Speak of the….Updated

** My husband responded, telling him that the story is more significant than he realizes, but to please leave it at that. My annoyance at him basically faded after I posted this. He didn’t mean to put his foot in his mouth, and since my family does it all the time, why wouldn’t a stranger? **

What are we supposed to do with this email my husband received? Ironically, we got it AFTER I posted on Friday. The guy asked my husband if he was the other grad student whose wife was pregnant. My husband told him our baby died.

This is [blank], the guy who asked you about your wife’s pregnancy on Wednesday. I just wanted to apologize for stupidly asking this question in public, and for the even more stupid and awkward reaction on my part, when I heard your answer. I felt very awkward for having asked you this question in such a public place, and I didn’t know how best to express my sympathy in front of other people without making a scene. All of it was bad judgment on my part.

The reason why I was asking you is that we are having a child in April. However, last year (almost exactly at this time) my wife had a miscarriage–this has probably been the most traumatic and horrible moment in both of our lives. Just thinking about those days makes me feel physically sick. So please accept my most sincere condolences. I can imagine that you must be going through hell. Of course I don’t know the details of your situation, but the only consolation I can offer you on the basis of our experience is that a miscarriage does not necessarily prejudice successful pregnancies in the future.

At any rate, I just wanted to apologize and to let you know say how truly sorry I am. Don’t worry about responding to this email, but if you do want to talk at some point you can always feel free to get in touch with me.

This email hurt. Bad. And it’s exactly why I haven’t been able to bring myself to walk into our academic department since this happened. Don’t tell me he meant well. I know he did. The point is I feel too damn uncomfortable in public myself to feel like I want to make others comfortable.


7 responses to “Speak of the….Updated

  1. I’m sure I’m being monumentally dense, but is there any reason you really need to respond to or even read this kind of email? (I suppose your husband can, if he wants to, but that’s another matter).

    And is there any reason that you need to be back at your department or in public if you don’t feel like it?

    I’m not asking these questions rhetorically — I’m really wondering. Because if not, why don’t you think about not doing anything that makes you uncomfortable? And that includes reading “sympathetic” emails or dealing with “sympathetic” people.

    There will always be unexpected things that will make you feel horrible, so, to me, it makes sense to avoid any predictable sources of pain until you feel better.

    But maybe I’m misunderstanding the situation or your concerns. . . .

  2. Of course you’re not being dense. I could just ignore it, that’s one option. And probably the best one. It’s just we could keep running into him – we can’t avoid it for long. I wish I could say something that would make people understand….And I hope I never forget how much such presumptuousness hurts.

  3. My dh had a similar email after Nicolas died, from someone who should have known better. It really cut him deeply. I had my share of those comments, too. It does make going back to work, and being back at work, even more difficult.

    Do you have an office with a door, or do you share your office? I shared my office when Nicolas died, and this was very hard for me. I did go ‘back to work’ a few weeks after, but spent more and more of my time “working” at home so i could avoid my whole department. I didn’t feel like trying to deal with those people, and i didn’t have to, because i had already accepted my new job (which featured my own office with a door…)

    I say, your dh should respond to the email as he deems fit — if he *wants* to respond, that is. But it can easily be ignored. The guy who wrote it does indeed seem well-meaning but he is evidently completely clueless, and probably neither of you have the desire or the emotional energy to enlighten him. I have alot to say about the whole ‘miscarriage’ thing but i will keep that for another time…

  4. Don’t worry about making other people feel comfortable — there is nothing at all comfortable about death. Your job right now is to take care of yourself, and if that means avoiding the department for a while, then so be it.

  5. You can ignore him, I think.

    I mean, he did say that he felt bad for saying it in public, so I’m betting he won’t say anything to either of you about it again.

    Maybe rehearse something ahead of time, on another subject completely, so if you see him you won’t be completley tongue tied?

  6. You completely hit it on the head when you said you feel too uncomfortable to make others feel comfortable. I bite my tongue when people say stupid things (“I’m SO GLAD you’re back at work!!!”). I couldn’t quite label my behavior till now.

    I’m so sorry that people are so clueless (and will continue to be).

  7. Having to protect others from our pain and the horror of our world – having to comfort them – is something that still fills me with rage from time to time. My Beloved and I bend over backwards to make this easier for everyone around us, and I just don’t know why, except that it seems like the right thing to do for some strange reason. Or maybe it’s just become a habit.

    But it’s still awful. It’s awful feeling like you have to use that precious mental energy you have so little of to make other people feel better. It’s just one of the million horribly unfair parts of losing a child.

    Just remember that you should be doing whatever you need to do to feel better right now. If avoiding this guy and your department is what you need to do, then do it if you can. If you need to correct him – kindly tell him why what he did/said was so upsetting in the hopes he’ll never, ever do it to another person – then do that too.

    You’re a new person in so many ways. It’s okay to make sure people know that. It’s okay to protect yourself.


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