There are many ways to respond inappropriately to someone else’s loss of a loved one, but the abuse received by Reverend Richard Coles, who lost his partner to an illness, takes “inappropriate” to a whole new level.
Coles is a musician, priest in the Church of England, and a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing (similar to Dancing with the Stars). He announced the death of Rev. David Coles last week:
I’m very sorry to say that @RevDavidColes has died. He had been ill for a while. Thanks to the brilliant teams who looked after him at @KettGeneral. Funeral details to follow. “The Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended”.
Given Richard Coles’ popularity, there was an outpouring of love and support, but not everyone was on the same page, as he explained days later:
99.99999% loveliness from people and then a small but lively correspondence from Christians who wish me to know that D is in hell and I will follow. It’s like the Khmer Rouge suddenly popping up in a stream of condolence.
He said: “A letter, courageously unsigned, begins: ‘Dear Mr Coles, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to hear of the death of your partner…’.”
In a follow-up tweet, he added: “It continues: ‘I have been praying for your pain for a long time now…’.”
Of all the terrible things to say to someone in mourning — “He’s in a better place now”; “This happened for a reason”; “I understand how you feel” — claiming happiness over someone’s grief might be the most cruel.
It’s unfathomable how any reasonable person could think that’s appropriate, much less loving. Especially if the goal is to somehow “convert” Coles to heterosexuality and/or a specific conservative denomination of Christianity. What on earth would he find attractive about such a group?
For his part, Coles seems to be handling the abuse with a degree of positivity:
A short while later he tweeted: “The horrible letters: they don’t touch me. I am right now an expert in pain, the real kind, and these are paper darts among the incoming, and just leave me mildly curious about the state of mind of the writer.”
He’s a good guy. It’s too bad he has to deal with miserable souls who have an urge to project their own pain onto someone else.