Dead flowers & love notes

Some blog worthy shit’s been going down at work, so I thought it might be time for an Extreme People Who Suck; Workplace Edition type post. Although, actually, not all these people suck. But, in this particular situation, at first I was pretty much like, “Oh hayyyyy-ll no! You fo’ real?” And now, I’m just pleasantly befuddled. Maybe. Sort of.

This all started one Tuesday afternoon a couple weeks ago. (I think.) It played out like this…

I’m sitting in my dark office, door closed, but as you might remember, everyone can see me in my freaking fish bowl made of glass. I’m minding my own business, actually working on my accounting stuff semi-successfully (which is extremely impressive considering my grief-induced ADD), when, all of a sudden, a co-worker knocks on my door.

Though I haven’t spoken to this co-worker since maybe August or September (we don’t really work together), she’s generally pretty nice, so I wave her in without hesitation. She flings open the door and asks, “Are you ever going to get rid of those dead flowers?” as she gestures towards the back right corner of my office (visible through the glass door).

We’re talking about the flowers I received from Mark’s parents back in October. Of course they died a couple weeks later, but, for whatever reason, I’ve hesitated to part with them. (Grief can be weird in this way, but, in my defense, it’s just a vase of dead flowers. It’s not like I’m a full blown hoarder, complete with the token petrified cat between my mattress and box spring.)


“Uhhhhh…” I hesitate.

“I mean, they’re really depressing,” She explains.

“Well, to be honest, they kind of match my life,” I try to say something that’ll end the conversation. (References to Matthew generally do the trick.)

“I know,” she sympathizes, “I feel SO sorry for you. But life is actually very difficult for many people. You really have to just focus on the positive.”

I give her a blank stare, trying not to give her the evil eye.

“I mean you really need to throw them away. They’re so depressing,” she reiterates, “And unless you’re going to press them, they’re pretty worthless.”

“Well, again, it seems right for them to be here,” I try again, dumfounded (there’s some angst in my voice now, and I’m fighting not to roll my eyes), “They really do match everything else in my life.”

“Okay, well, if you change your mind, I can get you some fake flowers instead,” she offers.

“Okay,” I turn back to my computer screen, silently praying she’ll take the hint.

“Okay, bye now,” she says cheerfully as she gently shuts my door.

As soon as she leaves I fire off text messages to some loss mom friends. I then send an email to AB and JVB, fully expecting they’ll sympathize with me. But, instead, the conversation goes like this…

Me – Someone just came into my office and told me I need to get rid of my dead flowers.

One of them – Ditto.

Me – Ouch.

One of them – It’s true. Gotta let the sun in.

Me – I feel no pressure to “let the sun in” when my life is still anything but “sunny.” I would’ve considered trashing the flowers until someone (wrongly) considered this her business. If only my biggest problem in life were some random co-worker’s dead flowers.

One of them – Who came in? Jenny?

Me – Like I’m really going to tell you now, when, apparently, you’re more on her side than you are mine. Why would I tell you? So you can go commiserate with her about my dead flowers?



But I still do lunch with AB and JVB, because at least they shut up quickly. And, later that night, one of them kind of made up for everything by offering up her art skills to paint a canvas for my office – something that might really get people talking. Something dark and scary. Perhaps something like this…


And, contrary to what some may think, I’m generally pretty forgiving and not on a warpath, and these friends have been mostly supportive, and I’m not necessarily looking to cut everyone out of my life. But the “ditto” was a bit of a dagger to the heart, if I’m being honest.

But, luckily, another co-worker and my boss commiserated with me and said sympathetic things like, “No wonder you never open your door when people say such weird shit to you.”


So then, about a week later, I started receiving these anonymous notes…


I’ve received three – the two little cards with Maya Angelou quotes (one is upside down) and the sheet of paper with the long message. Each have been waiting in my chair when I arrive to work ~10:00am. First came the two little cards on two consecutive days. Then, nothing for a few days. And then came the sheet of paper with the long message.

And I’m not a huge fan of the long message. It seems a bit like it doesn’t apply to my situation. Like I just need to decide to be happy and put aside thoughts about my past “failures.” I was kind of like, “Holy shit – my son only died six months ago!”

Though I appreciate the handwritten note on the sheet of paper. So I’m trying to focus on the fact that someone actually seems to care and ignore minor details like the typed message not really resonating with me, because, really, it’s just nice anyone cares about me at all – I’ll take it.

And if all this is coming from the co-worker who criticized my dead flowers, I guess I can forgive her. Though I’ve decided the flowers will stay forever.


So all this weirdness ensued, but everything else remains fairly status quo. Some other quick updates…

Lately I find I do about 80% of my crying at work, which is super awesome, and, I’m sure, gives me quite the professional edge. I mean, nothing says potential-future-CFO of the company more than puffy, red eyes and traces of dried mascara stained to my cheeks. (I try to wipe it off, but, seriously, it’s difficult to keep up with this.) And when my trashcan’s full of snotty Kleenexes, it’s an added bonus.

On a side note, it’s actually kind of annoying as this oftentimes makes me feel as though I’m an inappropriate crier – like I’m crying on and off all day, barely completing the simplest of tasks. But then I show up at support group – the saddest freaking room in the universe, and I’m, for the most part, stone-faced. WTF?!

I continue to use the nearby Shitter Office so I don’t have to run into others in the restroom. A new employee named Geoff (I love typing “Geoff” with a “G”) now sits right across from said Shitter Office. So it’s like, “Hey Geoff,” every time I exit Shitter Office. Except I haven’t met Geoff, because I’m not as social these days. (Though I’ve ventured over to the kitchen a few times to make hot chocolate.)

As noted above, I still sit in the dark with my door closed. When I have to turn the light on (like if I know a company president’s visiting, and I want to appear more normal), it feels very unnatural.

Though I still wear yoga pants sometimes, I’ve worn some real pants too. Mark actually bought me some new clothes. (I think he was trying to say, “Honey, you look questionable, so I want to help you out,” though he won’t admit this.) Though I still wear colored jeans (even on days that aren’t casual Fridays), because these don’t count as denim, right?

I skipped the office Christmas party and generally still avoid groups bigger than three. I’ve skipped all of our large staff meetings too, but nobody’s told me this isn’t okay, so I’m not super worried about it.

It’s not all doom and gloom – I’ve regained more function with performing my job. I’ve met important deadlines (by some miracle), and I continue to complete things in the nick of time. Though it’s still sometimes disheartening to seemingly no longer possess the drive and level of focus and even some of the skills that once came so easily to me… I wonder if this will ever change?

And there are some really good people. Some people who say the right things and have exuded so much compassion it reduces me to tears (in a good way) because I’m so taken aback.

I remember in particular one day during budget season back in late November. I spoke with a VP from another state about his budget. I’d dreaded our conversation. We hadn’t spoken since Matthew died. And, generally, this means it’s awkward to ever speak again.

But towards the end of our conversation, much to my surprise, he explained, “Christine, for what it’s worth, I just wanted to let you know I’m happy you decided to come back. I’m glad you’re still here.”

And I thanked him and then got off the phone as quickly as possible, because I was on the verge of hysterics. Because it’s worth a lot. Because he’s one of only a few at work to say something so kind. And he said the right thing. And it was so unexpected. And so rare.

And because semantics is sometimes everything. And he said “decided to come back.”

And I didn’t think I’d actually come back. Because one of the (many) most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life was walk through the doors to my office building for the first time since Matthew died. And I didn’t know how badly I needed someone to acknowledge this – that maybe I’d experienced something so tragic that there was at least some possibility I wouldn’t come back.

And I didn’t know how badly I needed for someone to tell me he’s happy I did.

36 thoughts on “Dead flowers & love notes

  1. I don’t know why people say such “weird” & insensitive things. They truly have no understanding of what you are going through. Frankly, most days I don’t even know what I am going through but, little by little, I am able to figure out why I can throw the flowers away or why I drag my feet when I meet with other moms. Grief is such a strange & ever evolving experience. You never know what the next moment will bring you.
    I am so sorry for you loss. I lost my little girl to an UCA, too, in May 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is strange for sure – not only just because of my own complicated emotions – you’re right, people have no understanding of what we’re go through and just constantly say and do the weirdest shit. I’m so very sorry for your loss of your precious little girl. It’s just devastating. Xoxo,


  2. You are a better person than me. Frankly, I find the note infuriating. You’re not being victimized by your circumstances. Stoplights, long lines, and traffic jams? What the hell does that have to do with the death of a child? I know you know this, but Matthew wasn’t a failure or a mistake. This is condescending crap that couldn’t apply less to your situation. There’s plenty of poetry and other works out there related to the death of a child that would have been far more appropriate. It’s like the person didn’t take the time to consider what these trite, pat phrases even have to do with you or how triggering they might be. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all of this; it’s just not fair that we have to navigate crap like this on top of everything else.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, my life, I find, is just a constant stream of weird shit going on. Yes, the note pisses me off for sure, don’t get me wrong. And out of all the things in the world, I am not sure how he/she arrived at choosing this for me. I guess this is one of those situations where, for whatever reason I don’t even know, I’m viewing this as someone who’s said the wrong thing but is still better than those who’ve said nothing at all (and there are plenty of those). But you’re right – the note sucks 100%!! Maybe I’m not as angry because I have no one specific to direct my anger towards, since it’s anonymous? I don’t know!


      1. I do agree that it is better for people to say SOMETHING rather than nothing at all (my husband is dealing with this more than me; out of everyone in his office, only three people have ever said anything to him, even though at one point he sent out a long email talking about what we’ve been going through). But I think both situations boil down to people not bothering to spend a bit of time thinking about what might be appropriate or actually bring comfort to A MOTHER WHO HAS LOST A CHILD. No one wants to take even two seconds to imagine themselves in our shoes, and that’s what makes me so f’in angry. Kudos to you for being more in the middle; though I’m being “gentle with myself,” I know I need to work on being more forgiving and you give me something to aspire to.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hey, I think if you’re infuriated, that’s okay. I’m like the biggest proponent of just feeling your feelings. I don’t even know why I’m not infuriated. Usually I would be… I think I just have no energy left for this (lately I’ve just been feeling beat down). And, yes, it’s awful that very few even TRY to understand. And I can’t believe your husband’s co-workers – that’s just awful. And, yes, the anonymous thing is different – I got another note today (one that wasn’t as infuriating, so that’s good)!


  3. You know I am right there with Luke’s Mom. I hate that note and I think you are being super forgiving to even attempt to find any good in it. Whoever is leaving this bs on your chair disgusts me. I think I am even more angry reading it the second time around. I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know – it makes me angry too if I think about it too much! Though I guess I feel lately I have so much anger that I’m not able to direct much of it at this (it’s spread out among so many things). And honestly so many people at work have said nothing at all that I’m like, “Well, at least someone’s attempting,” though the attempt is questionable, I agree. Still don’t know how this person saw this quote and thought, “This is the one!” when there’s so much else out there. People are SO WEIRD.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In one way your post made me chuckle. I like the fact that your saying sod you to everyone and keeping the flowers and im glad someone said they were happy you decided to go back. Having the people at my work say things like that when I went back really helped when I felt like i really didn’t want to be there. I’m obviously different as i like the notes that you have been given. People who haven’t been thought what we have been through, don’t know what to say and so either say the wrong thing or don’t say anything, i think this person is just trying to say they care, in a way they know. I think they are coming from a good place and the person may just want to help a little. I personally tried to be positive in the aftermath of losing Alice so I connect with the poem as thats what i wanted to be like. I want to be a good person and stronger than the sum of my parts. But i understand now that that’s not for everyone and not how most people grieve. If you can take the good from it s it shows someone is thinking of you 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, though it doesn’t fully resonate with me, I’m trying to see the good. I think the contrast in your reaction to it vs. others (whereas I’m somewhere in the middle) shows people process differently, and maybe this person does deserve some grace b/c he/she cared (I’m assuming) vs. the alternative of not caring at all…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually fucking despise aggressively positive people – excuse my french. When I was reading Still Alice (I think) and she told her friend that she had cancer her friend said something to the affect of: Fuck that sucks, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
    Let people grieve and you’re entitled to your grief.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Good plan! Anger and bitterness are SO freaking easy to succumb too. It often makes for good writing too 😉
        Sorry for your loss – it does fucking suck. Have a bottle of wine to yourself – don’t share. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  6. First off, can I just say how I appreciate your work stories. I so wish I could do the same. I work in early childcare as an educator – and my blog fell into the hands of my entire school community – so there’s no relief there for me. So I appreciate that you get a no holds barred kind of pass. I’ll have to “tread carefully” with my work posts, which is again like wearing that stupid “mask” I have to wear at work too. Maybe I’ll have to find a different way to exchange my work “battle” stories with you instead? 😉

    Now for the notes. I appreciate your middle ground. I, too, read the overly positive load of crap heaped onto you and “threw up inside my mouth” a bit. And I echo what Luke’s Mom was saying about things being triggering and the lack of resources to find ANY OTHER poetry to let you know they care.

    But I get you. Maybe that longer typed poem was more a reflection of themselves? Not how they want YOU to feel? I don’t know, and so I get you about it. There’s no room to speculate and mind reading OTHER people is exhausting. I appreciate that you are weeding out what YOU need to feel angry about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy these work (war) stories. You can commiserate with me any time here or via email! I think work is just one of the weirdest places to be after experiencing something like this (so sorry you’re finding this to be true as well). xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you should openly burn the letter in a metal can in the parking lot. And maybe use an air horn to get their attention and bring them to the window.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That could be fun. I like your style. Though my poor (not really I don’t feel that sorry) anonymous co-worker who’s getting blasted on here! That wasn’t my intent – I was way more pissed off about the flowers thing, really!


  8. First of all, I read your blog everytime since last October and I am so addictive to it. Please keep writing! Your stories as well as all the reply’s to it are so common to the way I feel ’cause I lost my son Tim last summer.

    I can relate to so many things I read. The way most people react really sucks hard and there are just a few people who try to understand how it feels but they don’t even come close in my opinion. Some people at work surprise me really positivly while others surprise me VERY negatively. This is also the case with friends, good friends and less good friends.

    About the flowers, I almost had a similar thing. When I came back to work, my calendar still stood on August 5th. This was the first day that my pregnancy turned out very bad, so for me it felt like the day my whole life turned upside down (not in a good way of course). In particular one collegue asked why my calendar still wasn’t up to date…so I tried to explain that this was the turning point in my life…and a week later she asked again…and I tried to explain it again, but I felt that she didn’t understand it. This was around October I guess. So last week this same collegue mentioned my calendar was on the exact day (some idiot at work put up a new calendar for me without any consulation!) and she said: ‘Much better!’. And I was thinking like ‘better? better? nothing really is better or if getting any better any time soon, even when the calendar marks a date 10 years in the future this feeling I have will be in my heart’.

    My point is that I really wanted you to know that I understand you about the flowers! Even last summer I kept most flowers at home and I constantly picked out the ones that were still alive so I had some small bouquetes. And one day my mother in law threw away some dead flowers and I wished it didnt happen. At that time I really became relaxed in a way while I was taking care about the flowers in my own weird way. But nobody understands, because it is just the way you feel which is so opposite to the ‘normal’ things in life. Nothing is normal anymore.

    because I am from the Netherlands, I hope you are able to understand my English or at least the things I wanted to make clear. I really do hope you keep on writing, because everytime you write something new I feel good for a moment. So thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am so very sorry for your loss of your precious little boy, Tim. It is just so heart wrenching and devastating. I am sending you love and light and strength and hugs right now. I’m also so sorry you’re experiencing similar things to my flowers situation, like with the calendar thing! Ughhhh – people are crazy! Not sure why they care about dead flowers and calendars and even if they do care, I’m not sure why they can’t cut us some freaking slack!! I mean, we’re doing well just to be still breathing if you ask me! And thank you so much for your kind comments about my blog – it really keeps me going to hear things like this, so I’ll try to keep the stories coming!! xoxo, Christine


  10. I’m really glad your VP said that to you. I know going back to work for me has been one of the hardest things, and I wish someone would have said something like that. A few people said “welcome back” or something along those lines, but the majority of people said nothing. One time I actually said, “thanks, I really don’t want to be here and I hate every minute of it”. I wish people would have acknowledged I much courage it took to step back into that place and carry on and out on a happy face and meet productivity. Luckily, it has gotten better over the past 5 months, although some days I still wish I didn’t have to be there. I would probably blog more about work, but I’d like to (need to?) keep my job. 🙂
    You can always text me if you’re having a shitty day too. I’ll throw around some F Bombs with ya. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad work is getting better for you. I like that response you gave. It’s so true. And it’s still true for me much of the time. The “welcome backs” are nice. But I really like what my VP said, implying it was more difficult than just “coming back.” It’s hard to know how much to say about work. I definitely use some discretion with it for that reason! And thanks – I’m usually up for kicking some F-bombs around 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. On “Dead Flowers”: I sleep with a pile of my wife’s unwashed cloths, pajamas, two hats, some socks, and a couple of shirts. They smell like her. It feels like I am going to bed with her. I can’t let go of that. I can’t bear the thought of letting go her. I told a friend this. His response, and he was serious, was; “Dude you’re really freaking me out.” He is a good friend so I unloaded on him. “Until you’re wife yada, yada, and so on and so forth, you need to go eff yourself”

    On “You really need to. . . “: This to me is a serious boundary violation – a boundary violation with nuclear missiles. Unless the person is a really good friend who I can shoot back at like I did with said friend above then that person is out of my life. At best the person is reduced to acquaintance status. I support you in keeping the office dark and holding on to those flowers! One does not mess with the bond between mother and child. I will not pretend to imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was going to try and write a really articulate reply but then my mind went blank – I read your post and was just incredulous at how dumb and insensitive some people are. I found myself muttering ‘for fucks sake’ (FFS) at the flowers comment, the poetry, overly positive people, all of it, because I agree with you so wholeheartedly about how spoke can be. My new default setting seems to be muttering FFS these days. But I’m so glad your VP showed a simple, human approach to you – how I wish everyone could be like that and I so hope you come across more people that are X keep blogging Christine, I read every post without fail even if i ‘fail’ when it comes to writing eloquent comments! X

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow. I am floored by your co-worker who complained about the dead flowers. Seriously, her life must be pretty awesome if that’s what she has to complain/worry about. Also, the long note someone printed out for you does not apply to you at all! It’s like they googled, “inspirational poem” and printed off the first thing that came up!
    But, it is very kind of people to be thinking of you. I’m glad you have some support at work.

    Hang in there friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It sounds like the message you are receiving at work from people like Dead Flowers is “I don’t like the way you grieve – it makes me uncomfortable.” Too bad, cupcake! Any chance you can get away with a sign on your door that says “Please Respect My Grieving Process”?

    Liked by 1 person

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