I told my coworkers I didn’t want to talk about the Las Vegas attack and I got grilled

A reader writes:

I’m a staff member at a call center. I work on a team of about 10 and we sit at bullpen-style open desks, so my teammates and I can talk to each other between our calls very easily by just standing up.

Monday I woke up like everyone else to the terrible news about Las Vegas. I’m a very sensitive person who also takes medications for an anxiety disorder, which I’ve been off for a few days because I forgot to refill my prescription. After listening to public radio coverage, I decided I wasn’t going to listen any more or discuss it for my mental health needs.

When I got to work, my coworkers were discussing the possibilities of something like an attack happening in our city (we live in a city where an extremely popular music festival takes place every fall and is coming up this weekend), and if it did, how it would happen. I contributed maybe a sentence to this conversation before I realized it was upsetting me (just like I knew it would!) and politely but firmly asked my coworkers if we could stop talking about it.

One coworker told me “You know, you can’t prevent that kind of thing from happening, it just happens.” The other coworker said “Why don’t you want to talk about it? Are you scared of dying?”

I was appalled. I said something back to the effect of “Are you serious? I don’t want to talk about this.” They said to one another in front of me, “She’s not answering the question,” and then dropped it, which I also was completely floored by.

Since I’ve been off my meds for the past couple of days, I took this harder than usual and I’ve been feeling tightly wound and anxious since then. This isn’t their fault at all and I refilled my prescription right after they went back to working, but I still feel like it was totally inappropriate to quiz me about why I didn’t want to discuss an upsetting topic at work. The guy who asked me if I was afraid of dying is a former Marine, and I wonder if he thought he was asking me a thought-provoking question, but I was just offended and upset, and Marine or not, it’s none of his business. I want to bring it up in my monthly meeting with my supervisor on Wednesday, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Any advice is appreciated, thanks.

This stuff is really hard, because some people deal with this kind of tragedy by processing it out loud and talking to other people about it — and feel more connected and comforted by doing that — and some people don’t want to discuss it at all, or only on their own terms with people and in environments of their choosing. Those needs can end up conflicting, obviously, and it’s particularly hard when that happens in an open office, where you end up a captive audience for other people’s conversations.

In general, though, considerate people will accommodate someone who says, “Hey, would you mind not talking about this around me right now? I’m finding it really upsetting.” And although your coworkers’ initial response to you was weird and tone-deaf, it does sound like they dropped it pretty quickly after that.

So unless it keeps happening, it’s not something I’d take to your manager. I get that it was an unpleasant interaction, but some amount of that is just part of working with other humans; we are an awkward, bumbling species. It doesn’t sound like what they said was meant to be mean-spirited, and they did drop it when you made it clear you were serious about not wanting to continue the discussion. I’d cut them some slack on not having a perfect response immediately — they’re processing things too, after all.

Again, if it keeps happening and people won’t let you remove yourself from the conversations, that’s potentially a bigger issue … but for now, I’d try to let this go.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Helpful*

    Don’t mention it to your supervisor, as this is something you can and should manage yourself. It looks like your coworkers respected your request once they clued into it. They simply have another way of dealing with tragedies.

    You probably realize this already, but it sounds like you may need a better system of refilling your medication since it appears to have a pretty serious impact on your day-to-day life if you miss refilling it. Good luck to you.

    1. Christy*

      Yeah, I had to learn this lesson too with my meds. Honestly after my last med-less experience my biggest takeaways were “wow, thank god for that medicine” and “holy crap that stuff helps, I need to remember this when I think I handle my anxiety well ‘on my own’ because it’s 70% the drugs”.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I accidentally ended up without one of my two meds for depression for about a week and I felt it HARD. I had the exact same reaction as you. Better living through chemistry, I say.

        And OP, I hope that you get back to baseline quickly now that you have your meds.

      2. Letter-writer*

        This is exactly what happened. I ran out right before the weekend and thought I could just deal since I’m way more stressed out at work than in my personal life. I won’t make that mistake again, I’m fairly certain.

        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

          I just did this last week, so you’re not alone there. It’s amazing how not taking them for just a few days packs such a wallop! At least now I know they’re working!

        2. Anonymoose*

          Oh sweetheart, I was there just a few weeks ago myself. Thanksfully Walgreens is literally across the street but I still had to wait a few hours to kick in (I forgot to refill my lexapro. Oddly, I used to think it didn’t do anything for my anxiety until, yep, I had a panic attack at work.).

          Next time something like this happens, I would just be honest: ‘can we stop talking about this? I really don’t feel like crying at work.’

          And just between you and I, I’ve already cried twice today at work because I couldn’t stop myself from reading about all the victims. Tragedy has a ripple effect – you’re not alone. xo

        3. Bartlet for President*

          The medication I take now is pretty standard for my diagnosis, but the side-effects of skipping or even delaying a dose are pretty intense, physically – at least for me (not sure they are this bad commonly). At first, this seemed like a huge drawback of the medication. However, I’ve realized it’s probably something to consider a benefit since I’ve done the “well, I think I’m doing better and don’t need these meds anymore – let’s go off them without talking to my doctor!”, and it never goes well. So, with this medication, there is no way I’d attempt that if I wanted to function for a few days – I’m talking puking, migraine, dizziness, etc. It also makes me super careful about keep my Rx filled.

          1. Chinook*

            Bartlet for President, you are not alone. I get pretty significant withdrawal symptoms if I go more than 48 hours between pills and am honestly envious of those who just find a return of their symptoms when they miss a refill.

            As for the OP, if your coworkers have dropped the discussion around you, then you can consider them being considerate. The initial questions were probably meant to give you a chance to discuss what was happening and meant in a caring way because that is how they process and it can take a moment or two to realize that it isn’t helping another person.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        This is hitting home for me today, too. I was called out of work yesterday by my daughter who had left work because she was having an emotional/anxiety breakdown. She had called her therapist and got voicemail, and that made her even more upset. She was crying and hyperventilating when she called me, trying to tell me the intersection she was at so I could pick her up. She later admitted that she had been off her meds for the past month because she thought she felt better. It’s kind of a lesson in “you felt better because the meds made you feel better.”

        1. paul*

          I think 90% of people on mental health meds have done that once (sometimes more). It sucks :/

          Getting off anxiety meds while working with therapist = great for me.

          Trying it on my own before that, disaster.

          1. Anonymoose*

            Yep, getting off these meds can be a really debilitating and looooong process. And sometimes the benefits of them far outweigh the difficulties. I was only supposed to be on mine for 6 months but it’s been 3 years. I’ve tried getting off of them but then I just cry all the time and have panic attacks. Totally not worth it.

          2. Risha*

            I’m not currently medicated, but the time before that, when I spontaneously went off of them for financial reasons, was my first experience with actual mania (as opposed to my regular hypomania) and the three most miserable weeks of my life.

        2. Letter-writer*

          Yup. I’ve been on them for about a year and thought I had really started to get a grip on things and didn’t need them as much. Missing one dose occasionally doesn’t normally cause issues for me so I also assumed that it wouldn’t matter to miss a day or two, but I was very wrong.

      4. zora*

        Thanks, this is good for me to hear! I was pretty sure that my feeling better this year was definitely the meds, and not the anxiety going away, but I was kind of doubting myself. All of you are reinforcing, it’s the meds. I’m definitely not going to try going off them any time soon!

    2. oviraptor*

      OP, There are pharmacies that offer auto-refill & will send an auto-text or auto-call when you have a prescription to pick up. Some will even mail your Rx to you! These might be services that are beneficial to you. Most, if not all, of the big chain pharmacies will promote their services on their websites. And as always, if you have questions, just stop in and visit them or call. They will be glad to help!

      1. Samiratou*

        Depending on the medication, auto-refill may not be an option. Schedule 2 drugs don’t allow for it, for example, and you have to remember to call your clinic a week or so ahead of time and have them print out or send the prescription, depending on if the clinic is approved for electronic delivery. And then maybe call again after a few days when the clinic never sent it over….

        It sucks. I hope that’s not the case for LW’s meds!

        1. Liane*

          Or some pharmacies have ridiculous rules, or just can’t be bothered. The Veterans Administration hospital where my husband gets his meds won’t issue refills before the date you need it; if you have a 30 day supply, you can’t get the refill until Day 31. Even if the meds are mail ordered, they often don’t mail them until the day the refill is needed, or later. We’re local so husband pick them up if they are delayed. Unless he, say, wakes up too sick, then he has to wait. They don’t allow anyone else to pick them up.

          1. Anonymoose*

            “if you have a 30 day supply, you can’t get the refill until Day 31. ” OUCH. What a hassle!

          2. Bartlet for President*

            That seems like a policy that some accountant came up with, but didn’t bother running it past anyone with a basic understanding of medical treatment (or, frankly, logic). I’m really sorry your husband has to deal with that crap.

        2. Merci Dee*

          I don’t know if it’s a federal regulation or a state mandate where I live, but some Schedule 2 drugs can’t be electronically delivered from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy. My daughter takes a Schedule 2 med for her ADHD/OCD, and we have to get a paper prescription for it every time she needs a refill. I or an authorized representative can go pick it up from the doctor’s office, or they will mail it to me if I’ve provided a supply of self-addressed, stamped envelopes for my daughter’s file. It’s kind of a pain that we have to deal with this every couple of months, but I totally get why the precautions have been put into place.

          1. Anonymous 40*

            I believe it’s federal. I have the same problem. My doctor gives me three paper prescriptions at a time with “do not fill before” dates on them. I have to take them to the pharmacy each month and go to the doctor every three months.

          2. Lunchy*

            In upstate NY my meds (including Sched 2 ADD) are transferred over the electronic prescription program. Not sure how widespread it is.

            1. Anonymoose*

              Yep, it’s state by state. Although I’ve been reading that they’re trying to overhaul the Sched 2 presciption process nationally, which would make it pretty much a pain in the behind for patients. Thanks Florida pill mills!

          3. My Cat Posted This For Me*

            I also agree it’s federal. Sometimes there are ways to deal with it. I am on Kaiser insurance, which, if you don’t have it in your area, is like one big insurance/medical provider combination housed in the same buildings. I take Adderall and was originally prescribed it by a doctor in the psychiatric department in a Kaiser facility 20 miles away, as my own small town doesn’t have a psych department. A huge pain to get it, the out of town facility has a lousy pharmacy with long lines and rude staff (I don’t say this lightly), and the doctor refused to write the prescription once because it was THREE days before I ran out, and that was too early. My contrast, my own small pharmacy and my regular doctor are warm and friendly. Once we reached the optimal dose, I was able to get my prescriptions ordered by my local doctor. Now I just put in the online order, and the pharmacy contacts him, gets the paper copy, and my medication is waiting when I arrive. So much more civilized.

            I’m betting you’re not on Kaiser, but I give this long-winded explanation to say that sometimes you can figure out a workaround.

            1. Anonymoose*

              Thanks for your feedback. Its almost benefits time (this month, right??), and had been looking into Kaiser for next year. That’s a big ‘ol NOPE for me now.

              1. My Cat Posted This For Me*

                Well, I don’t know—I find my story to be more of a win, because I do have a local doctor and pharmacy who are great. I’ll be signing up for Kaiser again this year. But…their mental health services overall are appallingly inadequate, and what’s worse they gaslight you about it (“seeing a therapist every three weeks is totally optimal! don’t know why you have a problem with that, depressed person!” versus “we’re really sorry you have to wait—we’re understaffed and I know it’s hard on our patients”). Due to lawsuits, they’re trying to improve and I know they’ve added a lot more staff. I also went to a different Kaiser facility and found a great psych team, because quality can vary hugely from department to department and facility to facility. Thankfully my current job has an add-on mental health plan where I can get lots and lots of therapy sessions elsewhere. The combination of plans/locations for the best docs works for me.

                1. noname for this one*

                  My partner saw a psychiatrist at Kaiser, wasn’t happy with their approach to meds, and learned that while they could get a second opinion on diagnosis, they *couldn’t change doctors* unless the current doctor agreed (and they seem to have some incentive to not easily allow the switch). If we weren’t locked in for the year, we would be leaving Kaiser because of this.

              2. Bartlet for President*

                Kaiser can be awesome in some states, and a disaster in others.

                My state’s Kaiser is HORRIBLE. The state next door? Totally amazing.

          4. many bells down*

            My husband has severe dentist anxiety so he gets a valium scrip before his appointments. Not only do I have to have the paper prescription, but I can’t even pick it up when it’s ready. They won’t release it to anyone but him.

            1. Merci Dee*

              Because I work and both of my parents are retired, I have given them authorization to act on my behalf at all of my daughter’s doctors (pediatrician, dentist, drug stores, etc.). Thankfully, this wasn’t a hard task. Most of her doctors already had forms on-hand in case patients wished to set up similar arrangements, or I just asked if I needed to provide a written letter or the like. I’m grateful that her medical providers have provided this opportunity, and doubly grateful that my parents view my daughter’s health and well-being as something that we should all be involved in — at this point, they’ve taken her to more dentist and medicine re-checks than I’ve been able to.

              1. Anonymoose*

                Can’t the patient also call the pharmacy and speak with the pharmacist directly to release the medication? Maybe it depends on pharmacy protocol.

                1. LS*

                  Generally no, because we need it in writing – there’s a lot of very professional scamming going on, particularly for controlled medications. You can, however, set this up at most pharmacies in advance: “Jane Smith has permission to pick up Susan Brown’s medications”. Then you only need to set it up once and either of you can pick up the medication.

          5. Quacktastic*

            Am a pharmacist. It’s probably that the doctor isn’t set up for it. Federally, schedule 2 controls can be e-prescribed, but they have to have 2 factor authentication and a host of security protocols. They can never be faxed or called in except for very rare circumstances (hospice patient, emergency supply followed in 7 days by written rx.) State laws may be more restrictive, but that’s federal.

          6. Newest Hummingbird*

            The fact that ADHD drugs can’t be renewed without actually getting the authorization of the prescribing doctor AND that they (usually) can’t be replaced if you lose them IS A VERY CRUEL JOKE. I was just diagnosed and started a prescription earlier this year, and the first few months where we were figuring out dosage and so I had to call for a new prescription and arrange pick-up every few weeks were a nightmare. I was so happy when I finally achieved a dosage that works for me and my psych told me he could start giving me 90-day prescriptions *plus* if I called 10 days ahead of time they could just mail it and I’d have it before I needed it. Yes, good! Calling 4 times a year to have my drugs arrive in my mailbox is a level of planning I can handle! Because … wait for it … I have ATTENTION DEFICIT.

            (NB: I live in Seattle and am with Kaiser — formerly known as GroupHealth.)

        3. oviraptor*

          Yes, there are always exceptions. Many noted here by other commenters, and some no one has brought up. That is why I specifically mentioned to call or stop in. I did not want to overwhelm someone with all the exceptions and but its. As a pharmacy tech , I absolutely want to help a patient with finding a way to make it easier for them to be compliant with their prescribed medication schedule. Finding solutions to problems or issues is what I love to do! Whether it is insurance, cost/price, compliance, anything. Just talk to us! If my pharmacy services are not exactly what you need, I will usually have a suggestion of another which may be exactly what you are looking for.

    3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Auto-refill is your friend. After you set that up, all you have to do is set up a monthly reminder on your calendar to go pick it up.

      Also, lots of Rx plans offer a mail option–they send a 3-month supply right to your door, and the next one shows up a week or so before you run out of the last. Zero effort after setup, unless you move. I know it’s hard to pursue things like this when you’re anxious, but it’ll only take you a few minutes on your prescription plan’s site to find out so it’s worth “spending a spoon” on.

      1. JaneB*

        As an anxious person of limited spoons, I use an auto service when I can (have to visit the dr every x renewals) although sometimes I get stupidly terrified of managing the logistics of going into the pharmacy – Even with auto fill I’ve come close to this. Empathy, fellow sufferer!

          1. Anxiety Sucks*

            Pretty much the definition of anxiety disorder is feeling anxious about things that other people do without a second thought. So yes, there are logistics when your brain produces stress in places where it shouldn’t be.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              During an especially bad period of anxiety I developed this massive set of neuroses around grocery shopping that took years to unravel. Even more than a decade later, I am sometimes astonished that I am capable of just popping in on my lunch break or after work and picking up whatever I happen to need at that moment.

              1. Mine Own Telemachus*

                Grocery stores are actually known triggers for anxiety/PTSD because they are a loud, colorful environment that stimulates all the senses at once, which can be really really tough to process. Large box stores often set me on edge—pet stores in particular, which is frustrating because you’d think being around animals would be stress reducing!

                I also get anxiety triggers in movie theaters, in traffic, and out walking. Anxiety is a fickle beast that doesn’t particularly care about Logic.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                  That’s really fascinating – I did not know about that connection but thinking back, I’m sure that overstimulation played a role for me.

              2. Wendy Darling*

                The time my anxiety disorder got the most out of control I ended up with a paralyzing fear of… stairwells. I could NOT do stairwells. No elevator? GUESS I’M NOT GOING THERE BECAUSE THERE’S A STAIRWELL AND IF I GO IN IT I WILL DEFINITELY BE MURDERED.

                Literally nothing bad had ever happened to me or anyone close to me in a stairwell.

                I also develop serious neuroses about optimization — if I cannot somehow cram all my errands into one trip without it being a disaster I can get so overwhelmed that I just won’t run ANY of them. Like I’ve not gone to a store because I couldn’t leave my dog outside the store and I also needed to walk the dog and the store is one I walk to and I don’t want to take two trips….. so I neither walk the dog nor go to the store.

                1. c*

                  Wait, the optimization thing is a neuroses? Not trying to be snarky, I am genuinely asking. I’ve not been diagnosed with anxiety, but I do have similar issues with making sure things get done efficiently. If I can’t figure out a way to fit everything in, often I won’t manage to get any of it done at all.

                2. Queen of Cans & Jars*

                  That is so interesting! I have anxiety, too, and while I’ve never NOT done something because of a lack of efficiency, when I have routine chores to do, I am ALWAYS thinking about what the most efficient order for completing the tasks would be. I will make a separate trip to take the dog to the dog park and then go back out for groceries, man does it eat at me.

                3. Letter-writer*

                  Oh my goodness – I also do that with the optimization thing! You’re the first person I’ve encountered who’s ever been able to verbalize/articulate that tendency and also the first other person who’s shared it.

                4. King Friday XIII*

                  Are you me? I once put off a doctor’s appointment because I couldn’t figure out how to work it into my day off schedule. You see, the rest of my errands were in the other direction. And then I didn’t do the other errands either, I just got overwhelmed and ended up getting on a random bus.

                5. Misc*

                  I do the optimisation but it’s an ADHD thing. It comes out of knowing I will get distracted if given any gaps or just not be able to get out the door for the remaining things, so I need to be as efficient as possible and get it all done at once.

          2. CMart*

            I’m not JaneB but depending on one’s life circumstances it can be a circus trying to run errands of any sort. I either need to wake up reeeaaaally early to do things on my way to work, or reeeeaaaally late after my husband gets home from his 2nd shift-style job due to the need to wrangle a baby on a strict sleep schedule. And I can drive, it would be a lot more rigmarole if I had to walk/bike/take transit/ask for a favor etc…

            1. Melissa*

              Driving is actually really stressful, especially in a city. Riding a bike on traffic-calmed streets (which car drivers avoid because they are too “slow”) can actually be relaxing and efficient.

          3. PatPat*

            Yes, of course there are logistics, even beyond the anxiety the OP is dealing with. My mail pharmacy is incredibly finicky. You have to mail the prescription to them in time for them to fill it and send it back before you run out (keeping in mind that you can’t predict mail service times with any certainty) but you can’t mail the prescription in too soon or too late. I mailed a prescription in and the day my prescription was due to arrive but hadn’t I called and was told they had mailed my paper prescription back because I’d mailed it too soon and they were only allowed to hold it unfilled for three days. They hadn’t bothered to tell me any of this so I was without my medication. Mail order pharmacies can be very tricky. Thank goodness they’re starting to let doctors e-prescribe Schedule II now.

            1. Mike C.*

              I f*cking hate this so much. Why can’t they just hold onto it until it’s needed? Did they never consider that this might be an issue?

              We get it Insurance Companies, you want us to jump through all these hoops to save you money. The very least you could do is quit f*cking around with our meds.

            2. Amy*

              The one I had to use had my meds on back order but didn’t notify me to let me know. I called them the day after I expected the shipping notification and the person on the phone was acting like they were doing me a huge favor letting me getting 2 weeks from CVS.
              I was extra annoyed because the generic version of the medication was about to hit the market so I suspected they didn’t have any because they were waiting until they could order the generic version.

            3. nonegiven*

              I can mail stuff in too soon, they message back that they can’t send it yet. Then when they can, they do.

          4. Turquoise Cow*

            There are logistics for almost anything. Having to reroute one’s drive home or to work, to take extra time out of a day in order to get to the pharmacy, to possibly need to take time out of a day to call the pharmacy or doctor if auto-refill isn’t an option (and it often isn’t). Not to mention moving about any other social or work obligations to get that time to get to the pharmacy.

            I don’t even have kids and sometimes “I need to pick up more (non prescription) nasal spray at the pharmacy,” is on my to-do list for a week or more before I get to it. I can imagine the complications of needing to rearrange childcare or drag a kid along as well.

            So yeah. There’s logistics.

            1. Cherith Ponsonby*

              I literally walk past a chemist on my usual way to and from work, and I still have to consider logistics: do I stop in before work and get my scripts filled, giving me a warm glow of accomplishment but lowering my defences against the approximately 20000 coffee shops in the vicinity and making me arrive at work 10 minutes later than otherwise? If I stop on the way home, will I get there before they close at 6, and will it make me miss my train? And I don’t have anything for dinner – can I be sure to go to the supermarket afterwards or will I forget, go home on autopilot, and end up eating toast again?

              Luckily (or not) I can’t just stop taking my anxiety meds because the withdrawal symptoms are horrendous, and the pharmacist doesn’t give me grief if I get my script filled earlier than I “need”

        1. Robbenmel*

          This whole thread is making me love my pharmacy and pharmacist even more. My husband is physically disabled, on a TON of meds….and they DELIVER. Like, to our DOOR. The best part is that the pharmacist’s husband is a former major league baseball player, so when they first opened for business, I had a former major league baseball player bringing our meds to our door! The stuff life brings, sometimes.

          1. Justme*

            I live in an area where restaurants don’t deliver (I can get pizza but not Chinese food delivered) but the local pharmacy does deliver.

            1. Bartlet for President*

              I think pharmacies that deliver to one’s door is actually more common in smaller communities than larger ones.

      2. crankypants*

        Yes, auto refill by mail is fabulous except some companies now won’t allow certain meds to be sent for “privacy” – just got a note from mine that sertraline (Zoloft) is no longer available by mail. Can’t get my Xanax by mail anymore either because it’s an “as needed” drug so refills are sporadic.

        yes, so much more private to have to drive to the store & discuss my meds with others present.

  2. Frozen Ginger*

    So sorry you’re dealing with that, LW.

    As someone who’s got a couple disorders, one being anxiety, I know how it feels to be probed about a topic you don’t want to talk about.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yes, lots of sympathy! We have a TV area, so one TV was playing nonstop Vegas shooter clips, and the other Puerto Rico devastation clips. I was sitting there with tears in my eyes, at work, and got caught by a co-worker (who was also upset so it was fine). I realized I had control and changed both remotes to the weather channel.

      But no, you are not weird for grieving for murdered humans, or for feeling fear for how scary and random it was, or for not wanting to have to process trauma at work (where the range of acceptable emotional display is too small for murdered babies). These are normal and acceptable feelings. Your co-workers were being pretty callous.

      I wouldn’t go to management, but you might pull the Marine aside, privately, and tell him that his comment made an already upsetting situation harder on you. No need to go into anxiety – this wasn’t anxiety, this was an incredibly common way to react to a terribly upsetting situation.

  3. Murphy*

    I agree that their questions to you were weird, but it sounds like they did drop it pretty quickly, so I don’t think it’s worth bringing to your supervisor.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      I actually don’t think any of those questions sound even slightly weird, though I can see why they might upset the OP. We say a lot of weird stuff when inexplicable tragedy strikes, and this all sounds well within the norms – if there is such a thing – for a situation like this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Especially when it’s in the context of someone saying they don’t want to talk about it, since that makes it feel more … aggressive or challenging or something.

            1. JessaB*

              Yeh the answer to “I don’t want to talk about this,” is NOT ever in any way or for any reason “But WHYYYYYYYYYYY? Why don’t you want to.” Or any iteration of that.

              Unless you’re literally talking about something that is an IMMEDIATE and present danger.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Inappropriate? Oh, most definitely. Upsetting? Very possibly. But none of this sounds particularly “weird” to me, and it doesn’t sound to me as though anybody was being malicious. If they’d kept it up, that would have been another story.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Many people would consider someone saying something inappropriate and upsetting to them “weird” if said to them by a coworker, so I don’t think we really need to nitpick Oryx’s word choice.

            1. Chinook*

              I think the fact that it was a former Marine may play a part in asking “are you afraid of dying?” that is not sadistic. When you are involved in the military, planning for death can be second nature (first thing DH did the hour after we eloped was update his will with the army clerk while adding me as his dependent; during training as both a soldier and a cop, they took the formal photos that are used in obituaries; etc.) and people you know die regardless of what they did to keep it from happening. It is sad but not something to fear.

              As a result, you get desensitized to it as well as learn to talk to others about it. You learn to see death as something that happens and hearing someone act as if they are scared of it can be surprising.

        2. Working Mom*

          I had a pretty intense reaction to reading that. First of all, who asks someone that, let alone a coworker? Second, um – yes! Very few people are not afraid of dying, and I am not one of those highly enlightened individuals. I’m sorry, OP. I hope they listen to you and step away from that topic at work. I’m not prone to anxiety at all, but even I purposely avoided news on this subject because it is too upsetting.

          1. (Different) Rebecca*

            My response would have been less than polite, along the lines of ‘who the EFF isn’t afraid of dying?!’

              1. Chinook*

                Yup. You may be able to avoid taxes but if you are born, then you die. It is more reliable than the law of gravity. My only fear is in the how and that I didn’t use the time between birth and death well.

          2. Statler von Waldorf*

            Actually, I’m the kind of unempathic dumbass who would ask a co-worker that question. As someone who has stared death in the face a few times, I’m probably in the minority with the marine and I totally understand getting annoyed at people who refuse to accept life’s harsh realities.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I think there’s a big difference between accepting life’s harsh realities and dwelling on them. As someone who suffers from severe anxiety/panic disorder, it’s very easy for me to go down the rabbit hole and work myself into an attack if I let myself think too much about certain things.

            2. LBK*

              Huh? How does this have anything to do with refusing to accept life’s harsh realities? Accepting them doesn’t mean being numb to them – if you’ve reached the point where this conversation is no longer upsetting, that’s not acceptance, that’s normalization.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                If you can’t talk about them without having an anxiety attack, I would argue that you are not really accepting them. That said, I can’t argue with fposte about work not being the correct place for it.

                1. LBK*

                  a) The OP says nothing about having an anxiety attack – feeling anxious is not having an attack, as I’m sure anyone who’s had an anxiety attack can attest to.
                  b) You’re conflating an anxiety disorder with general emotional control and stability – saying someone who has an anxiety attack when faced with a strong emotional stimuli isn’t “accepting harsh realities” is like saying someone with asthma who has an attack just isn’t accepting the harsh lack of oxygen flowing into their lungs.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “I totally understand getting annoyed at people who refuse to accept life’s harsh realities”
                  “If you can’t talk about them without having an anxiety attack, I would argue that you are not really accepting them.”

                  People process things differently. That’s all. Making a judgment that someone who does not want to talk about something out loud in a group is not accepting reality is such an enormous stretch of the imagination. It really, really is. Like, in a really significant and frankly insulting way.

                  Here the LW has explained that she did in fact listen to the coverage before coming to work – that’s not some overarching problem of denying reality. She listened to coverage, felt that with her non-medicated anxiety listening to more would be not great for her mental health, and decided to move on. That she didn’t want to continue to listen to as much coverage and out-loud processing as you might want to is not an indication that she is denying reality.

                3. Statler von Waldorf*

                  @LBK – A) is a fair call, I was conflating the two. As for b) … well, I don’t think we’ll agree on that one so I’ll drop it here.

                4. LBK*

                  So be it, I guess. It’s just insulting to seemingly imply that people with mental illness are weak.

                5. Lucy in the Woods*

                  You weren’t kidding about lacking empathy, were you? What an incredibly callous, cruel and unpleasant attitude to have. I pity you.

            3. SarahTheEntwife*

              I can understand maybe pushing a friend on the issue — if that bothers them, you’re probably not terribly compatible as friends — but “how well do you deal with the inevitability of human mortality?” is not really something it’s your place to worry about in a coworker. People aren’t having anxiety *at* you.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                The OP is demanding that others modify their behavior because of the OP’s emotional state. So in this one specific case, yes, they actually are having anxiety *at* their co-workers.

                1. Sylvan*

                  The OP is staying out of conversations about a particular subject, a particular subject that a lot of people have very understandable reasons to discuss only in the appropriate context and time (i.e. people I know have died by gun violence; I don’t always love talking about it).

                  If someone wasn’t interested in your favorite sport or didn’t like your pet, would you have such a hard time with their preference to avoid the subject?

                2. LBK*

                  Experiencing the effects of anxiety is not an “emotional state”. The minimizing language you’re using to write off mental illness as some kind of hissy fit is really insulting.

                3. fposte*

                  I don’t usually bring up conversations from other posts, but you’ve been previously pretty clear that your PTSD means that it’s not acceptable to you for anybody to touch you in the workplace. To me those are pretty similar situations–you and the OP have conditions that make a not hugely remarkable workplace activity a problem for you. Yet it seems like you’re being really hard on the OP for wanting the same thing you want–people to refrain from this common activity for you. Obviously none of us are uncomplicated, but that seems like a discrepancy to me. Can you explain?

                4. Statler von Waldorf*

                  @fposte – I wasn’t planning on commenting further, but I was flattered enough that you remembered me that I started feeling guilty in not responding.

                  The answer here is that I don’t consider the two issues similar at all. Taking part in a group conversation is a standard activity at any office I’ve ever worked at. Co-workers touching each other is not. It probably seems far less black and white to everyone who isn’t me, but that’s my POV.

                  Also, for anyone wondering, I don’t think anyone is weak because they suffer from mental illness. The exact opposite is far more often true in my experience.

                5. fposte*

                  @Statler–no problem, and I’m glad you’re okay with my bringing it up. We are all complicated creatures, that’s for sure.

                6. NorthernSoutherner*

                  What bothered me about LW was jumping to the idea of what in effect would be tattling to a higher- up. “They made me feel bad and they have to pay.” Wrong.

            4. (Different) Rebecca*

              I work with dead people, and I’ve had a few ‘there but for the grace of god’ moments, but on the whole I’d rather not contemplate my own death.

              1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

                My brain derped and read that as you have co-workers who are dead, like Liv on iZombie.

            5. Allison*

              I think most of us accept we’re going to die someday, we don’t so much fear death as we fear having our lives cut short in frightening, painful ways. I know I’m gonna die, I hope it’s peacefully in old age, not being shot at a music festival . . . or several other horrifying circumstances I could think up, where it’s slow and painful, no one can save me and no one I love even knows I’m there.

              I’m sure if I served in the military I wouldn’t fear that circumstance, as I’m signing up for the possibility and I have time to accept its likelihood long before it’s likely to happen. But I haven’t served in the military, because dying in combat scares me – I think that’s a pretty normal outlook on the whole death thing.

              1. Working Mom*

                Agreed. Fearing death does not mean you’re pretending like bad things don’t happen. On the contrary, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here – that we’re all well aware of terrible things that can happen and we fear them. We wouldn’t fear them if we didn’t believe in them.

            6. Kateshellybo19*

              I grew up in the funeral industry, to me death was a common everyday fact of life. As natural and as frequent to talk about as a new baby is for most people.

              I have to be careful if death is part of a topic because it literally does not bother me at all to talk about it.

            7. Ramona Flowers*

              I don’t understand fear of death to the point where I am seriously aggravated by people saying oh almost everyone is scared of it.

              I still don’t ask other people weird questions about it though.

              1. Hrovitnir*

                Eh, I think it’s fair to say almost everyone is scared of death. It’s less fair to, say, insist you must be because it doesn’t fit their worldview… this overlaps nicely with other drives like procreation.

                I’m not afraid of death* (and don’t want children), but I don’t think it’s terribly surprising most people are to one degree or another.

                *Or at least I think I have enough self-protective instinct to experience fear if I were to, say, fall of a tall building. But I don’t have any existential dread about it.

                1. Chinook*

                  “I think it’s fair to say almost everyone is scared of death.”

                  I think this is very much culturally dependent. I have been to enough funerals and around the dying enough that I noticed the Catholics are usually more blasé about (often seeing it as another step on the journey and hoping you get to go North rather than South) whereas those who are not religious seem to be frightened about the prospect of dying (and maybe what comes after). The more religious older folks I met weren’t anxious to die anytime soon (they liked living, even with aches, pains and suffering the indignities of old age and illness) but weren’t scared of not waking up when they went to sleep and would even refuse certain medical treatments if it meant a longer life with no quality to it (which is different from actively looking for a way to die).

            8. Genevieve*

              So not talking about mass shootings the day they happen with your coworkers is “refusing to accept life’s harsh realities”? You sound fun.

            9. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Yeah, I mean, it certainly would have been better if they had not asked the question, but I definitely can see situations where that would be a sort of knee-jerk response in a casual conversation… as OP notes, OP was participating in the conversation until they realized it was scaring them, so the co-workers probably just didn’t catch on quickly enough that the tide of the convo had changed and they needed to drop it (though they did realize that fairly quickly!) I don’t think there’s anything inherently weird or aggressive untoward about the question.

        3. Blue Anne*

          Yeah. Honestly, I’d be a little pissed about this. “Are you scared of dying?” and following up with “she’s not answering the question”?! Not okay from a colleague.

          1. TSG*

            My thoughts, too. I’m surprised more people don’t think this response was really out of line. I don’t mind talking about things like this with people, but if I asked someone to stop and their response was “Are you scared of dying” followed by talking about me instead of to me while I’m right there to comment that I “wasn’t answering” a question about something I specifically just asked to not talk about? I might not go to my manager on the first occurrence, but it was still really weird and inappropriate. Talking about it may help the coworkers process it, but their method of coping doesn’t give them free range to steam over OP’s method of coping and to probe with invasive questions.

        4. LCL*

          People who have been active duty military look often look at these topics in a different way than people who haven’t. He was processing his stress and probably some slight guilt over not being able to anything about the shooter.

          1. Working Mom*

            That makes more sense – I totally missed the former Marine part. That explains such a bizarre question a bit, as a former Marine will have a totally different mindset than a civilian. But still, time and place.

          2. Specialk9*

            Still huuuuuugely inappropriate.

            I was trying really hard not to cry all day yesterday because of the massacre. Co-workers bullying me about why I was upset (!!!) would have made me burst into tears.

            Fortunately I don’t work with monsters.

            1. Chinook*

              Inappropriate, yes, but it might not be something the ex-Marine noticed as inappropriate at work because, in his last workplace, it wasn’t. It doesn’t make him a monster or a bully, just clueless (especially since he dropped it after that).

          3. Letter-writer*

            Yeah, pretty much this – his tone came across as really challenging (which is not out of character for him) and I also just didn’t want to discuss the philosophy of death with someone who had been on active military duty. His perspective will be totally different than mine, which is fine, but I don’t have to defend mine and he doesn’t have to defend his. I especially don’t want to debate death at my job where I talk to cancer patients all day. It just didn’t seem like a conversation worth having at work.

            1. ReallyTho*

              What makes you think he wants to force you to defend your views on death? How do you know he isn’t just trying to understand where your strong discomfort is coming from? I get a sense from your responses as well as Specialk9 that you 1) don’t understand military folks 2) you have a negative view of military folks and both of those are clearly impacting how negative this small interaction went.

              1. fposte*

                I think that’s a leap. It’s not the question but the place and time: she indicated she didn’t want to talk about it. It’s not the time for him to decide she needs to talk about it further to enlighten him on why she doesn’t want to talk about it. Whether you’re a Marine or not, that’s not a good move.

              2. Letter-writer*

                I don’t know where you got from my reply that I have a negative view of military folks, but I don’t. I mentioned before that I felt like both his tone and his question were challenging my request to not discuss something, and I got the feeling the point of his question was to lead to a larger discussion (yes, about death). Which I didn’t want to do.

              3. Birchwoods*

                It’s really not his business though to understand where LW’s discomfort is coming from. If LW doesn’t want to walk about it, LW doesn’t have to. It’s totally inappropriate to press personal issues at work.

              4. Gazebo Slayer*

                If someone doesn’t understand why other people might be uncomfortable talking about death, they don’t know much about human nature and are frankly bad at being human, regardless of their military background or lack thereof.

            2. My Cat Posted This For Me*

              Letter-writer, I’m with those who feel like these questions are inappropriate, especially hearing you say that the person asking about being afraid of death was using a challenging tone. It should be obvious that some people are going to find a massacre (!!!) upsetting and not want to talk about it at work. And if that’s not obvious, well, it’s off-topic at work anyway unless your job is to talk about current events at work…like if you worked at a news station.

              My (often blunt) coworker and I were just discussing this horrible event on a big-picture level and when she said “did you hear about those two people who…” I said “no, I’m really trying not to hear any details like that because it’s so upsetting” and she changed the topic smoothly and there was no problem. That’s how it’s done, people.

              Also, I wanted to say that as someone on medication for anxiety I appreciate everyone’s thoughtful suggestions about ways to not miss a dose. Yes, not being on medication made these kinds of interactions SO painful for me. But that doesn’t mean that the bad feelings you had were your fault. A lot of people, even those with anxiety, would have felt bad after that. I guess I just had to say that, because my anxiety often makes me worry disproportionately about small social interactions and I have to really work on being objective, like “just because she left the room after you mentioned that email doesn’t mean she was mad at you.” But in this case, I don’t think it’s just that you weren’t on your medication. That objectively wasn’t a very nice interaction, especially during such a painful time, and I’m sorry that happened.

          4. AthenaC*

            Another thought is that people who have been in situations where they easily could have died and there was nothing they could do about it one way or the other, or people who have been through times where they have zero control over their lives – one way to respond to this is to really internalize and become comfortable with the idea that you could die at any time. This allows you to confront the reality of your own mortality and yet move on and be a reasonably productive and well-adjusted person.

            Now, it’s worth noting that because relatively few people have this outlook, being comfortable with this reality comes across as very strange, insensitive, and possibly cruel. Thankfully I’ve become good at catching myself before I say anything like this out loud – I don’t want to make any of my coworkers uncomfortable.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              In this case, I don’t think anyone thinks that the OP’s questioner being comfortable with dying suddenly and violently and expressing that comfort were insensitive or cruel. It was his reaction to the OP’s not wanting to have a conversation about it that people are taking issue with. When a coworker tells you that they don’t want to talk about a tragic event that has nothing to do with your work, you should drop it, and refusing to drop it is what comes across as insensitive.

        5. Here we go again*

          When I initially heard the question in my head, I heard it in a snarky tone. When I went back and re-read the letter, it seemed more philosophical than snarky. I don’t think it was necessarily an appropriate question for the time, but the intent doesn’t seem malicious.

          I don’t think OP should bring it to the supervisor. I think they should find a way to work through it internally.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            I agree – and you put it better than I did earlier, so thanks for that. I don’t think any of these are particularly weird…but they are weird things to ask your coworkers. I’m very glad they realized something was off and dropped the topic fairly quickly (though not, unfortunately, quite quickly enough to prevent the OP feeling some unnecessary stress).

        6. Heather*

          The Marine interpretation that someone mentioned may be more likely here, but I have also heard “Are you scared of dying?” as coded language for “Are you saved/a Christian?” which, I agree, is a very weird thing to ask a coworker.

          1. wickedtongue*

            This! A lot of evangelical Christians will use “Are you scared of dying” as an opener to witnessing. It would make me super uncomfortable for that reason alone, especially in a work setting.

          2. a1*

            I would have *never* read that into the question! And I’ve had a lot of door knockers try to convert me to their particular branch of Christianity. (I had to put up a sign)

          3. Kathleen Adams*

            I’ve never heard that either! There are phrases that are code for evangelical Christians that sound different to those of us outside those denominations, but I’ve never heard this one, and I’d never interpret it that way.

          1. Bleeborp*

            See, for me it’s just a little weird and not that deeply personal. I don’t have any hang ups about my own mortality nor do I fear death so if someone at work asked me I’d have no issue getting philosophical about it. But I’m not that private a person nor do I suffer from anxiety so that’s me and and the LW is different which is fine but it seems their coworker asked a question to see if they wanted to have that kind of discussion, was told to stop, and did so.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed—their questions were weird, and in the context of OP’s request, unnecessarily aggressive/pushy. I also just think they were dumb to even ask why OP didn’t want to talk about the issue. For all they know, OP had survived an active shooter scenario like this one. The questions come across as callous and invasive.

          Regardless, they were thoughtless and rude, but given that they dropped it, I don’t think it’s worth bringing to a supervisor (yet).

        8. Turquoise Cow*

          Especially when you’re working a very low risk job like call center employee. It might be acceptable if you’re a marine, or in basic training, or some kind of security. But almost any other job? No.

        9. Mike C.*

          “Of course not, I long for the glory of battle and the opportunity to join my soldiers in arms in the great halls of Valhalla!”

          What sort of answer were they expecting?

          1. Lora*

            Maybe that we canna be kilt, fer we are already deid! The universe is a lot more comp-li-cated than it looks from the ooutside.

          2. wickedtongue*

            :breaks out the silver spray paint: Witness me!!

            Seriously, there are no answers for that that are normal Monday afternoon workplace conversation.

        10. NaoNao*

          I’ve met a few people who respond in this way. It’s really a gross trap for the respondent and IMHO a way to show dominance and superiority. If you respond emotionally and angrily “Please stop asking such invasive and weird questions”, then you’re easier to manipulate (in their minds) and they do the judo-move of using those emotions against you (“You seem really worked up about this. Why is that?”) If you calmly answer “No, I am not.” then a lot of times it feels like you’re betraying yourself and your values by not calling out such weird, inappropriate behavior or showing your true emotions.

          Many of us (myself included) were heavily socialized not to tell any lies, including white lies, during what seems like a sincere effort at conversation and I know I struggle with responding to aggressive salespeople, men who hit on me and won’t take no for an answer, panhandlers who ask for money (I finally was able to say “I don’t have any” with the mental addendum of “…for you, today.” but that took years) .

          I believe this person’s intention was to show you how in control, masterful, and dominant they were and how cool, calm, and collected THEY were “in the face of death” and probably give you some really tiresome advice and “war stories” about how to achieve such an exhaulted state.

          I guess my best advice for those people is “Why do you ask?” or pretending you didn’t hear the question. I go with the “befuddled Professor”. “Oh…hmm? I’m sorry, were you saying something?” and then drift off politely but quickly when they start to speak. If they follow “Sorry! Can’t hear you!” with a beatific smile and bop off to the coffee machine. Few will follow or bellow.

          …and I’m sorry you went through this. All of us are hurting today and were hurting yesterday and I hope only a handful of us had insensitive coworkers!

          1. Samata*

            I feel bad OP had to deal with this situation but it sounded like he asked, then realized “oh, she really isn’t going to talk about it” and dropped it. I am not following where he was trying to manipulate, dominate or show his superiority over her?

            For the record I do think these people exist, I just don’t think that is what was happening in this particular case.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Bingo. It is about showing dominance and superiority and using LW’s emotions against her. I’m seriously doubting that the coworker actually was surprised that a coworker would find a massacre upsetting or the prospect of death frightening. Even most people in the small minority who have no fear of death are aware most other people don’t feel that way.

  4. Macchiato*

    Agree with Alison. If it continues you could mention it then, but it seems like not having your medication made it more upsetting than it might normally be.

  5. Roscoe*

    Yes, this is definitely tough, just because as Alison says, people process it differently. I was out of the office yesterday, so it wasn’t a factor. But I could see being annoyed if people said “don’t discuss this around me” because I’m the type of person that copes by talking it out. I think a compromise can be made. So maybe don’t discuss this at our desks, but go ahead and talk about it in the kitchen or something. I really don’t think its a management thing though. I mean, if you had a very personal connection to it (like a family member was hurt there) I think I’d have a bit more leeway for just a blanket ban on discussing it around you. But just because you are a bit more anxious now, its tough.

    1. JessaB*

      Yes, but don’t discuss it around me, is not don’t talk about it, it’s go somewhere else and talk about it. That’s actually not outrageous.

      1. MoreNowAgain*

        I don’t see where Roscoe said it was outragous? Sounds like they are saying the exact same thing you are? Compromise – don’t speak about it in front of the OP, speak about it elsewhere.

      2. Forrest*

        You mean like what she said when she said she’d go elsewhere?

        Besides, the OP enter the conversation – it’s on her to leave.

    2. MoreNowAgain*

      Agreed. I’m definitely sympathetic, but given that they have an open floor plan – and a request for them to not speak about it in front of OP translates to them being unable to speak about it amongst themselves at their desks – I think a compromise is in order.

      1. Liane*

        What’s wrong with, you know, getting back to work? After all, *doing one’s work* is an appropriate activity at work. Or there’s always Plan B, change the subject *without* asking Gregor why he doesn’t want to talk about the tragedy.

        And no, I don’t think it’s wrong to ask your co-irkers to change the subject, no matter what the subject is, as long as it wasn’t “What’s the ETA on the TPS reports?”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s a call center. Doing one’s work is literally sitting and waiting for the phone to ring, and filling the time until that happens.

        2. MoreNowAgain*

          I think you might have meant to reply to a different comment? I definitely did not say that it is wrong to ask to change the subject – I literally said the opposite. I think any request along those lines should be respected, and without hounding the individual with questions. That being said, I do think a compromise is in order – the OP should not be subjected to that topic against their wishes, and their co-workers shouldn’t be ‘banned’ across the board from a subject. It’s about respect, don’t speak about it in front of or around that co-worker.

          As an example – the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing, everyone at work was discussing it. One of my co-workers asked if we could change the subject, which we immediately did. Several of my co-workers, and myself, lived within two miles of the shooting so we both needed and wanted to discuss what was going on and stay on top of the breaking news. So we would step into the break room for a few minutes every hour or so, and then get back to work. Compromise.

          And yes, of course people should be doing their job in the workplace – but people also communicate about non-work things throughout the day. I’m just not really sure what portion of my comment your intensity is directed towards.

    3. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

      And I don’t understand how someone could be “annoyed” by such a request. I’m on the OP’s end of the tragedy-processing spectrum, and it’s difficult from where I am right now to see why your (hypothetical you, not you specifically) right and preference to talk through something upsetting should override my right not to be further upset. Not discussing something in front of one person does not equate to a full ban on conversation–it’s not much of a burden as requests go. People needing to talk could still do so while away from the OP’s desk, like in the break room or hallway or whatever. It is asking them to not do something that comes naturally, but being in a work situation, people have to adjust their behavior in other ways all the time.

      OP, even though I don’t think they meant to harm you, I feel like the people who said these things to you deserved a mental slap, to snap them out of their selfish focus. In their own pursuit of comfort or community, they were pretty egregiously rude to someone making a simple request. I agree with Alison that there’s no value in speaking of it to your manager as something to be addressed, unless something similar happens. Unfortunately, sensitivity of this kind has a stigma and it won’t do you any favors at work to bring even more attention to your reaction than your coworkers already have.

    4. LBK*

      It’s fine if you’re the type of person who processes by talking through it, but I think there’s better people to talk to about it than your coworkers. Don’t subject a captive audience to it when there’s such a wide range of coping mechanisms.

      1. MoreNowAgain*

        Agreed – although I think it’s different if everyone is participating. My co-workers and I discuss events like this all the time (we’ve never had a request to change subject but absolutely would without question), both as a way of processing and as a general topic of conversation. That being said, we don’t have anyone in the immediate area that isn’t participating so there really isn’t an ‘audience’, only contributors.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Yeah, and tbh, when you’re at work (particularly when you’re at a call center) your options are a lot more limited than when you’re at home or at a bar or something.

          1. My Cat Posted This For Me*

            Mmm hmm, that’s what I was thinking. Agree, my coworkers and I play therapist for each other all the time (bad boss, irritating spouses) but everyone’s agreed to be doing it and we even joke about it, and it’s one-on-one while we walk to coffee, not in a group setting. But it’s got to be consensual!

  6. Allison*

    “One coworker told me “You know, you can’t prevent that kind of thing from happening, it just happens.” The other coworker said “Why don’t you want to talk about it? Are you scared of dying?””


    Just wow.

    It’s one thing to insist on talking about it at work (kinda rude) but it’s another to make unkind, unflattering assumptions about why someone doesn’t want to discuss the topic. Personally, I might avoid it because I’d worry my comments might escalate to an argument I’m not really up for having with coworkers (or anyone), or I’d avoid it because I’d worry I’d get too emotional and it would be embarrassing, and people might think I’m a big baby or emotionally unstable. Or hey, maybe I’d just rather focus on the project I’m working on and I don’t want to get distracted.

    1. strawberries and raspberries*

      I agree. I’ve worked with someone like this before, who will bring up something super controversial in a group of people and when someone either disagrees or says that maybe we should table it, they turn it into, “Why, has that happened to you?” or badgering you to see it their way by making the same kind of accusatory too-personal comments. It’s a total power play. If you go straight to a supervisor over it, this person will frame it as “We were just having a conversation and they got emotional,” even though they said something designed to make you get emotional so that they could have the last word.

      Now if they keep on asking you these kinds of questions, or continue to bring up the subject, I think you’re within your right to say, “I’ve told you I’m not comfortable having this conversation with you. I refuse to discuss it further.” And if they push back, then you escalate it.

      I feel your pain, though- I used to have to steel myself to prepare to talk to this person.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I totally agree with this. regardless of someone’s background or motivations, it is a way of trying to get a reaction out of someone seemingly for its own sake.

    2. JulieBulie*

      I totally, totally agree.

      Lately, and especially with particular people, any conversation about any current event feels like a minefield. I’m afraid that anything I say, however innocuous, will be misconstrued as a sweeping, scorched-earth political statement. Or provoke an argument about something that I don’t even have an opinion on. I’m not up for it.

      And it sounds as though OP had the same experience, because if someone demands to know why you want them to drop a topic, it sounds to me as though they’re looking for something to judge.

      1. anon24*

        I agree. I try not to discuss events like this because it inevitably turns into a huge political debate that is exhausting and unhelpful (what does it change?). Can’t we just say RIP to those who didn’t make it and best wishes to those who are recovering and leave politics for a less emotional time?

        1. Snark*

          When would that be? There’s a major mass shooting every few months. Political division in this country has never been more toxic or profound. There IS no less emotional time. There never will be. And acting from emotion is not actually a bad thing, and I say that as a committed professional empiricist.

          1. Juli G.*

            It’s been, what, 273 mass shootings this year in the US? It’s hard to find a time without one to discuss these issues.

            1. Snark*

              Like I said below, if you think there’s a way to prevent people from discussing this at work the morning after it happened, you’re not factoring in the real humans that occupy workplaces.

              1. CMart*

                I dunno. Maybe my department is different because we’re all cold, unfeeling bean counting robots but there is pretty much zero discussion about anything outside of work/our actual personal lives that happen in the cube area.

                Some of us had a small discussion in the kitchen area about the news coverage of the shooting yesterday, but pretty much once you’re back in the actual desk area it’s back to business or small talk.

              2. Liane*

                I meant to add this above, but people who want to discuss can always do so at breaks/lunch, where they can pick a place that is not right by someone who has indicated they don’t want to be part of the conversation.
                This applies whether it’s about a tragedy, the Super Bowl, or Mark Hamill’s latest Tweet.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            This. We are ALWAYS in the wake of another mass shooting. There is never a less emotional time.

          3. Turquoise Cow*

            There are a million other topics that can be discussed in a workplace, though. Like, work.

            Do we need to have a national conversation and make some changes? Absolutely. But just like we can put off discussing elections at work, we can avoid discussing topics like horrific massacres and their political justifications at work.

            I’m at work to work. Unless I work specifically in politics or non-profits related to such, discussing an upsetting topic with someone – to the extent that they start crying – is not necessary. Have that conversation outside of work. I came to work to work, not to have someone ask if I’m afraid of dying and remind me that the chances of being randomly gunned down in public seem to be increasing daily. Do you want me to get my work done? Because it’s harder when I’m sobbing in a fit of anxious fear.

            1. AthenaC*

              Yes – from a purely practical standpoint, unless you work in public policy or a public policy-adjacent industry, nothing we say will change anything.

              Not to say there’s no inherent value in having these Deep Conversations, but it’s only valuable to the extent that: 1) people don’t have more urgent work to do (we are at work after all); and 2) everyone within earshot finds them valuable at best or inoffensive at worst. Both of those things have to be true. The minute one of those things stops being true, find something else to talk about.

              I’m proud of the OP for speaking up and I cringed reading the followup questions.

        2. Lady Phoenix*

          Unfortunately no, we can’t leave politics out of this because it surronds some major hot buttons: gun control.

          The fact this keeps happening has understandably made a lot of people upset because it is fueling people’s paranoia for their own safety — especially since the government’s reaponse seems to be, “Oh well too bad. Price of freedom. Now let’s get more guns.”

          When it comes to massacres, politics are always gonna be included because we want to know the government is not gonna let it repeat.

          1. Jesca*

            Which is exactly why people don’t want to talk about it. There are people who do just feel like not every problem can/should be solved by the federal government. I am somewhere in the middle on the issue myself, but I do have the capacity to see arguments from all sides.

            This is not the time nor the place to be discussing this. Let’s table political/governmental policy discussions on this topic and stick to the discussion before this derails.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Not that discussing this at work is ideal, but I always wonder when people say the government shouldn’t solve problems like this: then who should? “Government can’t solve all problems” is usually code for “don’t do anything remotely effective about this problem. Also, shut up and stop complaining about it.”

          2. Lissa*

            I agree with you but I think the fact that many people disagree with you means it isn’t a good topic for work – it is likely to get emotional and heated. I *do* think it’s fine to talk about tragedies at work and I understand the “everything is political” view but an angry discussion about gun control at work is not going to be useful or productive. (I actually think touchinge on it isn’t awful but if you have even one person with strong opposite views it gets messy fast.)

    3. Blue Anne*

      Ugh. Yes. OP, you say it’s of course not your colleague’s fault, but if they were asking you that kind of stuff, it is their fault. From my perspective, anyway.

      There are all kinds of reasons you might have been incredibly affected by this regardless of your anxiety. I was completely out of it at work for a couple of days after the Pulse shooting. This stuff affects people deeply (as it’s meant to, I suppose). I really think your colleagues were being pretty insensitive regardless of any unusual medication issues going on with you.

      I agree with Alison that you should let it go, but geez.

      1. MoreNowAgain*


        Absolutely insensitive with their line of questioning (/the fact that they questioned at all), but given that they did change the topic it’s best to move on and hope it was a one off!

    4. k.k*

      I found those comments really harsh for the work place, or for most situations actually. It’s obviously a sensitive subject and there are endless reasons why someone might not want to openly discuss it. You never know what’s going on in someone’s head, and those comments could be really hurtful (for someone that has anxiety like OP, has a friend or family member that was affected, has been through a traumatic experience, etc.)

      That being said, I do think if it was a one time thing OP should let it go, for all the reasons mentioned here. These kinds of high profile tragedies do tend to spark ongoing conversations as they stay in the news and people’s thoughts though, so if anyone tries to push a discussion on OP again it could be appropriate to talk to the manager.

    5. LQ*

      I have to say I’m not sure why assuming someone is scared of dying is unkind or unflattering. I mean I’m afraid of dying but …that’s not…unflattering. I recently had a conversation where I said I was afraid of dying and no one knowing (this was at work, I wanted to know that someone would check in on me and I was making sure that someone I work with in my new position had my cell number and knew that if I didn’t show up I would let her know, I really would hate to think that this conversation put me in an unflattering light because someone assumes being afraid of dying is unflattering).

      This sounds like a question younger me would have asked and then launched into some statistics about how unlikely something like this is to happen and how much more likely car accidents or the like are. (Now before people flip out and scream at me, I have grown and it is good to have people grow and understand not everyone comes into the world being fully aware of 100% of all things.) Those are the kinds of facts and information that soothe me in these situations so I’ve offered them up to people to try to help soothe them. Or incredibly dully practical information like do you have a will etc.

      Are these kinds of things appropriate? Eh. I would say it depends on the audience and so yes, assume others are bumbling around with these things themselves and trying to deal in ways that work for them. Are they perfect? Far from it! But they are highly unlikely to be a personal attack. More just an attempt for them to process, struggle, and self soothe.

      1. Amber Rose*

        There’s a thread I’ve been following on a different site where someone was asking if they are alone with their overwhelming fear of death because every time the subject comes up, everyone else is so cavalier about it. I think in a lot of ways, it’s not culturally acceptable to discuss it. It’s the elephant in the room that we aren’t allowed to talk about, we all just pretend it isn’t there and we always take the long way to get to the door on the other side. Otherwise we’re cowards, or we need therapy, or whatever.

        So while I agree with you that it’s not really unflattering or unkind to assume someone is afraid of death, I also think a lot of people feel like it is. And I can see where a “macho” type might accuse someone of being scared of death like it’s a weakness. It’s a form of denial.

        1. Morning Glory*

          I got the impression from the LW that her coworker said it like some profound insight for her to think about.

          This would frustrate me because that seems almost insultingly presumptuous – like, of course I am afraid of death, and the despair of knowing that I and everyone I love will die and be dead forever overshadows even my happiest days. This is not a part of myself I need a random coworker’s guidance to discover, it’s something I was clever enough to learn all on my own. But, can we still not speculate about intensely upsetting tragedies happening in our town while at work, please?

          That said, the thread you mentioned sounds fascinating, because this isn’t something that a lot of people talk about out loud.

          1. fposte*

            The thing is, though, the co-workers were also responding to the tragedy in their own way, and I think they probably weren’t at their best either, so I’m not going to judge them too harshly for slightly off-key immediate responses. It took them a minute, but they dialed it back when asked; that’s important.

            1. Morning Glory*

              I completely agree with this; I may have come off a bit harsher than I meant for the coworker. I wanted to offer a perspective on how the question could be insulting, even to people who don’t see fear of death as something to be ashamed of. I agree though that we were all just a bunch of imperfect humans reacting in our own ways to a tragedy, yesterday.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I think it’s not because assuming someone is afraid of dying is unkind or unflattering (almost everyone is afraid of dying!) but because death is a very personal topic that people have different associations and reactions to for personal, spiritual, philosophical reasons. Your experiences and thoughts and approach to the topic of death is a huge question – I wouldn’t want to talk about it at work the same way I don’t really want to get into other personal topics at work.

    6. Guacamole Bob*

      Wow indeed. I’d have a really hard time not launching into a political diatribe in response to someone saying “It just happens” about an incident of massive gun violence. And the fact that I know that political rants are inappropriate for my workplace is part of why I try to opt out of these sorts of conversations.

      1. NaoNao*

        That’s a strange position to have since every other major industrialized nation on earth has found a way to prevent these tragedies from happening. It may be a combination of factors outside of the major issue of gun control, but they decided that it *does not* just happen in Canada, France, Australia, Germany, Russia, etc. And it doesn’t.

        Can tragedies *of any kind* be 100% prevented? No. But we in the US are the only major industrialized, developed nation in which this kind of tragedy occurs with any sort of regularity and scale. So….they can, have, and will be prevented, just not here in the US, apparently.

        1. Samata*

          I think death was what MommyMD was referring to about not being prevented, not the disaster; I am not aware of any industrialized nation on earth that has found a way to avoid death (yet).

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        It “just happens” because our politicians are bought by the NRA and willfully refuse to do anything about it “just happening.” It “just happens” because millions of citizens care more about guns than actual people’s lives.

    7. Liz T*

      Thank you! It’s not just that the question was inappropriate–it’s that it’s a very off assumption to make about why LW doesn’t want to talk about it. I would think “My sorrow about this horrible event might overwhelm me when I’m supposed to be working” or even “I or someone I know has personal experience that is brought up by this,” and I wouldn’t ask about either.

  7. Velvet Goldberg*

    All I could think after reading this, was the question: Are you afraid of dying? And the answer: Yes, so can we not discuss how likely it is we might die this weekend?

    1. Specialk9*

      “Yes of course I’m afraid of dying, but far more I’m afraid of my baby being slaughtered. Are you telling me your empathy is so utterly lacking that you can’t imagine that this happened to someone you care about? Damn, you’re all so hard.”

      1. Lissa*

        I don’t think that making insensitive comments, or wanting to process out loud, etc. means somebody can’t imagine it happening to someone they care about it. Sometimes people say dumb, dumb things when they’re upset, or when other people around them are (or because it’s Tuesday, granted)…

    1. Kelly Bennett*

      I don’t think we need to speculate on where the OP is, or other places with festivals and tall buildings right now.

  8. LadyL*

    Oof OP I feel you. I also have anxiety and certain topics (sometimes seemingly very random ones) will get me going. I’ve also had trouble with people respecting this, and I think people just genuinely don’t understand. Like the time I got into a full on fight with a friend over the fact that I didn’t want to watch a violent tv show she loved, and she kinda implied that not watching meant I was a sheltered baby who didn’t understand/empathize with the people living in the “real world.” I think people don’t understand that explaining *why* something makes you anxious brings out even stronger anxiety sometimes (at least it does for me).

    If you’re comfortable disclosing, I’ve found saying “this is really cranking my anxiety, can we discuss it later/never?” sometimes helps, depending on the person (sympathetic people will realize that it’s serious and stop, jerks will take it upon themselves to tell you how to live your life/negate your illness, so you gotta know your audience for this one). If someone is being rude, I sometimes push back with, “Ok, and how is this helping anything?” or even, “Ok, why don’t you do something about it and stop talking to me about it?” That is pretty hostile though, so I would only pull that one out if you’ve asked them multiple times to stop and they refuse. In the meantime, anytime you *can* wear headphones, I would do that. Listening to my favorite podcasts is my best work-appropriate way to push anxiety thoughts out of my brain. Good luck!

    1. Kate 2*

      This! I suffer from anxiety and depression, for a while I was on meds, but cognitive behavioral therapy has helped so much I was able to go off them (with the approval of a qualified mental health practitioner, etc). On or off meds though I can’t handle watching the news. Or hearing people discuss the latest tragedy in detail.

      It has taken me a long time to get that this doesn’t make me weak. My mental health is a little more fragile than most people’s, but I think the very fact that I am managing to live a normal life is pretty awesome. And when it comes down to it, I have handled some really tough stuff in my life.

      OP I really get your experience. Yesterday a coworker insisted on going on and on about every detail of the attack, down to the exact numbers of dead and injured, the type of concert, etc, before I could get them to shut up.

  9. The Supreme Troll*

    OP, this is not something that really rises to the level of bringing it up with your manager, although your coworkers could have (and should have) been A LOT more sensitive and considerate. Best wishes!

    1. Specialk9*

      Agree about manager, but people can address problems between themselves. OP can absolutely privately pull aside the people who were being callous.

  10. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

    I can NOT talk about it without my heart breaking in two, and my husband, who feels tragedies like this deeply also, process BY talking about it. Ask me how that’s going. O.o

    Alison’s advice is very good and, honestly, I appreciated the reminder about some people needing to process out loud and communally.

    Wishing peace for us all. xo

    1. Specialk9*

      Recommend your husband go for a hard run, or whatever physical exertion he can manage. It’s how the 9/11 responders/rubble diggers/body catalogers I know handled the terrible stress.

      1. Agatha_31*

        “body catalogers I know”

        Man, this sentence is such a bizarre smack to the head because it’s kind of casually thrown out, but the subject matter hits such a visceral note. (Hope this doesn’t come off as critical or snarky, I’m just trying to say it kind of made my brain snarl up for a second processing it.)

      2. Lehigh*

        Suggest that if you think it will help, but please be careful that you don’t invalidate his needs. Physical exertion is a great extra coping mechanism, but it is *not* a substitute for talking. It is a different thing.

  11. Snark*

    I’m in the same boat, honestly, not because I get anxious but because I’m tired of having and seeing the same god damned conversation play out every time this happens. It’s like a bullshit little Kabuki play where everyone performs the same roles and says the same things and says the same lines, and then a week later we’ve all seen a squirrel and don’t give a good goddamn anymore, and I for one am up to about here with the performative bullshit in which we indulge ourselves because we’re at a rhetorical stalemate.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*


      Mass shooting
      “thoughts and prayers”
      Calls for reform
      Nothing changes
      ….and repeat.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Way to describe my thoughts perfectly.

      I don’t mind talking about stuff like this as long as there’s a point to the conversation. But there never is, it’s always the same pointless conversation with someone playing “concerned citizen” and someone playing “outraged citizen” and some other people playing parrot and agreeing with everyone else.

      I know some people are comforted by this farce, but I find it tiresome and frustrating.

      1. Snark*

        I’m not numb to it. I’m utterly enraged. But I can’t have a debate with people who occupy completely different moral and factual universes from the one I inhabit.

        1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

          That’s a very succinct way to describe my situation as well. I don’t know how to make any headway and this futility is probably why we keep seeing the lather, rinse, repeat.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Same here. I’m staying away from Facebook, too. All the outrage, warranted as it is, is draining. It’s especially so when my own friends and family pick each other apart. You know, because someone posted a comment with a word someone else didn’t like.

      2. K.*

        At the suggestion of my therapist, I “go dark” periodically, and I do it formally – announce that I’m going dark and that people shouldn’t text me news, and then do it and hold people to it (e.g. “I told you I was taking a break for [period of time] and asked you not to text me stuff. Why did you send me this?”). No social media, no news (and CNN push alerts are permanently disabled on my phone), suspending calls and faxes to my reps. It’s as much a part of my self-care as regular exercise and eating well. The stuff will be there in a few days or a week. We talk about how vacations are good for preventing burnout; this is a version of that.

    3. Specialk9*

      The murdered purple are not interchangeable though. (Yes, there’s a serious problem, and we need to Australia our gun situation FFS.) But it seems like letting frustration at gun control deaden us to *these people* suffering is not the right approach either.

      1. Kate 2*

        Nobody’s saying that. But we can personally want change with all our hearts, sign petitions, protest or march if we have the resources, and NOTHING will change if the politicians aren’t willing to vote for reform. So having the same hopeless discussion over and over and over again at every mass shooting is a little deadening inside. I used to be shocked and upset when they happened, now I almost expect them and am still upset.

    4. JulieBulie*

      Ditto… it’s like watching bad reruns and no way to turn the TV off, or having a recurring nightmare you can’t wake up from. It hardly seems right that I should feel so numb about something so horrible, but that’s what happens to some of us after repeated exposure.

      If all the crying and arguing would get us somewhere, I’d be all for it. But since the script never changes, neither does the outcome… so I’ll reserve my energy for when I can think of a more constructive reaction.

    5. Friday*

      Oh yes, this is me too. My heart breaks for all the people personally affected by this latest tragedy. I’m also 100% over the “thoughts and prayers” and changing my FB profile pic to commemorate the shooting, etc. etc. I want real change at a social and political level and it Just Doesn’t Happen.

    6. samgarden*

      It’s such a weird thing, as an Australian, to witness America’s collective dance every time this happens. As if it’s a shocking and unexpected event. I did some googling and found that there’s been over 270 mass shootings in the US this year alone! That’s one every single day. And then other gun incidents on top of that… it’s staggering. I can’t get my head around it.

      Meanwhile, thoughts and prayers do literally nothing. They’re a useless placeholder for actual reform. I am genuinely sorry you are stuck in a surreal world where you can buy a weapon in 5 minutes, but Kinder Surprise eggs are banned. I can’t imagine it will ever change. To quote your esteemed leader: “sad!”

  12. Amber Rose*

    LW, I can only repeat the advice already given to you, so I just want to say, I understand. I suffer anxiety too, and there was a terrorist attack just a couple hours from where I am around the same time as the events in Vegas. Just leaving the house some days feels like climbing a mountain.

    I think it’s admirable that you were able to talk to your coworkers about your concerns, and I hope you can feel a little empathy for them too. Fear makes us all act a little strange, and these are scary times.

  13. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I would caution you against bringing this up with your manager. It’s not unusual for current events, especially ones that have a large scale impact on folks, to be discussed at work. Yes, the questions you were asked may be considered inappropriate, but once you made it clear you weren’t going engage, the conversation stopped.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Agree I would only escalate this is the conversations continued to come up after I asked for them to stop (and to be honest you might have to ask at least once more in the future – these are the kind of things people really *want* to talk about after events like this happen). Unfortunately, it’s not possible for us all to avoid every topic that might set off someone’s anxiety forever, since we live in such anxious times :(

  14. Anonymous 40*

    I wish more workplaces had a cultural norm of not discussing controversial topics at work. My current job is like this and it’s gloriously peaceful most of the time. We managed to get through last year’s election without having any idea who most people were voting for. After several jobs where having to listen to coworkers’ political beliefs constantly, it’s such a nice change.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        My point is that if you have a culture that stays away from topics likely to make people uncomfortable to begin with, a specific request like the OP’s is more likely to be respected.

    1. Helpful*

      But there’s controversial, and there’s current events. Sometimes the two intersect, and one would hope that people could discuss them civilly. One would hope….

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m the opposite. I work in academia and my office never discusses anything. I occasionally do with my boss, but I’m close to him. I wish we did.

      For me, it feels weird that we don’t discuss many issues because they are related to our work. The Las Vegas shooting, not really, but it feels weird that we don’t talk about DACA, scientific funding, immigration, etc. These are things that impact people in our office (myself included), the students we work with, and so on. I don’t want to rehash what’s in the news, though. I would love if we talked about how the folks in my office can support all these different people who are very much affected.

      1. MoreNowAgain*

        Same! A few comments still pop up every so often, but mostly it’s worked out well. That being said, we do discuss current events – including the Las Vegas shooting – a fair amount. We all aprticipate though so it’s a very different situation than the OPs.

  15. Master Bean Counter*

    OP- This is a tragedy that everybody has to process in their own way. Yes your coworkers may have stumbled and not been entirely appropriate, but they did drop the subject. So it’s been handled. Please give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt as they are trying in their own awkward way to process what happened as well.

    1. GarlicMicrowaver*

      I agree. Everyone just tries their best. In all honesty, I feel OP is being a bit judgmental, too. Your anxiety issues are yours, not for others to cater to. No one is perfect.

  16. Mes*

    When did mass shootings become acceptable small talk? Chat about the weather and Game of Thrones, ffs.

    1. Snark*

      I’m sick of The Conversation about mass shootings, but c’mon, it’s totally unrealistic to expect people to pretend it didn’t happen and chat placidly about the weather on the morning of.

      1. Here we go again*

        Ditto… The conversation doesn’t have to be political. It could just be a tragic thing that people in the office bond over. This seems completely normal to me.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Especially as in OP’s case, where it happened at a concert and there’s a major concert coming up nearby them. Sorry, I’m not sure I’d be able to “bean dip” (learned that this morning) so well either.

          1. Nea*

            Please pass the learning? I googled bean dip and got either recipes or something that doesn’t seem to apply.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Oh sorry this was a long convo on the other thread haha. Bean dipping is apparently when you’re turn the conversation to a neutral topic (like, “have you tried the bean dip?”) rather than escalate it. Then we got side tracked on what is bean dip and is it what americans call hummus (no! for the love of god no!).

              1. Lissa*

                What…do Americans call hummus? What do non-Americans call hummus? Maybe it doesn’t matter because I love whatever I eat and call hummus, but it might be “wrong”..I’m Canadian and much of the time when Americans are doing something “wrong” we are too. Is there secret different hummus??

                1. NaoNao*

                  She means there’s what we in the US call “bean dip” which is black bean dip or salsa/black bean mix dip, and “hummus” which is chickpea dip.

    2. Jaguar*

      Forever? I can’t remember when major current events haven’t been popular topics of conversation.

    3. SL #2*

      Honestly, if someone came up to me yesterday and wanted to cheerfully talk about the weather and Game of Thrones and not Las Vegas, I would’ve thought them to be insensitive at best and a huge jerk if I was feeling particularly ungracious.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Right? It’s human nature to talk about things like this and to feel empathy/fear/etc.

          1. Andy*

            disagree. my feelings allow me to function as a human. I feel emotions and through that I accomplish empathy and relationships and the things that make life worthwhile. I feel upset when upsetting things happen and that allows me to process. feelings are tools. we use them when we can and when we need to.
            some people don’t have them or don’t see the value, but their devaluing doesn’t necessitate mine.

            1. Kate 2*

              But “feeling upset” doesn’t actually establish anything real and concrete in the world. We can all feel as upset as we want and talk about it every time a mass shooting happens, but it doesn’t make the gun laws change and it doesn’t prevent shootings.

              1. Blue Suede Boots*

                Apparently it doesn’t in America, for reasons that are frankly incomprehensible. In other places, it did exactly that.

                I live in Scotland. We had one school shooting and we banned guns, and we did it because people got upset and talked about the need to change the gun laws, and our politicians listened. And we haven’t had another mass shooting.

                Meanwhile in America they happen daily. Something is seriously wrong there.

                1. Epiphyta*

                  The Port Arthur shootings in Australia happened only a few weeks after Dunblane, but had a similar result: there was a national conversation on gun laws which resulted in a national firearm registry, a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons, a 28-day waiting period on purchase, and a massive buy-back campaign which took more than 600,000 civilian-owned weapons out of circulation.

                  It can be done.

          2. Daydream Believer*

            Most emotions don’t accomplish anything, but we feel them nonetheless. That’s just part of having emotions.

          3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            I don’t know. Feeling upset after my dad died suddenly spurred me to start eating healthy and exercising. Feeling upset about the current political climate has pushed me to donate and get involved on a local level. Feeling upset that my good friend has cancer prompted me to help others learn the risk factors and signs of it. I’d say most change happens when you feel upset.

          4. meat lord*

            And? We as a species are not capable of making all unproductive emotions vanish on command. Alas.

          5. Allison*

            And that’s one reason why people don’t want to talk about how they feel. Mention you’re upset, people say you’re too emotional. I agree that rationality is important when bringing about change that could possibly stop these events, but right after they happen, it’s not kind to judge people for having feelings. You can’t expect people to respond to shootings as though they were made of stone.

          6. NaoNao*

            Feeling upset might motivate you to act.
            It might motivate you to speak up about the activities of a friend, family member, or lover who is acting “off” or stockpiling weapons.
            It might cause you to donate blood or give to charity.
            It might cause you to take self defense classes, look into self care, or finally start that therapy you’ve been putting off.
            It might motivate or inspire you to create art, music, a book, or movie about this that moves, informs, and cheers others.
            It might allow you to express opinions that otherwise might go unsaid, and may change minds for the better.
            *ONLY* being upset and not doing anything, yes, that’s not a solution.
            But you know what?
            Being human isn’t about being productive and “accomplishing” something with every breath. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to vent, cry, and hurt. There are no robot overlords holding us accountable for being productive with every action.

        1. SL #2*

          It wouldn’t even need to be a full-on discussion about the shooting or motives or what have you. Just a “what happened today was awful” would suffice. Acknowledgment that something terrible has happened and that it weighs on you like it does on me and on everyone else. And then we can talk about the weather and the latest spoilers on GoT Season 8!

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, I definitely don’t want to hash it out in depth at work, especially outside of a lunch break or something, but it can be nice to be able to just go “I turned on the tv this morning, so…yeah” in response to a “how are you”. Otherwise it sometimes feels a bit surreal to have nobody acknowledge that something happened.

            1. SL #2*

              YES. SURREAL. That’s the word I’ve been trying to grasp at. When people start treating a topic like Las Vegas like the elephant in the room, it really does start feeling like you’re not on the same page as everyone else and that in itself is hugely isolating. Not to mention unproductive to change, etc. but that’s another topic I don’t want to touch on here.

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        I think that’s unfair. People can grieve and mourn a tragedy without wanting to talk about it. Sometimes talking about an inane topic is how they’re dealing with grief. It’s unkind to automatically assume they’re heartless and insensitive because they want to have a conversation about something else instead.

        1. SL #2*

          We can have a conversation about something else if you want, but I think acknowledging the events of the day, even in passing, makes a difference in the tone of the conversation. It takes it from “let’s pretend nothing happened at all,” which I personally find insensitive, to “this thing happened today and it sucks so let’s get our minds off of it for a few minutes by talking about puppies.”

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            For you, but not everyone grieves the same way. Not talking about it, even in passing, doesn’t mean someone is pretending it didn’t happen. It just means they might be grieving privately. Some people find even acknowledging something like this in passing to make it worse, because sometimes talking with other people makes grieving harder. Not everyone needs to discuss their fears and emotions with other people to grieve. You’re pushing assumptions onto people based on your own grieving process and that’s not fair. It’s not insensitive for someone to want to grieve privately and not want to deal with 15 different coworkers who want a passing comment about a tragedy.

            I think because so many tragedies happen each year there’s this sense of how people must grieve, that they must acknowledge something even in passing, that they must post about how awful they find it, and if they don’t do it that way, they’re bad, insensitive, awful people.

            1. Myrin*

              And I’m in yet another boat that may some of the commenters in this thread feel like I must be the coldest, most stone-hearted person ever because “grieve” doesn’t even enter the equation for me in such situations unless I actually lost someone. I’ll think that something is very sad and tragic and be like “Man, that’s so horrible” but, well, that’s it. I don’t feel grief over events like this so I can’t even imagine what OP’s coworkers would even do with me.

              1. all aboard the anon train*

                Yes, exactly. You can think something is tragic and awful, but you’re not a horrible person if you’re not crying or grieving. I think the assumption that everyone has to act the same way or grieve deeply in the face of a tragedy that didn’t personally impact them is a bit unsettling. People are different, the way they deal with things is different, and calling someone insensitive because they move on with their life or don’t want to talk about something is, in itself, pretty insensitive.

              2. a1*

                Thank you for saying this. Maybe it’s semantics, but I kept blanching the term “grieve”. I grieved when my best friend died. I grieved when close family members died. What happened in Las Vegas horrifies and upsets me, but I am not grieving. If people I knew and loved died there, I would be grieving. I sympathize with all the people grieving that lost loved ones there. I hope all the injured can make a full recovery. They are all on my mind. I am not grieving though.

                1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

                  Same. Honestly, if someone not personally affected by a large-scale tragedy used the term “grieve” in my presence I’d find it incredibly off-putting. It’s placing yourself at the center of something that is not at all about you.

          2. Kate 2*

            That’s rather an upsetting assumption to make. Not everyone is you and not everyone feels the way you feel. If I try to talk about the shootings, I start to tear up, I am so upset about them, I can’t handle talking about them at all really.

            And what’s the point of saying to each other “What an awful thing to happen!” and then going about your day. We all know what happened, and acknowledging it, in my experience, people think *you* want to talk about it, see it as the start of a conversation starter, and then you have to listen until you can change the subject or interrupt them and tell them you don’t want to talk about it, which generally leads to people being irritated and naturally wondering why you brought the subject up when you didn’t want to talk about it.

            I work in an office of more than a dozen wonderful, empathetic people. People who donate tons of time and money to charity. Not a single person has mentioned the shooting.

            1. SL #2*

              I also work with really great people, and at lunch, we all agreed that it was a rough day and it was going to continue to be rough, so let’s talk about something else to get our minds off of it. And we did. We talked about the puppies that someone got to play with over the weekend and someone else shared photos of their cute baby. It doesn’t need to be any more than that, it doesn’t need to be some big production, it just needs to be “hey this thing happened.”

              You can think I’m being unkind all you want and I would like to think that I’d take a step back to remind myself that everyone processes differently, but I wouldn’t be able to tamp down that initial surge of confusion and irritation if someone were to come up to me and just start talking about normal topics like it’s a normal Monday, with no lead-up.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, because as we have been discussing, people process these things differently, and some people are going to have to suppress their frustration or anxiety in response to your approach, too. It’s okay that people respond in ways that aren’t as you’d like. There is no way that’s going to work best for everybody; no way that’s right and makes the others wrong.

          3. Lissa*

            I see what you are saying, but I don’t know that I agree. Especially because upsetting things happen every day but only some really ever seem to get the “we must discuss this or insensitive” topic. Why a mass shooting in the US and not a mudslide killing thousands in southeast Asia? I admit that I barely talked about the recent hurricanes with people. I think that discussing tragedies that aren’t local or even in your country isn’t necessarily something everyone’s going to do. I know for me I get very “why this but not that?” in my head, and start thinking of Every Other Bad Thing. Though, I also think it’s fine to talk about it! I just think there are some expectations for which events get acknowledged and which don’t that largely rely on which the media reports.

          4. Agatha_31*

            It seems equally insensitive to assume you know the measurement of someone else’s feelings because they choose not to burden you with them and/or share them with you, particularly if you’re a co-worker and not a close friend or relation.

  17. Mimmy*

    Your coworkers’ reactions were insensitive, but I agree with Alison and the others that it doesn’t need to be brought up to your supervisor. If they continue to do it around you, I’d politely say that talking about it is making you anxious and making it difficult for you to concentrate on your work. Since you work in a call center and probably can’t just leave your desk except for breaks, you may have to get creative in strategies if they continue to discuss it after that. The only time addressing this with your supervisor would be warranted is if they repeatedly make unkind comments about your discomfort with discussions about the shooting or any other difficult news stories.

    1. Mimmy*

      When I say “strategies”, I mean ways to ignore or escape their discussion (e.g. headset, well-timed bathroom breaks)

  18. SL #2*

    I’m also a person who processes current events by talking about them. So to me, your coworkers seem to be doing that. I feel like their initial pointed questions were rude and if I were either one of them, I probably would’ve just pulled the other coworker aside to continue the conversation somewhere else that wasn’t directly in front of you, or at least stopped actively involving you, after your initial objection. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that your coworkers shouldn’t be talking about it at all and I definitely don’t think it’s reasonable to bring this up to management, especially since it seems like they dropped the conversation when you pushed back. If your coworkers are anything like me, then they probably also need to get their feelings out and cope in their own ways. Not everyone can cope with current events in total silence.

    1. Snark*

      At the same time, your need to process and cope doesn’t trump the needs of those who don’t want to be processed at. If you get even the slightest pushback, you don’t aggressively interrogate their desire not to talk about it, you apologize and move on.

      1. SL #2*

        You and I aren’t in disagreement ; I did say above that the right thing to do would’ve been for the coworkers to take the conversation elsewhere, or otherwise indicate that the LW can bow out of the conversation, not to ask follow-up questions. Everyone copes differently but I don’t think the LW’s needs trump mine, or that mine trump hers. There needs to be a compromise here that didn’t happen.

        I saw that the LW replied below and I’m glad she’s going to hold back from going to management for now. I just don’t think it would reflect well on her or do inter-office relationships any good if she went to her manager about an issue that seems to have resolved itself for now.

        1. Snark*

          Sorry, I framed that in a disagreementish mode when it wasn’t really intended. I know we don’t disagree – it was intended as more of a yes, and rather than a yes, but.

        2. HannahS*

          Yeah, it was an interaction that went awry, and I feel like the OP dealt well with the ex-Marine’s rude questions really well in the moment. I see below that some people have suggested scripts for bowing out of uncomfortable conversations, which are fantastic tools to have for if this situation comes up again. When emotions are running high, it’s hard to find the language that asks for what you need without stepping on toes–“Guys, I’m too upset; I can’t talk about it” is very different from, “Guys, I’m too upset; stop talking about it.” No one is at the height of social grace after a disaster. We don’t know what’s going on with other-coworker and ex-Marine and how they process things and what’s going on with their mental health. We don’t know what could have been triggered by being asked not to talk about their feelings. Nor could they have known that the OP was in the middle of an anxiety flare-up.

  19. BePositive*

    They probably didn’t mean to upset you and they did respect your request to stop. I may have done the same and realized, “crap, this person is just as upset and this is how s/he wants to process it”

    I agree to leave it unless they repeat themselves.

  20. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    I am someone who does not want to talk about these things except with a few (maybe one or two) close family members. I still can’t talk about 9-11 all these years later and I was no where near NY, DC or PA nor did I know anyone who suffered personal loss. I completely get why you did not want to discuss it. It is not something I would bring up with your manager. My suggestion is to change the subject. A coworker clearly wanted to spend time discussing the LV events yesterday and I diverted her attention to something work related and acted like I was in a hurry but mumbled “yeah, that was awful. Do you have access to ABC software yet?” Also, I think many times people ask questions not because they want an answer but because they are creating an opportunity for themselves to talk. The question the former marine asked sounds just like that type of question. Asking “Why do you ask?” or “Why, are you?” helps you defer from answering (if you don’t mind listening to him.) In this case those would not have been options for you. Pretend to be busy, divert the conversation with a work related comment or question…works a lot for me! But talking to your manager, no.

    1. Lora*

      Another who doesn’t want to talk about Sept 11. I have very clear, nightmarish memories of the news channels all playing the footage of people jumping off the towers because their other option was being burned to death, over and over and over, and excuse me right now I need to vomit.

    2. former expat*

      This letter gave me major flashbacks to OldJob, which was in another country a few years ago. I wasn’t affected by 9/11 in the sense that I lost anyone close to me, but I was a teenager in lower Manhattan at the time and have very intense and traumatic memories associated with that day. I absolutely hate talking about it in general, but especially with non-New Yorkers (no offense — it’s just very personal to me and I have a lot of feelings about it that are probably irrational).

      When I got to OldJob as the only foreigner in the building, the only thing most of my coworkers knew about me was that I was from New York. A shocking amount of them, I mean a really shocking amount, decided to try to bond with me by probing me about my 9/11 experience. “Were you there? What did you see? Was it awful?” I know they were ~trying~, but it was horrible. For a long time I shut it down as politely as I could by just saying yes, I was there, but it’s not something I talk about. Eventually, though, I lost my temper on one woman and just started telling her explicit, terrifying details until she basically fled. Never heard another word about it after that. It wasn’t my most professional moment, but seriously, some people just need to learn how to leave these things alone.

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        I’ve had a very similar issue having been in a major natural disaster. It’s amazing how many people will start in with the “oh you were in Christchurch? Were you in the city? Do you know anyone who died?” as soon as they hear where I’m from. It’s also amazing how quickly the graphic details will make people back the hell off.

  21. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Honestly? Just let this go. And I say this as someone who had an out-of-the-blue, full blown panic attack at their desk late yesterday afternoon.

    When I was part of a mass shooting I learned lots of people cope lots of different ways. Some need to talk about it right way, others not at all, and still others (like me) need to ruminate on it for a while before they can discuss it. None of those ways are wrong. They’re just incompatible. So, unless they routinely bring it up and incessantly quiz you, this is nothing worth reporting to your manager.

    1. Specialk9*

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through a mass shooting, and that this is triggering all of that. Jedi hugs through the internet, if you want them.

  22. LAF*

    People can be super tone deaf about this stuff
    I have a coworker with family in Puerto Rico. After Maria people were asking her about her family and she clearly stated she did not want to diacuss it because she found it too upsetting and wanted to focus on work. And mutiple coworkers kept asking her questions anyway.

  23. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    OP, I don’t know if this helps…but I have a lot of anxiety and over the last year with all that’s happening in the US my anxiety has steadily gotten worse. I take calls all day but have found that if I wear earbud to listen to music in the ear not attached to my head set it helps me tune out the conversations around me. I work with a lot of people who support all the horribleness going on in the world and they love to talk about it at work. Listening to music or podcasts helps me tune it all out.

    1. Helpful*

      A tip: I recommend shutting off of social media. You can get news many other ways, and without the infuriating, incessant commentary of everyone you know/follow.

    2. Specialk9*

      I had to go cold turkey on news and social media. I literally burned through my adrenal gland with the unending distress. I’m so thankful I found AAM!

  24. DecorativeCacti*

    I don’t like talking about this stuff, either. I try not to even read too much. I have pretty understanding coworkers, but here are some phrases I’ve had luck with:

    “I did hear about it. I’m trying not to think about it too much; it’s terrible/terrifying.”
    “I just can’t think about it any more; it makes me so anxious.”
    “It’s awful, thankfully I can focus on XYZ to get my mind off of it.”

    And if you are able to, throw in some headphones.

  25. Muriel Heslop*

    OP, I feel you. I too live in a city with a popular music festival looming…and I teach in a middle school less than a mile from the site. My students, of course, have a wide variety of responses to things in the world, and since they are teenagers their boundaries are, shall we say, emerging. Some of my students are formally diagnosed with anxiety + other issues and two actually left for the day at lunch because they were so stressed out. I finally announced to my classes that we weren’t talking about it anymore because people were getting stressed out. Lots of people do process by talking our loud and a lot of that is about the talker and not the audience.

    I hope you are back on your meds and feeling better.

  26. Letter-writer*

    Hello! I’m the letter-writer, and I appreciate everyone’s advice. I’m planning on seeing how today goes (so far so good) and will probably not mention it if nothing else comes up. I admit I might have jumped the gun a bit because I was so taken aback by the question, so I appreciate the perspective.

    1. Specialk9*

      I’d like to reiterate that your reaction is very normal – it’s not your anxiety taking, but your humanity. Don’t beat yourself up for being distressed by a distressing situation, and co-workers being insensitive and hectoring.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        ” it’s not your anxiety taking, but your humanity”

        Thank you, thank you. People without a history of anxiety could find themselves in a dire spot right now, this is how powerfully upsetting this news is. OP, you are a human being first and foremost.

        I have a friend who will say upon leaving, “It’s a BIG world out there. Take care of you.” That is great advice for everyone. We can’t change what others do, but we can decide to keep seeking ways to take better and better care of ourselves.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Being taken aback is normal, your coworkers were being odd and inappropriate. So no worries there! I can understand feeling flustered. But you already handled it, and you did an excellent job of doing so. Pat yourself on the back for that one. :)

      1. Letter-writer*

        I am! My prescription was filled very quickly and I’m doing a lot better. Thanks for your well-wishes

    3. Iris Eyes*

      I just want to take a moment to applaud you for your self advocacy and awareness of what background you brought into the situation. I think that’s the strongest indicator that you don’t need to bring it up to a manager (unless it was more persistent), you were able to insist on them respecting the boundaries you needed.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Just my opinion but the Marine probably looked pretty awkward to everyone else who was standing there, also. I bet more than one person thought, “What did he say THAT for?” My clue is that the conversation ended, perhaps the group dispersed in some manner. That would be an indicator to me that other people found that question to be odd.

  27. Annonymice*

    I apologise if this has been said. I think the thing that irks me is the apparent casualness of their comments. They have no way of knowing if someone working there had family or friends at the event, especially as people are still being identified.

    1. Snark*

      Of course, people need to be more circumspect when asked to avoid a topic with a person. But at the same time, I don’t see a good reason to tiptoe around a topic just in case someone might possibly be directly affected or skipped their anxiety meds or whatever.

      1. fposte*

        I would agree. However, I’d also say you want to keep the discussion serious and humane–no going CBS Legal VP, no dark humor.

      2. LBK*

        I think tiptoeing around any kind of highly sensitive tragic event is probably a good plan if you operate with empathy. No, you don’t know, but do you really want to be the asshole that steps on a mine like that without realizing it?

        1. paul*

          It really depends on what they were saying before the OP objected.

          Saying “Did you see that, how terrible” is perfectly normal and not untoward. If they were being graphic that’s one thing, but it’s also entirely possible to have a brief conversation about something like that that *is* work appropriate.

          1. LBK*

            The OP gives examples of what they were saying that sounded pretty far over the line to me. Discussing if and how an attack would occur in your own city is way beyond the boundaries of solemn, empathetic acknowledgment.

            1. Letter-writer*

              Yeah, I didn’t clarify this before – I didn’t have a problem with the parts of the convo that were more like “Did you see the news? Wasn’t that awful?” When it started to veer towards “Wonder if it will happen at Music Festival Next Weekend,” and discussing bombs vs guns – that’s when I asked if we could stop talking about it. My anxiety isn’t so bad I can’t manage listening to bad things, but I do have a problem with catastrophic thinking, so this was when I started to get anxious.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I don’t know that I’d say it’s pretty far over the line. I think it’s natural to contextualize things in a personal way. There were probably a lot of conversations in NYC and DC about the London Tube bombing with people wondering if it could happen there.

              I don’t think anyone was really out of line in this conversation initially. The coworkers did cross the line when they questioned OP about why she didn’t want to discuss the topic though.

        2. Snark*

          Of course not, and LW’s coworkers were way over the line, but discussing breaking news in a serious, respectful way cannot be assumed to have a mine underneath it under reasonable circumstances. That discussion may upset people, but if the discussion is handled decently, at that point it’s on the upset to speak up on their own behalf.

      3. paul*


        There’s a huge difference between assuming someone’s going to have a negative reaction to everything and respecting someone’s stated request to not talk about XYZ around them; 9 times out of 10 the latter is reasonable, but the former basically leads to not being able to talk about anything.

  28. JD*

    I feel the same. I had some family there and felt very anxious all day until I knew they were safe. I was working from home with SO and after hours of news coverage I HAD to turn it off. I do want to know what is going on but I get overwhelmed having it in my face all day, of course.

  29. AnonToday*

    I can tell exactly what city you’re in, OP, because it’s my city too! They were probably discussing said music festival in this context because there have been a lot of articles about it in light of the Las Vegas shooting. I am similar to you in that I don’t want to discuss it either, I need to focus on work and thinking/talking about this too much would de-rail me- I hope you are able to tune them out or shut down the conversation if it comes up. Good luck!

  30. NW Mossy*

    OP, you should give yourself some credit for doing something that a lot of people find difficult in the moment – you clearly expressed what you needed. Your co-workers did somewhat botch their response, but you did as much as you could to help them understand your point of view. You handled it well – good on you!

    1. Specialk9*

      Good point! Yeah, OP *did* do a good job using their words. Admirable actually, given how many of us bottle things up.

    2. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

      I second (or third, or whichever) this. And in the face of the aggressive response to your initial request, OP, it sounds like you were professional despite your amped anxiety. Dealing with events like this is difficult enough without clinical anxiety, so I’d say you’re doing an amazing job.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Yes, I think you handled it well! “Are you serious?” was a perfectly good response to the knee-jerk retort of your coworker.

  31. MicroManagered*

    I wonder how OP asked. The letter says “politely but firmly” but I wonder what words were used, if context for the request was given, etc. It seems like some people react to being “corrected” by doubling down on whatever they were doing if they feel like they’ve been shamed (whether that feeling has any basis or not).

    So for instance, if OP had said “You really shouldn’t be talking about that.” I could see someone doubling down to show you they will talk about it. Sort of a “you’re not the boss of me!” reaction…

    Versus “What happened is terrible. I get really freaked out if I overthink stuff like this. Let’s talk about something else.” Sometimes this approach will even make someone else feel validated enough to throw in a “me too.”

    Of course, that is not to say that the reaction was OP’s fault or she did anything wrong. The description of what the coworkers were saying just sounded a bit like people doubling down on because they feel embarrassed about being asked not to do it.

    1. Letter-writer*

      I remember saying something to the effect of “hey, can we just not talk about this anymore?” Maybe my tone was more aggressive than I remember, but it was definitely at least intended to be a request for the group and it just a demand or instruction.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I definitely don’t think you did anything wrong… I think the “double down” is an obnoxious thing some people do when they feel told or corrected by someone and don’t like it for some reason. (And sometimes that reason isn’t even anything you can control. Maybe you vaguely remind them of an ex-girlfriend or the cop that gave them a ticket or something silly like that… who knows?)

        I’m a lot like you in that some things (like this) are too much for me to think about.. I hope you’re doing ok!

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This just reminded me of a thing that happened at OldJob. The husband of one of the women in my department was murdered and we were instructed not to talk about it on the floor. That was reasonable – they didn’t want us indulging in speculation and gossip.

      However, I was making plans with a colleague to attend the viewing and a girl sitting nearby heard me and was like “we’re not supposed to be talking about that. it’s very upsetting for some of us.” And I did snap back at her, because I felt like having a brief conversation about arrangements to pay my respects was appropriate and not the type of conversation management was trying to prevent.

  32. BusyBee*

    I’m about to be blunt:

    This is an over-reaction. You started out participating in the conversation and then changed your mind and asked it to stop. Your co-workers sound like they were trying to process the change, but did stop. Situation resolved, move on.

    1. Student*

      Agreed with this. You’re upset, OP, and you’re misplacing feelings onto the co-worker. This isn’t something worth making a big deal about unless it turns into a much more extensive pattern, outside of a huge national tragedy.

    2. MommyMD*

      It’s an overreaction to complain to management, yes. But it’s not an overreaction to get emotional about senseless mass death and mayhem.

  33. Student*

    This to me sounds like a routine case of slightly obnoxious one-time behavior by a co-worker. It’s not likely to repeat often. It’s obnoxious, but it is not particularly personal or severe. Shake your head, and write it off as somebody with a very different way of processing stress than you, and don’t dwell on it. I can promise you, the co-worker is not giving your reaction to this tragedy a second thought.

    Honestly, I’d prefer to talk about it, and death, like the marine co-worker, so I can see where he’s coming from – but I’d generally try to have those conversations with more privacy than your co-workers had, precisely because I know there are many people who feel as you do and I don’t want to alarm them unnecessarily.

  34. MommyMD*

    I don’t want to talk about terrorism attacks ever. My immediate family was involved in one and we are still mentally recovering. My coworkers respect this. I say “I can’t talk about it” in a polite tone and I’m left alone. I can’t even read too much about them anymore and kind of numb myself to it. I don’t watch it anymore on television. My heart aches for the victims and their families but I’m not capable of personally processing it anymore after being involved in such a horrific thing. When you think on it, it’s like it’s not real. But you know it is.

    1. LBK*

      I didn’t personally know anyone involved in Pulse and I still have a strong, visceral, emotional reaction if I think about it for too long. I can only imagine what you’ve gone through, and I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had to.

    2. Snark*

      Yeah, some of my spouse’s family were involved in a terrorist attack and, 20 years later, have a bad time even with a crashing dumpster.

  35. MommyMD*

    I would not bring it up to the manager. That’s too much. They dropped it pretty quick. On the anniversary of the attack that involved my family I do appreciate the coworkers who say they hope we are ok and were thinking of us. It’s a nice sentiment and they don’t press or get into details. It changed our lives.

  36. MommyMD*

    Today the survivors and the families of victims and survivors are going through something you cannot even imagine. If you personally know any of them, text them a short thinking of you and let me know if I can help in any way. Know this will affect them for a very long time and be patient and if they want to talk about it just listen. Never try and mitigate their circumstance. The coworkers and friends who helped the most just listened and agreed it was horrible. The people who made it worse said things like : at least you’re alive. It could have been worse. It’s over now.

    It’s never over.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      I agree so much with all of this. I particularly agree with the part about not trying to mitigate the circumstances. Just be there for the person. Please don’t add your own emotional labour to the burden they are already carrying.

      It’s been over 20 years for me, and though the scars have faded over time, they are still there and always will be. To MommyMD and WDP, I hope time brings you healing.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      If anyone’s still reading this, also beware of using “be strong” type language. There was so much pressure to be “Boston Strong” that it took me over a year to admit I had some serious emotional trauma and needed therapy. It’s hard to admit you are scared when everyone around you is pretending to be strong.

  37. Noah*

    I think LW has GREAT co-workers. Only having to ask twice for people to drop what you would expect to be a central topic of conversation is really kind of amazing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Asking people twice seems to be a thing. I think because people can be in disbelief that they heard the person correctly the first time. So the second time is “no, I actually meant what I said.” This is good to know, because we need to keep standing up for ourselves when the situation requires.

  38. Lucy P*

    I don’t think it is at all out of the ordinary for something like this to upset you a lot, anxiety disorder or no anxiety disorder. I also think your coworkers are being ridiculous by prying into your personal life when you already made it clear you don’t want to share details of your feelings with them. While I don’t think this conflict has escalated enough to address your boss, I absolutely think you should remain firm in your wishes and if your coworkers have a problem with it, that’s on them. Just put on a stone face and if they badger you, fight to keep your façade up, and repeat the same line, something like “I didn’t want to talk about this then, and I would prefer not to talk about this now. I don’t need to explain myself, so please stop asking.” Hopefully they’ll just make themselves feel awkward and stop for their own sake. If not, maybe then bring it up, more referencing that you’d like to keep your personal life separate from your professional life, and you would appreciate it if everyone remembered that that is the best policy.

    Also, if it makes your feel any better, at work today someone in my office was LITERALLY playing a video of the actual shooting, sound turned all the way up. I got PISSED – it upset me a lot to have to try to focus on my work while someone was idiotically playing the sound on a mass shooting at their desk. My boss sits next to me so I turned to him and told him that we should not allow that. It is disrespectful to the severity of the incident itself and those affected by it, and playing youtube videos with the sound on at work is also disrespectful to the office – not to mention that that kind of sound can trigger people into a bad downward spiral as it is definitely traumatizing just to hear. I also told the player to turn it off in a firm way (mind you, he is about 20 years my senior – I didn’t feel bad at all reprimanding his callous actions.) I don’t feel bad at all about the way I handled this, and you shouldn’t feel bad about the way you handled your situation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you for being that Voice and a great example for the OP to consider.

      You make a good point about the stone face.
      Decades ago, my husband’s friend were talking about the Vietnam Conflict. He did not want to talk about it. They did not get the message. Finally, with a stone face and very firm tone he said, “My. Brother. Is. In. Nam.”

      Unfortunately, I cannot mimic the voice in writing. However, no one brought up Vietnam again around my husband. The stone face was not anger, it was a “this is your final answer” type of look. He had decided he was done talking about it and no one was going to change his mind.

  39. OldJules*

    We did get into a little conversation about the shooting. I saw how uncomfortable some people where, so when someone showed a picture of their 10 lbs dog, I asked the cat person (who is a great story teller), about his 17 lbs cat. It doesn’t always have to be an uncomfortable hard stop to topics, you could try shifting people to a different topic. Depending on your audience. I work with an environment where no one wants to be that person. So you learn to manage the conversation by shifting topics. And when you shift topic, the focus is not on you, it’s on the new topic. You don’t have to justify what you feel. You have the right to your emotions.

    I do the same when we have a party and there are nothing but meat and I can’t partake. I just explain it as, I don’t eat meat outside my home. 99% of the time, the issue is dropped. Some might get curious but I am not interesting enough of a person that you’d grill me over a few minutes about my dietary restrictions. So I shift the topic to what is being celebrated.

    For your question of should the issue be addressed by as supervisor, you could, if it makes you feel better. “Hey, Bob, Tom and I was talking. We arrived to X topic and I was uncomfortable so I shut it down. I wanted you to know in case anyone wonders why I was pretty abrupt about it.” Do you have to? No. Will it get them into trouble? Probably not. If you wanted someone to talk to them about it, you should be the one to do it. A simple, “I am sensitive to certain topics and when I mention it, I’d appreciate it if you would take it somewhere else.” But if you don’t want to, you could do that too.

  40. Tiger Snake*

    Does this constitute as ‘grilling’ to anyone else? It seems like just a very mild pushback to me. Maybe it was pushback that shouldn’t have happened, but certainly not grilling.
    A once off conversation with something like three questions, even questions that feel a bit confronting, do not seem like something to complain about to a manager. There was no extensive pressure, that subject hasn’t been pushed on you repeatedly and they haven’t brought it up again. They acknowledged you weren’t engaging, and then moving on.

    It seems like something a manager would find petty. If there is a history of issues with these coworkers, bring up the pattern rather than focus on the instance. But don’t borrow trouble by predicting a repeated problem where it hasn’t happened yet.
    At very worst, it could be viewed that you are the one whose not demonstrating empathy, by failing to recognise that these was people trying to deal with the stress of a shocking tragedy even after they accepted you didn’t wish to deal with it the same way (not saying that would be how its seen, but it is a possibility – especially if there’s a way it could be viewed as part of a pattern).

    I think you’re giving this entire conversation a lot more space and power in your head than it needs to.

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