Morbid Curiosity Might Be Just Plain Morbid

Andrea Freedman

Boredom can sometimes lead us to do strange things. For me, it began a phase of a disturbing habit. It all started innocently enough when I was working at my last office job and trying to find ways to pass the time; after a while it got out of control.

On one of the many days when I was bored at work, after I had read and re-read all of the day’s news and celebrity gossip, just out of curiosity, I clicked on the death notices. I found some of them so touching I became choked up.

After that, all of a sudden I found myself checking the obituaries on a daily basis. Sometimes I would even go so far as cross-referencing death notices from different online newspapers.

If a name looked familiar to me I would read on. If the word “suddenly” caught my eye in the announcement, even if I did not know the person, I found it especially intriguing and would continue reading out of a mere morbid curiosity, assuming that the person must have committed suicide or had been met with an unfortunate accident or accidental overdose.

Some of the announcements actually compelled me to read the online condolences for the person. It was like passing by a bad car accident and not being able to look away.

It struck me as a bit cold that because of social media, nowadays leaving an online condolence rather than sending a donation to a requested charity or making a personal visit to the mourners has somehow become an acceptable alternative.

I felt slightly self-conscious about my habit; if I sensed that someone was about to walk by when I was sitting at my desk at work, I quickly minimized the obituaries so that none of my co-workers would know of my secret obsession.

Quite often I was sorry that I checked the obituaries on a particular day, if I happened to see a name that looked familiar; nonetheless, it did not stop me from going back to do it again the next day.

When I finally confessed my obsession to my husband and one of my friends, they were horrified to learn that I was spending so much of my precious time doing something so negative and depressing and urged me to stop.

I further knew I had a problem when I called my own parents to inform them of a death notice I had read about one of our old neighbours from when I was growing up.

“Did you know that so-and-so died?  I read it in the obituaries in the paper. I figured you already knew about it but I thought I should tell you just in case.”

“No actually. I don’t make a habit of checking the obituaries; I find it too depressing.”  At first I was a bit surprised at their response but then I realized that everyone was right and that my free time could indeed be spent in so many more positive, productive ways.

Although I know that there are many people who check the death notices in the newspaper daily and think nothing of it many of them are much older than I am and, unfortunately, are often not surprised when they do see one of their contemporaries on the list.

The sad reality is that a shocking end of a human life can strike at any time, and I have come to the decision that for me, it is bad karma to keep this habit of being on the pulse of it going. Perhaps if I don’t keep checking for familiar names, it will put off the regret of having to actually read about someone I know.

If there is something I need to be made aware of, I am confident that someone will call and tell me about it, without my having to read about it in the paper, thus avoiding all the other announcements for people who, although I am sorry for because of the loss of their lives, I have never met. Life throws us and our own families enough curves without having to delve into the tragedies of others.

Now that I no longer find my days so boring that I have to resort to doing things like reading death notices in order to make them pass by I can hardly believe I ever did it in the first place. If others choose to make checking the obituaries part of their daily routines that is their business but for me, as far as that habit goes, the nail is in the coffin.♠

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 11, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I wonder if it is a writer’s mindset? We’ve become so superficial in our lives – pretending how perfect it is through media such as Facebook, for example. An obituary always feels personal and when written by a personal close friend of the person there can be no greater tribute and perhaps, insight into the deceased that we have probably lost in the face of social media.

    Learning about real people is how we create characters and fine-tune the nuances of their characters.

    That would be my excuse anyway.


  2. That was very interesting because we know a lot of people who do just that. They can’t wait to get their hands on the paper so they can see who passed away that day. I think that enjoying every day of your life is the way to go.


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