A parody of platitudes

The other day Mark and I drafted a text to someone facing a crisis. And, as we were thinking about things to say, we were also thinking about things not to say, most of which have been said to us.

So later I pondered… What if someone wrote to some poor, grief-stricken soul using ALL (or many) of the common platitudes in a single letter? How ridiculous would that be? So I decided to write this letter as a sort of parody (just for my blog). And then I took it a step further, re-writing said letter (a parody of a parody, if you will) attempting to cut to the chase with what’s really (potentially) behind all these platitudes.

NOTE – These are parodies and are not intended to criticize anyone who’s uttered these phrases. In fact, some of these phrases aren’t super horrible if taken individually and used in the proper context. (Though, to be clear, most of them are.) I’ll even fess up to offering, “I can’t even imagine…” a time or two (pre-loss, of course). I understand we’re almost conditioned to speak these platitudes considering Hallmark actually prints cards with them. And, furthermore, I can appreciate that most people have good intentions. Though I also believe that some either fail to think before they speak or come from a self-centered place, which is mostly who/what I’m making fun of here. Also, references to God aren’t meant to be disparaging rather are merely a function of the frequency with which God enters empty platitudes, a phenomenon which I consider to be unfortunate.

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Letter #1 – Parody of platitudes all in one letter

Dear Friend,

I’m so very sorry for your loss. I cannot even begin to imagine the depths of your sorrow. In fact, if I were to be faced with similar circumstances, I don’t think I’d survive.

But I know you can get through this. Because you are strong. In fact, you’re one of the strongest people I know. And God only gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers, so God must really consider you to be one badass warrior. 🙂

And while we humans can’t be certain why you’ve experienced this tragedy, we can all take comfort in knowing that this was part of God’s perfect plan. We may not understand it now, as God works in mysterious ways, but someday all will be revealed to us. And I can personally testify to this truth, as I can look back on all of the various hardships I’ve encountered and consider each one of them blessings now. Everything always works out in the end – everything happens for a reason. You’ll probably become a better person because of all of this.

Or maybe the reason is because your loved one was sick. Maybe your loved one was injured. Maybe your loved one would have committed a crime in the future. We just don’t know. But none of us would have wanted any of these terrible things, now would we have?

And it’s also good to remember that at least you and your loved one got the time together that you did. At least you have other loved ones. At least you might be able to replace this loved one with another loved one. And at least your loved one will no longer be subjected to the evils of this world. You should focus on the positives and, honestly, you should be thankful.

And your loved one is in heaven now, right where he/she should be. Your loved one is your guardian angel, watching out for and protecting you always and forever.

I want to reassure you that some good will come from all of this, especially if you keep the faith. Just you wait.

Have you tried therapy? What about medication? What about support group?

Should you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call. And remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

**********

Letter #2 – Parody of parody of platitudes all in one letter

Dear Friend,

I’m so very sorry for your loss. I’d rather not try to imagine your pain and suffering, as your circumstances are beyond horrendous, and to think about them for too long leaves me with uncomfortable sensations comparable to those resulting from a giant wedgie, which I generally try to avoid with smart underwear decisions. In fact, if presented with the choice between death and what you’ve experienced, I’d choose death every single time.

But you’re not dead. Nope, here you sit in front of me. I’m enamored by your emotional fortitude. You are much stronger than I am, so I’m glad this happened to you instead of to me. In fact, it all makes sense – God knows you’ll rise to this challenge.

And I have to believe that this is part of God’s plan and/or that everything happens for a reason, because to believe otherwise also results in wedgie-esque discomfort. I’d hate to think that the world is actually a disorderly place infiltrated by evil. To accept this reality is to accept that something equally tragic could happen to me, and, honestly, I just can’t go there. And I’ve always been able to find the reason for others’ tragedies, as well as my own. I mean, back in 2003 when my 18-year-old cat’s health took a sudden, unexpected turn for the worse, I was devastated. Yet somehow I rallied against seemingly insurmountable odds. Today I’m proud to say that, because of all these trying times, I’m a stronger, more compassionate person who contributes nominal amounts of money to my local humane society on a regular basis. And, had my cat not died, I never would’ve met my husband, the veterinarian who euthanized him. (Never mind that he left his wife and seven children to be with me, making me a home wrecker.) See? Things work out!

It makes me feel better to tell you that, by dying, your loved one averted fates I consider to also be tragic. This places a logical spin on your loved one’s death, ignoring the fact that said logical spin only works within a vacuum, dismissing the countless other situations in the world that threaten to disprove my theories.

I also feel compelled to throw in some “at least” statements… Because not only are they a fun way to dazzle you with my creativity, dreaming up ways in which your dire circumstances could exacerbate, but I also get this warm (almost as if I wet my pants) feeling knowing I fulfilled my due diligence, reminding you of all of the blessings still present in your life, as if you weren’t already aware of them.

And it comforts me to think that your loved one is your guardian angel. But you know what would comfort me even more? To think that your loved one is actually MY guardian angel.

I hope some good follows this, because it’s depressing to think too hard about the tragedies after which there’s no earthly redemption.

Also, I hope you seek help from others – from anyone, or from anything, other than me. I’d like for a professional to make you happy again. I’d like for some Zoloft or Lexapro to make you happy again. I’d like others who’ve walked your specific path to tell you how to be happy again. (Honestly mainstream society isn’t really equipped to deal with your grief anyway.) And, preferably, I’d like for all of this to happen soon, so we can just move on. I can’t float through life as blissfully knowing that you’re so sad. And also, I miss you – the old you, not the new, pitiful you…

So I’ll be checking out for a while. I don’t want you to kill yourself, but I don’t really want to directly help you in your healing either. But call me as soon as you’re back to normal!

**********

When in doubt, it might be best to offer, “I’m sorry. I love you.” And it’s even better to continue to offer these words in the days, weeks, months, and years following.

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65 thoughts on “A parody of platitudes

      1. I want to see chicky doodles brand greeting cards on the shelf. They will sell like cakes that have been warmed.

        I want to give you credit when sharing. Do you have a Twitter account for the blog?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are too kind. OMG – I’d love to create some greeting cards – ha! So I have a twitter I hardly use, and I just updated it to be the name of this blog (rather than my real name), so you can follow me, and I’ll follow you! I have like 4 followers currently – ha! My handle is @chickydoodles22

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Letter two made me laugh.. The bloody cat dying.. I’ve had similar comments from people who think they can relate because their ancient pet died…I’m also sick of people telling me to be grateful for my husband.. Count my blessings… 😡

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ughhhhh. Isn’t it sad that letter two was supposed to be a parody of a parody yet people can relate to it based on reality? The “your loved one being MY guardian angel” was actually based on a real situation as well. And yes, “count your blessings” is all too common. I’ve heard this one quite frequently too – so sorry you can related.

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  2. The last few lines of letter number 2 perfectly captures the feeling you get from most people and it would almost be better if they were that honest about it rather than offering “advice/comfort”.
    Loved this.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agree – it does get frustrating when you get so many “call me if you need anythings.” I know these are so well-intended, but, inevitably, you never hear from most of these people again.

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  3. Oh girl, you are so spot on! I am laughing out loud, in a sort of morbid, sad, really, really disappointed way.

    It’s sad that so many of my good friends and family members have failed with regards to what has been said to me since my daughter died. I especially love the last part of letter 2, “I don’t want you to kill yourself, but I don’t really want to directly help you in your healing either.” Golden, and so unfortunately accurate.

    As I sat in my hospital bed after delivering Josie, after she’d died, I read a text from my best friend. To this day it’s my favorite text that anyone has sent me these past two years. All of the texts and platitudes and “at leasts” since just can’t compete. Her text merely said, “I love you.” That’s it. And it provided me more comfort than any other.

    Here’s hoping more people read your blog, and gain an understanding about the things they are saying in the hopes of being helpful, but so often have the opposite effect. Here’s hoping I never hear another word about “God’s plan”. I can’t even.

    xo,
    Nora

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad I could give you a laugh, even if in a morbid sort of way… Your friend’s text was just perfect. ❤ And yes, "God's plan" – I can't even either. It's like, check back in with me after the worst happens to you, and we'll revisit "God's plan." Love you, my friend.

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  4. Laughing hysterically at your second letter (emphasis on hysterically). I actually pointed out to a “friend” of mine that her insistence that I “get over” my grief caused by my twenty-two year old daughter’s death was self-centered. She still doesn’t get it. In a way, I hope she never does. I wish us all love and peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss of your daughter. It’s the most heartbreaking thing in the world. Second, good for you for pointing out your friend’s self-centered ways, calling them out for what they are. Though I’m so sorry she didn’t get it – that’s really unfortunate. Hugs to you – I wish us all love and peace too. ❤

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  5. Oh yes, all of these have been said to me and I cringe every time! “Everything happens for a reason” and “God has a plan” are the worst. I never liked these sayings before my tragedy, and now? Makes me want to vomit.

    Have you ever seen this?

    It’s a short 2.5 min lesson on empathy vs. sympathy. I stumbled across it about a year ago, and searched for it again after Beckett died.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Emily! I love this video – can it be required watching for all of humanity? Also, I didn’t like those platitudes before either, so now hearing them makes me even more angry. And, unfortunately, these are the two I hear MOST frequently of any of them in regards to Matthew’s death. Also, how can anyone look at everything going on in this world and conclude “everything happens for a reason?” I’ll never understand it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. this is one of The BEST parodies I have seen. I was laughing so hard because we all have had most of this told to us at one time or another when facing a loss or even chronic illness (not just losses of loved ones or ones close to us). So spot on! But I needed a good laugh this morning, so thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes! These are funny and fantastic! “He/she is in a better place now” is a huge annoyance of mine. Um, do you know that? I’m not religious, so…yeah. And in the midst of grief, that doesn’t help the grieving person be in a better place emotionally!

    Listen. Offer to help. Ask what they need. All better options than any of the typical responses.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. HA! As the younger generation exclaims nowadays (as heard from extended relatives), DAMN GIRL! YOU SLAYED IT! I was laughing with obvious bitterness at some parts. Laughing in irony at the parts that I myself have used. On myself even! Because really, the old me was holding fast to that shit and with the outside reinforcing it, it’s easy to talk down to yourself in the pit too. Blah! But most times, I genuinely laughed. This is excellent and heartfelt and is so on point. I hope it is shared far and wide. Speaking of which, I will make my contribution to that statement too. Sending love, Momma! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And I hadn’t heard of Megan Devine (Refuge in Grief) before (how and why?!?!). She seems amazing (her story’s heartbreaking too), and I’m going to start following her. I’m glad she got a hold of this post and am honored she shared it – I hope lots get the message about these platitudes as a result. So thanks so much for pointing this out. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I came across this post (and the rest of your blog as a result) through Megan Devine’s page as well; she is ALL about this in her writing. The need people have to ‘fix’ other’s pain, the platitudes that can hurt so much and just achieve the opposite of connection and comfort. How we need to learn to bear witness, to just be there when our loved ones hurt, without trying to fix it.
        I took the 30-day writing your grief course and it was very hard but very good as well. And the relief of finding others who 1) actually get what place you are in and 2) agree to not fix/advise/offer platitudes; to just hear your words and acknowledge your pain; it’s really good.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I really like Megan Devine and her writings and the messages re: how grief can’t be fixed, only carried. I’ve actually signed up for her next 30-day writing course in June and hoping it can help me… I’ll probably post some of my writings here. I’m glad to know you found the course to be helpful – hoping I’ll feel the same. xx

        Liked by 1 person

      4. So good to hear you signed up for the course! It was a hell of a ride; writing every day for 30 days, from within my grief.
        But very cathartic at the same time, and the connections made with people in the writing group are an amazing bonus.

        ‘Enjoy’ the ride and i’m looking forward to reading some of your posts if you post them here, and we’ll see each other in the alumni group after you finished the course too.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, sweet mama. I think you bring up a fabulous point that many of us grieving have tried to use these on ourselves. I think this is a reflection of how very much ingrained in us these platitudes become as a result of how frequently they’re used in society. I’m so glad this made you laugh, but obviously so sorry you can relate so strongly. xoxo ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. letter no. 1 made me cry. when my newborn died 10months ago, I heard them all, and hate it. Sadly, we are the one grieving, yet we are the one who have to understand them,, that no matter what we say, they will n0t truly understand us..😩

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    1. I’m so sorry for your loss of your precious newborn. It’s so heartbreaking and devastating and unfair – it’s just the worst. I’m also so sorry you’ve heard all of these. I think I have too, which is why the first letter was pretty easy to write, unfortunately. And you’re correct – I think the frequent usage of these empty platitudes tends to further isolate us in our grief, highlighting that most don’t understand, making this already difficult journey even more difficult and lonely too. Sending you hugs and love and light, sweet mama. xoxo

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    2. That is one of the things i’m struggling with a lot; people say all these ‘well meaning’ things, often hurting me in the process. But because they have ‘good intentions’ I am supposed to be the graceful one and understand them all.
      While I feel not understood by anyone, often.
      It seems wrong somehow, and ufair. hugs to you jothel

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is so incredibly on point! Sad that while it’s supposed to be an exaggeration, it rings all too true. I heard every single one of those platitudes in the last 6 months. Sometimes I feel numb to the self-centerness of people, other times I’m so annoyed! But nthere aren’t a lot of places to freely express that. Thank you for putting your spin on society’s inability to acknowledge and experience the depths of grief and loss. Your combination of humor and truth is welcome ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments. I’m so sorry you’ve heard so many of these – they really aren’t helpful. You’re correct – sometimes you feel numb, sometimes annoyed… Sometimes you just burst into tears. Sending you big hugs. ❤

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  11. I read both letters out loud to my husband & we laughed, me more than I should have, because it is so very sadly accurate. People are really shitty sometimes, but then they’ll give themselves a pat on the back for ‘being there’. And yeah, god’s plan… I’m guessing if he’s there, he’s actually just winging it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is spot on. I’m so tired of hearing people tell me they can’t imagine how I feel, since my beloved 37-year-old husband was killed in an accident. The friends who I really appreciate are those who tell me that they try to imagine it, and their eyes fill with tears.
    I’m so glad I saw this, via Refuge in Grief.

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  13. I loved these letters; well not loved them but they hit home very much and made me laugh.
    The horrible things well-meaning people come up with after a tragic loss are unbelievable sometimes.
    And I know they feel helpless and want to do/say the ‘right’ thing, but since nothing can make the loss of my partner any better I wish they would just skip the even trying part and just BE there.
    I don’t need a lot of words, I don’t need advise or conclusions, I don’t need that much at all.
    Just be present and don’t run from this pain, just hold me even when i’m not being kind to you and just be patient and love me.

    It doesn’t seem like a whole lot to ask?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean – so sorry you’ve experienced something horrible enough to “love” these letters and be able to laugh at them in a dark sort of way. I too wish people could just kind of BE there too, not offer these platitudes that make NO sense… I think it’s reasonable to ask, but I know people want to “fix.” It makes me far more grateful for those who don’t try to, those who just sit with us in our grief and abide… xx

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This was fantastic. Especially the parody or the parody. But it truth, it was the last paragraph, the one you wrote after the stars, that made me cry. Thank you. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on Freeing My Heart and commented:
    Quote: ” What if someone wrote to some poor, grief-stricken soul using ALL (or many) of the common platitudes in a single letter? How ridiculous would that be? ” <—– I have received such Emails, and worse, all crammed into an decade of domino-effect disasters & tragedies. The bottom letter, though a parody of a parody, retroactively, serves as the metaphorical never-expressed apology I will never get from the [sadistic] assholes who wedged themselves in my already too-narrow grieving space, by just being COMPLETELY realistic! Kudos to you Christine, for hitting the nail on the head!

    Liked by 1 person

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