These Are The People In Your Greiveborhood

2 Oct

Grief is a weird little animal, and sometimes it feels more like a sentence.  You will grieve, second house on the left.  Your inhabitants will cry innapropriately except it is totally appropriate.  You will speak to each other in half sentences, you will find it completely normal to find someone in the kitchen staring at a bag of coffee, trying not to bawl.

So those are the grief stricken.  The “victims” as it were.  That is who we are right now.  And what I’ve noticed is that people react in unpredictable patterns.  The strongest become weak, the funniest most innapropriate comedians are suddenly completely lovely and housebroken men and women.  And in a effort to help you navigate those who populate your greiveborhood, I’d like to tell you about some types along the way.

  • Heavy Hair Type A. Your basic, oh my god, I am so sad for you type they look at you with pity and quietly thank whatever diety they pray to (God, Jesus, Allah, Mastercard) that they aren’t you.  Tolerable but not conducive to any sort of emotional sharing.  They need you to take care of them.  They are so sad.  Look at their sadness.  No room for your grief because they are S.A.D. SAD!  The Type A Heavy Hairers are straight ahead in their pity unlike…
  • Heavy Hair Type B. These folks seem like they don’t have hearts full of pity.  At the wake they come up and say something appropriate, they may make a joke.  And you’ll feel better.  Finally someone you don’t have to share with or comfort.  And then, in the middle of you telling them something innocuous but sweet about your loved one recently dead they will spew forth tears.  Actually spew.  It may start down deep and they will try to suppress it, but that only makes it gain in strength.  When these people start blubbering they may never stop.  They may just say, a propos of nothing, “OH MY GOD I AM SO SAD FOR YOU.”
  • The Your Grief Is Over, Now Pay Attention To Me’sSo, you lost your mom to a devastating illness and you are still trying to comprehend what just happened.  That’s cool.  But did you know that I have a slipped disc and well, actually, no, it isn’t slipped, it is just bruised and I can’t run my triathalon and when I get up it hurts and sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up sort of uncomfortable.
  • Wolves.  Wolves love pain.  They love it.  They will pull you out of your pack, roll you over onto your back and poke at the soft places.  They will say things like “so, your mom didn’t make it, did she” or “your sister sounds like she was great.  You must miss her so badly” and then they will stick their face as close to yours as possible so they can drink your tears.  Don’t cry for wolves.  The more positive reinforcement they get, the worse they behave.
  • Ostriches. See, if they don’t acknowledge that something bad happened, it is like it never happened.  By pretending that the funeral is just a party where everyone forgot to laugh, they will do everything they can to be “the person who doesn’t bring up the bad thing” and in the process they will be the “jackasss who changes the subject to skiing everytime someone says cancer.”
  • The Strategist. Possibly my least favorite person.  They want a reason.  Did she smoke?  Did he drink?  Did they deserve to die? Please tell the strategist that the dead person is complicit in their own death so they can know for sure what habit they will give up or be relieved they never started.  Strategists hear about a kid getting shot in a neighborhood near theirs and they say “well, it was a bad neighborhood.”  They never think, “that could be my kid.”

To Be Continued…

3 Responses to “These Are The People In Your Greiveborhood”

  1. Josh October 3, 2008 at 1:22 am #

    This is good stuff, Schacter. Strategists drive me MAD.

  2. anon October 10, 2008 at 3:27 am #

    Ugh. Truly sorry for your loss. But any constructive ideas about what a well-meaning supporter *should* say? Many of us are trying but obviously don’t know how to respond in a helpful manner. You’ve told us what not to do. Any suggestions for ways that a truly empathetic and concerned but perhaps bumbling friend can communicate their support?

  3. bethshax October 10, 2008 at 3:29 am #

    I’m working on that post, I swear.

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