Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Conversation Stopper

When Mum died I was at middle school, where I would stay until I was 11.
I spent two years surrounded by teachers and pupils who knew that my mum had died.

High school and beyond was different. As social circles grew and changed there would inevitably be the 'getting to know you questions' ...

Do you have any pets?
Yes we have a dog

Where do you live?
Just down the road in Blahville

What do your parents do?
Well, my Dad is an interior designer and my Mum is dead

... followed by an awkward silence.

Just at the point the question relating to Mum was asked I would assume the position of 'rabbit caught in the headlights', my palms would become sweaty and I'd have the sudden urge to run.

I always felt deep embarrassment. not because my Mum had died but because it was so uncomfortable for me and the other person. They would say they were sorry and I wouldn't know what to say.

As I got older it was easier to answer the questions in a jokey manner or tell people that they had nothing to be sorry for and move on to something else.

I wonder if this is why I deal with most serious situations in a panicked slapstick humour state!?


  1. I am in a similar position, my mum died of cancer when I was 7 and at 9 I moved to a new school in a new area. I do it too. I make light of the situation to this day, dare I say it but I actually act "blase" about it. I think I do it because I think "If I'm cool then they'll be cool. And if they don't freak out/feel weird/pause uncomfortabley, then nor will I". I think I do it for self preservation.
    Thank you for writing what I so very often feel. xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Humour is a great defence mechanism. I think you have it naturally and just use it to get you out of these tough situations. As Sprinkle said, it's self-preservation. xx

  3. I think it probably is and I agree with Audreyhorne, humour is definitely a great defence mechanism. My family have always used humour in quite inappropriate circumstances at times of great tragedy but it was the only way we could get through some awful times x

  4. Sweet girl, sometimes humour is the only way. Most people end up saying sorry to me, to which i just reply that it isnt their fault! It is just the way it is.

    I was teased at school, and always felt like i had a big sign on my forehead. So you act the clown to compensate. It is much easier to think that they are laughing with you, rather than at you.

  5. This is so true, I was the same, we moved the same year dad died though.

    I found quite recently when I told a friend my dad was dead he told me I was lying because I said it so casually that he couldn't believe it was true.

    I think for me its just the case of the longer I'm without him the easier it is for me to explain, back then I didn't fully understand it but I have a better grasp on it now 14 years later.

    I do find that people don't know how to react to things like that though. It's something where there is no right or wrong behaviour, everyone feels differently towards it.

  6. My son was away on a school trip when my friend died. I remember him giving my friend's son a big hug on his return and saying 'how are you?'. My friend's son - just 9 - said 'oh, I'm okay - did you hear my Mum died?' in the bravest little voice. Even now when I think about it, I get the biggest lump in my throat.

  7. We just aren't good at talking about death, I think that is the real problem. I have two close friends, one whose baby's father died (they had split but her son was only 7 months old) and one who lost a baby (one of twins born very prematurely) both of them have experienced these very awkward conversations when meeting new people and the "getting to know you" questions are being asked.
    You end up doing that thing of trying to make the other person feel better by saying, "oh honestly don't worry you weren't to know" and cringeing at their embarrasement when actually you want to say, "yes its shit and its really sad" I have been with both friends on numerous occasions when these conversaions have happened and have felt awful both for my friends and for the poor person who has put their foot in it.