Economics of Condolences

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, retirees, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, is available by clicking here Click here for her website:

Now, on to my blog:

Pet CemeteryA friend recently wrote me that her beloved cat of almost twenty years had died.  She commented that more than 125 people wrote her condolences on her Facebook page, a significantly greater number than when her parents died. 

Why is it that people can give sympathy so much more easily at the loss of a pet in someone’s life rather than a human?  Is it too personal when the loss is perceived to be so enormous–too close to home?  Does the potential offerer fear getting into a long, emotional discussion with the aggrieved which might delay the former from a busy schedule?  Pets are considered lower on the scale of importance, and perhaps that allows us to spend less time at the task of offering our regrets.

How many times have we uttered that casual opener, “Hi, how are you?” expecting the answer to be the standard, “Fine”?  However, when the answer is something like, “Awful, my (fill in the blank) just died,” we’re stuck.  If it’s an in-person encounter, how can you just respond, “Oh, sorry about that.  Ah, I have to go now”?  If it’s a telephone conversation, is it okay to say, “Hold on, I have another call coming in”?  Such behavior would cast you as uncaring, insensitive, selfish, and more.  So, to be socially acceptable, we must immediately stop everything to offer comforting words, mentally calculating how long before we can slither away.

I wonder if my friend would have gotten such an abundance of responses by the same people in person.  With Internet platforms, we can be quick and go on our way while still getting brownie points for our thoughtfulness. It’s that old economic principle: seek the maximum amount of gain for the minimum amount of effort or, stated in more economic terms, when making decisions that are in your own self-interest, strive to achieve the highest benefits at the lowest costs.

The operative words are “decisions that are in your own self-interest.” Are we only going through the motions of caring with thoughts of “what’s best for me” playing in the background?  Human nature dictates self-interest responses to stimuli.  However, can we stop for an instant and truly feel for another human being?  Can we be genuine in our outpouring of concern for another human being?  Can we put our busy lives on pause for just a bit to sincerely comfort another human being?


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Photo credit: eliduke on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA


Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, senior citizens, seniors, successful aging, wellness

2 responses to “Economics of Condolences

  1. Patricia Spiegel

    So thoughtful, as usual. I think the love to pets is unconditional as is what they give to us. No bad mixed with the good, as they are with people, even those people we love.

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