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Surreal Moments...

Last night I wandered out to Wal-Mart for a couple of last minute purchases.

On my way out, a lady called my name. I looked back and I vaguely recognized the person waving at me but only just. She walked over and introduced herself and that jogged my memory. We had done a job for her and her husband a couple of years ago. I said hi and did the typical "How are you? How have you been?" thing.

Her husband died last week.

What do you say to that? She's not a friend, she's a former client, but she struck up a conversation and that was pretty much the first thing that she mentioned after saying hi. Where can that conversation possibly go?

I spent an uncomfortable 10-minutes giving her my condolences and listening to her talk about her husband and the resolution to their lawsuit with the original general contractor on the job we had worked on. We only did the plumbing on that job and the GC that hired us turned out to be a first-class con-artist/loser. We came out ok, but he owed them quite a bit of money (like $20k-$30k iirc). They had to go to court over it and apparently the GC had just paid them what he owed them in December. So that was actually something I knew about, but she also talked a decent bit about her husband.

This is the 2nd time this month where I know someone who has lost a spouse and I still can't figure out what I can possibly say to them that won't sound terribly inadequate. "I'm sorry for your loss" just doesn't quite seem to cut it. On the bright side, I think she appreciated the chance to just talk to someone so I didn't mind the actual conversation... it was just very awkward... awkward and surreal.

Ok, back to work, I just wanted to document that before I forgot about it.

Comments

I have had that happen several times to me with former clients. I've learned to branch out more and say things more creative things like "I hope the rest of your year ends better, be well, take care..." etc. Or share a story of when you lost someone just so they know they aren't alone. In my experience, usually these people just need to either talk or feel compelled to let anyone and everyone know their grief because they can't keep it in any longer. Either way it's awful but just standing there with anything at all to offer probably helped more than you think.
It's not that unusual, after a loss, some people just want to talk about it becuase it makes them feel better.

From experience: When my dad died, I actually preferred if people didn't say anything at all. IMO, there isn't anything you can say... nothing could possibly make it any easier.

People seem to feel obligated to say something though, enter the awkward moment. A simple "sorry' or "fucking hell, that sucks", and move along.

I'm fond of mermaidt's approach too. Haven't anything that smooth in a while.