Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond
Send your nonfictional open letters to email@example.com.
An Open Letter to the Colleague Who Said “Well, You Weren’t That Close to Him Anyway” After I Told Her My Father Died.
BY NASEEM HRAB
[Originally published October 14, 2011.]
I am sorry that I gave you cause to open your mouth and let noises come out—I know how hard it is to find the right words for a grieving coworker.
“I’m so sorry for your loss” can lead to an awkward is-this-a-hug-or-a-double-shoulder-pat. “He’s in a better place” initially seems reassuring. But as experience shows, it rarely comes with a map. “I know exactly what you’re going through” is simply preposterous. It implies that the speaker’s deceased estranged father was also a compulsively hoarding prison psychiatrist. On the other hand, saying “Well, you weren’t that close to him anyway,” may cause the daughter of said compulsively hoarding prison psychiatrist to open her mouth and let noises come out of it. Wookie noises.
While there is no best practice for consoling a colleague you barely know, I can assure you that it is incorrect to say to anyone, “Well, you weren’t that close to him anyway.” Your theory that one’s sense of loss is directly proportional to one’s “closeness” to the deceased is really stupid. It is really stupid because it fails to take into consideration the complexities of human relationships. Just as you can grieve for someone you were close to, you can also grieve for the absence of something profound you will never have (e.g., the love of your estranged, compulsively hoarding, prison psychiatrist father).
Needless to say, your comment made me binge on a bitter cocktail of guilt and regret, with the realization that I should have, perhaps, tried harder to build a relationship with my father, especially when he was suffering from both a botched heart valve replacement surgery and tuberculosis. I would have preferred a mimosa.
And while I admit that it may have been especially challenging to procure a single statement that would have both consoled me and alleviated my daddy issues, I wasn’t expecting you to do either of those things—I was merely letting you know why I had missed our meeting.
SUGGESTED READSMonologue: A Father Tells His Eight-Month-Old Son to Scatter His Ashes On Top of All the Places That This Asshole He Knows From Work Is Going to Have His Ashes Scattered
by Christopher Geno (8/31/2010)
Some of the Things They Died of in Nineteenth-Century Santa Barbara, California
by Rose Gowen (10/19/2000)
In Light of My Impending Death, Here’s What to Do With My Literary Estate
by Marco Kaye (10/19/2010)
RECENTLYThe Roman Catholic Church’s Official Application for Forgiveness
by Michelle Hauser (9/4/2015)
Open Letters: An Open Letter to Bands That Invite Audiences to Sing Portions of Their Songs at Live Shows
by Luke Pohjala (9/4/2015)
List: College in Ohio or Knight of the Round Table?
by Sid Karger and Tom Coleman (9/4/2015)
POPULARFirst Faculty Meeting of the Year Bingo
by Lisa Nikolidakis (8/25/2015)
“Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here”: A Shakespearean Guide to the 2016 Republican Primary
by Emily Uecker (8/6/2015)
Taylor Swift: A Socratic Dialogue
by Jared Smith (9/2/2015)