He walked into the office on Monday morning after a long leave. I think he expected a little alone time and the last thing he wanted was to be posed some insensitive questions. The news spread like wild fire that his grandfather had expired a week ago. Poor guy, he had to come out of the grief and look forward to a new day. No! some of the "concerned" colleagues would not let that happen.
He came to the office early to finish up his pending work, but little did he know that an army of "well-wishers" is going to make him hate himself for coming back to the office. "Hi. I heard what happened. I am very sorry. You know we are here if you need anything." says the first thoughtful colleague. How sweet! he thought. It brought a smile on his face.
"Hey! I am so sorry I heard yesterday when I was in the parlour.
You know I got up immediately and didn't get my nails done. How did it happen ?"
"Was he old ?" "Was he suffering from Kidney problems ?"
"My grand dad had a very sad last days. He broke his knee-cap, wasn't able to walk. His kidneys couldn't take the toxins and gave up." "What happened in your case ?"
"He had respiratory problems" said our boy. One of the insensitive colleagues quickly retorted - "Were you having him treated in a hospital ?" Our boy was baffeled. In his mind he thought "No no, we confined him to the garrage and let him be. He's gotta go any day. Why waste money on treatment" He just stared and said. "You know, when u gotta go u gotta go."
But that's not the end of it. A big man walks in. He's in his late thirties. "Hey, I heard what happened. I am sorry. Are the rituals taken care of ?... " "Wow! I didn't see that coming. Not from you" thought our boy during the small pause that the big man gave at the end of his seemingly thoughtful statement. He continued to say "... Because, there's a release early next week and you have some open points to close." Yepp. You guessed it. The big man was his Project Manager !!! Our boy didn't know if he was even supposed to react to a statement severely misplaced in context. Mr. Big Man, from my cubicle I can see our boy's expression. I think your "condolences" helped him ease the pain of his grandfather's passing.
This purely fictious (although inspired from true events) situation can happen to anybody. What is the point of condolences anyway ? However subtle, thoughtful, sensitve they may be - they'll still remind the person who's grieving of the departed. Will an "I am sorry for what happened" bring the soul back ? Or you just said that because you conspired to kill the griever's relative ? Notes of condolences helped no one. Neither it'll bring back a smile nor the person who's dead. If you really care you'd just shut it or change the context and have a casual chat to make sure the griever is doing ok. Join him/her for coffee, take em out for lunch, go on long walks, read out Calvin and Hobbes strips, dedicate some music over the radio, do what ever possible but please do not convey your condolences. They don't matter at all. Oh ya - in case you expressed your condolences in order to purely follow the generally expected social protocol and stood up for the occassion - Don't! Even if you didn't follow the protocol the person who's grieving will not come back to you later on, point a finger (not the middle one) and say "Dude, my grandpa died. And you didn't say you are sorry." Believe me he wont do that.
In order to be a truly good person (or a good Samaritan) one needs to go beyond the social protocol. To hell with the "protocol" if it didn't help no one. To maintain political correctness please don't put people who are grieving through some shit statements and expect them to reciprocate in any manner what so ever. Most of us use "best regards", "with regards", etc. in our email signature. Its high-time one starts conveying the regards and show that one cares in a sensitive manner.