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Artisanal Bereavement Spam

On the last day of shiva, this past June, we got a letter in the mail.  Just by looking at the envelope, I could see that it was a note of condolence, and from a nearby address to boot—yet the name was entirely unfamiliar.  When I opened it, I discovered a handwritten note that started with a perfunctory condolence and then immediately turned to extended proselytizing.  Enclosed was a religious tract specifically about the afterlife.

From the actual text, it was clear the person who wrote it didn’t know us at all, didn’t know the first thing about us or what we had just gone through.  They had simply trawled that week’s obituaries to get our names and address, and proselytized by mail.

I wish I were making this up.  But no, someone really did decide that the occasion of our daughter’s death was the perfect time to thrust their religious recruitment efforts into our lives.  Artisanal bereavement spam, basically.

I tweeted about it, leaving out identifying information, but otherwise let it go.  An unfortunate one-off, I figured; someone with more fervor than sense, not to be taken as representative of the group as a whole.

Except it just happened again.  Different person, same religion, same basic approach.  This letter isn’t as glaringly obvious about the obituary trawling, no hollow claims of sympathy or condolence this round, but the handwritten emphasis on seeing dead loved ones again makes it pretty obvious that this is of a piece.


So, yes.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses apparently think it is a fine idea to vulturously circle the misery of others and then swoop in to deposit a load of tract on the dining room tables of grieving families.  And what’s more, to keep doing it.

I disagree.  I don’t even beg to differ, I simply disagree.  If there were an opt-out mechanism, I would most certainly make use of it.  In so doing, I would include a number of comments regarding their apparent need to hide their intent with misdirection and to prey on the extreme pain and emotional vulnerability of others.  Since no such mechanism appears to exist, this post will have to do.

Of course, just as I did the first time this happened, I handled the note, the tracts, and the envelope itself with every bit of the care and respect they deserved.


I Googled around a bit and only found two posts about this practice (“Are Jehovah Witness Members Trolling Obituaries for New Recruits?” (2009), “Letters from Jehovah’s Witnesses” (2013).  Well, here’s a third, this one backed up with visual evidence.

I’m posting this in case others experience the same thing and wonder if they caught a lone crazy.  I’m sorry, but no, they aren’t “lone”.  If you got one, you may well get more.  I very much wish it were otherwise.

Four Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Tue 26 Aug 2014
    • 1034
    rendered speechless (@dharawal) wrote in to say...

    That is wrong on so many levels that I do not even know where to start.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Tue 26 Aug 2014
    • 1044
    Kevin wrote in to say...

    I think it was Jesus who said, “Kick them while they’re down.”

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Tue 26 Aug 2014
    • 1115
    Jeff wrote in to say...

    Eric, as saddening as this is to me, I recently had an encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses that gave me great pause. There was a knock on our front door. As the resident male in my family I am the one who is tasked with answering the door to strangers. Standing there was a boy of about 5 or 6. Standing proudly behind him was his father. The boy delivered his memorized dictum and quite a speech it was filled with Biblical quotes about the afterlife, et. al.

    Ordinarily, I stop someone in mid sentence to tell them I wasn’t interested. But in this case, I listened intently and focused as he spoke: not because I was interested in what he had to say but because I was concerned for this child and wanted to at least respect him as a model of what he deserved as a human being. It was very odd but I was clear to myself what my intent was.

    I am so sorry you and your family have had to deal with this multiple times. I tend to want to right things in any way I can. And, I would call the offices of the local JW and complain. Setting fire to those notes may be just what you need. But, if they were writing me, I would feel just as compelled to let them know how I felt to be assaulted in that way.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Thu 28 Aug 2014
    • 1241
    Arti wrote in to say...

    thank you for saying this out loud. when this happened to me after my daughter’s death, it crushed my already spiraling spirituality.

    i used to be so open to all religions before. now i abhor the fear mongering and guilt tripping they engender with a depth that still surprises me.

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