Dealing with Visitors

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Ours is less and less of a visiting culture. People will text, email, phone, what’sapp, Facebook, Twitter….but they are less and less likely to visit. And that makes the visitors who do call, whether announced or not, all the more special.

The difficulty is that we do not always want to see them. However dear they may be, they may arrive at a time when we are consumed with grief; when perhaps we are re-reading much loved letters; looking at memorable photographs; talking to some one special on the phone…..In other words, not emotionally available for the people on the doorstep.

Good manners now conflict with emotional honesty. How you deal with that conflict is very much up to you. As someone who has had a lifetime of pitching up on the doorsteps of grieving people, I can assure you that it is entirely acceptable to say: “Sorry, this is not a good time. Could you possibly drop by tomorrow afternoon?” There is no need to explain why it is not a good time. That’s private. But it is courteous to offer another opportunity. By doing so, you are signalling that you want to see the visitor; that you value the trouble they are taking. It is then up to them. Maybe (improbably) this is the only opportunity they have: that’s fine. More likely there will be a negotiation about the best time in the next few days for them to come again.

When they do return, do not feel that you have to lay on a sumptuous tea or spring clean the house. (I have had experience of both - more than once.) They want to see you, to offer sympathy, to make sure you are coping, to offer to do any little errands and so on. If they are wise, they will not stay long, but they will want to make it clear that you are not facing these painful days alone. That can be a huge source of comfort. Accept it.