also depends on the time spend without you being in contact with a person, some times you will have to stop and explain them that you really can stop and catching up, when this point is presented to the other person your hastiness takes priority over the social need of communication, and thus they which are stopping you are the ones that actually come as rude, for they are being an inconvenience, it sounds bad but it is the truth, since we all have responsibilities anyone reasonable and socially adept enough would understand that the conversation can't continue.

  6. Cyber
    Saturday Dec/20/2014

    You mean an unambiguous message, one that can't be misunderstood?

    Yeah, we do have all these traditional phrases that people use for either obligation or sympathy, or both, and we keep using them since we know that's what we're expected to say. Much easier with a standard phrase than actually sifting through thoughts and emotions and trying to best explain how you feel, or what you want the other person to hear. Of course, you have to mean what you're saying! What's the point in saying anything if you don't mean it? Though so many do. Grievance can be shown through silence as well, and in such ways it'll never be misintended.

    Coworkers that don't have interest in my life? What kind of cruel cold-hearted impersonal workplace are you thinking of here?! :O Social life is/should be a big part of work. Some people distance themselves more, of course, but a good workplace should be like one big secondary family. Not that I have any such experiences yet, but that's how I envision it. ATM I just have a great boss, that hmm, probably is pretty impersonal...

    Ah yeah, I understand what it means, thanks! As for speaking of the more positive aspects of death, I guess it all relates to what we believe. A religious person who loses a loved (and also religious - in which case they'd supposedly be going to a better place) one might have a different understanding, along with their different expectations of what comes after. A person who fears death probably won't have the same positive outlook; trying to bring up good memories might be a direct insult.

    In a way I suppose our way of viewing death as a loss is the loss that we make it. We have very negative associations with death, even though plenty of cultures view it as a blessing (at least in theory, though as Timbuktu says: "everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die"). In the days of Vikings and Warriors they embraced death as an honor if it came to them the right way. The important thing was to die right, not to stay alive for as long as possible. And what's a life really worth if it's not well spent? We view death as a menace when we really need to understand that's it's an inevitable clause, it's just part of our contract here on the planet, no matter what comes after. And we should phrase our grievances accordingly!!

    Good practice. Yupp, all you say's the truth, though some times you might stop anyway just to be polite, and not initially show that you really are in a rush somewhere, thinking it might not take that long, but takes longer than you expect, so when you suddenly have to dismiss yourself the other person gets offended by your sudden departure. Maybe that's just a cultural problem over here though. :P

  7. Doomroar
    Sunday Dec/21/2014

    No, i mean an ambiguous message, that doesn't says much, yet is specific enough that it allows to show concern.

    Well some people care about saving face, so they lie.

    Normal workplace? i mean i am not friends with all my fellow students from my own promotion, i greet them but i don't want to know what all of them did over the weekend, the concept alone would be kind of crazy, think about it just my current class is over 30, and i switched careers, and i was taking class from other careers like sociology and philosophy as i was making the transition, plus there are people that entered before and after me, plus the teachers, the librarians, monitors, secretaries, restaurant cooks, cafe owners, the janitors, i interact with all of them, imagine that every day or week i actually ask them about their days, and also tell them about my day, to all of them! the day would be spend entirely on me just greeting people, instead i just greet with a simple Hey; Morning; Hello; Yo! it keeps things moving, to be fair there's also people i don't even greet, is not like i am Mr popular and interact with the whole damn class, i am not the teacher my arrival is not some kind of event XD.

    For a lot of Catholics death is actually a blessing it allows them to go to the promised land and all that s... stuff. But i guess that for the ones that remain alive, they just lost a friend, a family member, a lover, it is now a cadaver and they cant spend more time with them (well... they could, but that would be really weird), their lost is in essence the opportunity to still be with them.

    See that is a good point you have made, we should make the best out of our lives while we can, so lets say i decide to spend time with my loved ones, and then next day they die in a car accident, nothing i could do really, but my plan to spend time with them has now become an impossibility, and even if we say that the ones that died had fulfilling lives, me who is still alive is now screwed.

    Probably, i actually prefer to pass as rude and explain later what happened, than to arrive even more late than what i already was and the only thing backing me up was "oh, i meet with this person and we started talking... then half an hour passed", that is inexcusable, is not like Colombians are known for their punctuality, but no one would take "i was late because i was catching up with a friend" for a valid excuse.

  8. Cyber
    Sunday Dec/21/2014

    Ahh, alright, like "Sorry"!

    They should honor their honor! :O

    Hah yeah it does depend on how big a workplace you're in, school was definitely different! Teachers/supervisors/etc have a bit of a responsibility to get somewhat close though, comes with the job, but the smaller the task force the more personal it becomes. I had a class one year with just five students, me included, was pretty fun with the entire class just one group of friends. That was at a brand new school btw, they still hadn't managed to gather together that many applicants.

    Mmm, if they believe what they believe, they'd believe the person's still around in spirit. But yeah, it is a loss regardless, even if just a temporary one from their viewpoint.

    Yeah that would... suck. Imagine if you hadn't spent time with them at all though, and then they die in that crash... Well, death is really no fun for anyone, especially the ones surrounding the victim, but we really don't try to make the best of it either!

    Haha yeah, being direct (and late) sounds like pretty South American traits! Here we create our own problems through our historical unfamiliarities with efficient socializing.

  9. Doomroar
    Monday Dec/22/2014

    Sorry is too ambiguous, it can work, but it requires a lot to be interpreted by the receptor, since practically the whole message is an implicit one. It would require a good sense of humor to answer "for what?" XD.

    Appearances man...

    Yeah, but you see normally you are not in those kind of small work groups.

    The person is still around in spirit? did the ghost of the deceased remained on earth and is haunting the person? should we call an exorcist? Ah you mean like Tupac is alive... in our hearts, that's just some temporal lies while we get over it, even religious people think that the spirit goes somewhere else.

    I don't know it depends, if i didn't spend time with them at all, i probably had better things to do, and in that case looking back i shouldn't feel that bad for losing them, if my objective was spending time with them and i never did it, then it is really tragic.

    Ah that reminded me of the cholos on Black Jesus, "no you don't get it, you see, we are agnostics!" that cracked me up.

  10. Doomroar
    Monday Dec/22/2014

    http://hoxtranslations.blogspot.com/2014/12/terrarium-in-drawer-complete.html
    Go to page 67, the story "attorney at law" is all about not greeting someone and they taking that to the extreme XD, actually it would be nice if more people were able to rationally evaluate that kind of situations.

  11. Cyber
    Monday Dec/22/2014

    More unambiguous after all! ;) Haha yeah, you'd catch people off guard with that response! Just in case it ever happens, I think I'll mentally prepare myself with a: "For all the hardship you're going through, that the aforementioned person's no longer here to brighten up our lives and that I didn't offer a more unambiguous condolence in the first place."

    Superficial's shit fo shizzle.

    Though I was assuming work group: a group at work. As in: outside of school, where I assume groups are generally much smaller. Of course I can only speak through my own and of those I know's extremely limited experience(s).

    lol. Nah, I mean how deceased people are supposedly omnipresent, watching over us from wherever they are, knowing when we think of them and hearing when we speak to them. That kind of 'spirit'. I like the temporal spirit lies in heart thing better though. As long as someone remembers somebody, they won't be forgotten! Obviously.

    For a moment there I thought you were going to say that if you didn't spend so much time with them, you wouldn't hold such strong bonds to them and thus the loss wouldn't be as great as it could be. Glad that wasn't it! Yeah, that's what I was thinking... if you did have better things to do then all for the better! Feels like every time someone says they shouldv'e spent more time with someone it's in regret.

    The TV show? Recommended?

  12. Cyber
    Monday Dec/22/2014

    lmao, snubbing huh, I've learned a new word today! :D Relatable situation too. Hmm, that was a rational evaluation?

  13. Doomroar
    Tuesday Dec/23/2014

    Haha.

    It depends of the work, for example if you are lab assistant for a class, then your coworkers are a whole class.

    Oh yeah i have never felt loneliness while i masturbate or defecate... bunch of pesky omnipresent spirits... but you grow accustomed, or better said desensitized, you just don't care anymore what a whole bunch of generations are seeing you doing all the time. Haha as if.

    Yeah not everyone has to do things with others all the time, i mean things are already quite crowded as they are with all these omnipresent spirits, man privacy was an illusion all along!

    Yeah TV show, it could be funnier but it has its moments, but na i wont recommend, Black Jesus is too normal a Jesus, and Jesus is a goody 2 shoes.

    Yeah, she freaked out at first, but then by evaluating the options around the situation comes to a consensus that avoids a misunderstanding, people just skip all that and make unfounded assumptions on the spot.

  14. Cyber
    Tuesday Dec/23/2014

    True. And lab assistants are pretty anti-social people overall. Stereotype of course.

    lmao, never had a "what if someone's here right now" thought though? Each time someone near dies, I start wondering if they're close by, if they're but a corpse in the ground or in a better place, or maybe another dimension in the same place, another plane of existence in which I pass by them when I visit their old homes, even if they can't be seen... like Silent Hill but without all that evil.

    Hey maybe you're sitting inside an ethereal otherworldly presence right now! :P

    Sounds like a good time for Korean Jesus to make an entrance!

    True hat. Even if it seemed like she hadn't come to a much better conclusion before the other girl tapped her on the shoulder.

  15. Doomroar
    Wednesday Dec/24/2014

    Well not always they are like senior students.

    They are chunks of meat oxidizing at a faster rate than us, nothing more nothing less.

    Oh no i was molested as a kid by a ghost and i never stopped being inside them!

    He is too busy with Korean stuff.

    She concluded that she was not hated, and that there was no need for her to be upset.

  16. Cyber
    Wednesday Dec/24/2014

    Ah, well as long as they don't actually assist in a lab the anti-social mantra fades fast!

    But don't you ever wonder/doubt/theorize on the paranormal possibilities? That's the same conclusion I always come back to, though.

    This is the kind of thing that causes deep scars and psychological trauma. Maybe you should see a psychologist man?

    True that, Koreans ARE a busy people...

    Seemed more like she hesitantly agreed that it might be a possibility, but wasn't really convinced until the girl tapped her on the shoulder. That's when she realized: ah, she was wearing headphones! She wasn't wearing glasses! She didn't actually hear or see me! ...was my impression.

  17. Doomroar
    Wednesday Dec/24/2014

    They are still lab assistants.

    Na, it is just hard for me to imagine, make it work and make sense, i just can't do it, i can leave it as possibility, but i would have to come with a way to make it work.

    Or maybe an exorcist.

    She does the same with her boyfriend.

  18. Cyber
    Wednesday Dec/24/2014

    Yet now they are lab assistants without the lab assistant stereotype indiscriminately placed upon them!!

    Mmm.

    lol, oldskool psychology!



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