Your painful story illustrates why every workplace needs a consistent policy for addressing personal events. Even if it seems overly bureaucratic, a policy would ensure that all workers, popular or not, who suffer a loss are acknowledged while preventing awkward, ad hoc responses such as your boss' email. For example, such a policy might have required your boss to ask if you wanted your loss acknowledged — some people prefer to keep their grief separate from work — and, if so, to extend an appropriate gesture on behalf of the office.
I hope you have a professional or support group helping you navigate your grief. If you feel up to it, you might find some strength and purpose in proposing an official bereavement policy at work, couching your own hurt as follows: "When my mother died, I realized how much it means to have that loss acknowledged by others."
Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers. Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office.