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by Abigail Van Buren

Insensitive Question Leaves Grieving Mother Speechless

DEAR ABBY: My daughter unexpectedly died very recently. A "friend" called today asking how I was doing (quarantine, food, pet food, etc). Then she asked me the most unnerving question: "Do you have 'June' with you?" I was floored. So many thoughts came rushing at me at once. June was disabled since birth. She went to live in a group home nine years ago. The friend knew I brought her home for weekends.

After I didn't speak for several minutes, she asked in an annoyed tone, "Well, did you go get her ashes or not?" (As if having her ashes with me was a comfort? It isn't!) Abby, I didn't know what to say. Her question slammed me against the wall. I mumbled a response, said I had to go and hung up.

I'm trying to make myself believe she meant nothing but concern, but I can't seem to make myself believe that the words she used weren't purposely cruel. My warm feelings for her have changed to something ugly. I'm still gasping. Your thoughts? -- GRIEVING MOTHER

DEAR GRIEVING MOTHER: Let's give the woman a perfect 10 on the insensitivity meter. She was tactless, but she may not have meant to be unkind. My thought is that you handled the situation as well as you could since her question left you understandably flat-footed. However, I would have answered her differently. I would have responded, "Why do you ask?" and let her explain herself.

Read more in: Death | Friends & Neighbors