Am I Next to Die?
"At my mother’s funeral, at least three people said to me something to the effect of, “You’re next!” or, “We’re next!” I guess they meant that the next round of funerals will likely be those for my generation. That’s really not something I want to hear.
My mom was 101 and the last of our aunts and uncles from the Greatest Generation. She was beloved, and her funeral was sad, though maybe expected. I didn’t need to be repeatedly reminded that I’m next to die.
How does one respond to such an insensitivity?"
People who say, “You’re next” or, “We’re next” are really just making an observation about life itself. They’re stating the obvious, though sometimes that can be uncomfortable or blunt for the recipient. A person makes these comments because death is on their mind, and they seek your participation in the uncertainty. It’s likely they want a dialogue about death, and they don’t know another way to open that conversation. They may not even be aware of how you perceive it.
I wouldn’t give too much weight to a comment like this. Funerals make many people uncomfortable and likely to blurt out any number of inappropriate statements. This can happen when they simply don’t know what to say. Simply offering condolences may seem inadequate to some, so they fill the silence. They also may not have been to many funerals yet in their lives, so they are not practiced in funeral etiquette.
While this funeral passed, there will be others. Make a plan about how to respond if something like this comes up again. “It sounds like your mortality is on your mind. Maybe we can talk about it sometime.” You can say that if you’re sincere about the offer. “Yes, I’ve contemplated my death and am prepared” is another option. The bottom line here is to have a response prepared and leave it at that.
People will say what they’re going to say. The only thing you have control over is your reaction.
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