Friday, April 22, 2016

A Phrase It's Time To Retire

"So sorry for your loss".

Life is full of tragedies; death is but one of them. When someone we know, someone we care about has a loss, we feel compelled to say...something. We want them to know that they're in our thoughts, in our prayers, that they know we care and that we're there to support them.

A decade or more ago, we stammered for the words. In times of tragedy or loss we needed to something to say, but we didn't have those comforting words. The awkwardness increased as the Internet and social media grew, and we were more closely associated with our friends, no longer separated by distance and time. Then, slowly, a phrase was born that allowed us to express our empathy, easily.

"I'm truly sorry for your loss".

A simple phrase, but it acknowledges and empathizes with the loss, and can open a dialog where we can further discuss our shared grief.

Recently, however, this simple phrase has become a trite habit. Instead of using the phrase to open a dialog, it has become a impersonal acknowledgement of the loss, neither requiring - nor expecting - further discussion. It has become a Facebook "unlike".

Go to any social media post where someone has lost a loved one, and you'll see comment after comment after comment of nothing more than minor (or zero) variations of that same over-used phrase.

"So sorry for your loss".

Nothing else. Just that. Not "I'm truly sorry for the grief you must be feeling from the loss of your parent". No recalled memories of the loved one, no interesting anecdotes of how that person may have affected the commenter's life, no discussions or recognition of how that person's loved one affected them. Few, if any, variations whether the loss was a spouse, parent, child, sibling, or even a cat or dog.

"Sorry for your loss".

Just as simple as a click of a button, the sadly-overused phrase now appears as a checkbox, a desire just to be seen empathizing.

A decade ago this phrase was a simple and acceptable way for us to recognize a person's loss and affirm our ties with them. But with social media growing up and becoming a big part of our society, we need to grow up as well. I suggest that any time we feel compelled to post this comment in recognition of a loss, we need to stop and think about what we really mean, what we're really trying to say. And we need to do it using our own words, not by using an overused phrase.

Otherwise, just hit the "Sad" button and move on.

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