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2016 The Year of the Grief Police

death-the-grief-policeAll of this, all of social media is meant to make us feel more connected. And we do. We’re  more connected to our politicians thanks to Twitter. Not only can we mock them for their very human fallacies, we can also pick fault in what they wear and anything they do when they think they’re unobserved. We never give them a moment of privacy and we howl when they pass a law invading ours.

We can listen to music via You Tube and speak to the creators of that music. We can comment and message their fan pages. We can say hello and get a hello back when they livestream.

We start and nourish friendships all over the globe, with people from all walks of life and we do so because we can.

We have so many common connections with others from different countries and cultures, that our thirst for knowledge and this connection is finally in the hands of anyone with a mobile device. Travel and conversation are no longer the province of the idle rich, or wealthy, educated white women looking to find themselves (Because it’s easier to escape to an entirely different culture to be seen, rather than stay where they are and look within). So many new friends, connection and conversations…

In this hyper-connected world what happens when someone dies? You grieve digitally.

Enter the Grief Police.

These people are the new nosy neighbours, but instead of a curtain to twitch they leave passive-aggressive comments on your digital expression of grief. How dare you interupt their viewing of cat gifs and cute puppies with your misery. It’s digital, duh! It’s not like you’d met them.

Heaven help you if you should feel a connection with say David Bowie or Prince and express that, because the digital grief police will wade right in and tell you to shut the fuck right up and focus on what you have. 

If you have any doubts on what to focus on, then the grief police will educate you.

  • Stop crying you never knew them.
  • They’re a star and your no one.
  • Be grateful you still have your family
  • How can you be upset? You have your health.
  • Stop sobbing over that junkie you never knew
  • Why are you crying? You still have your family. Go and spend time with them
  • It’s not like you lost your dad /mum / best friend /cat / dog/ gerbil / cactus / spider plant – delete as applicable depending on what day of the week it is…
  • It can’t understand why you think you’re grieving they didn’t know you

There you have it, you can’t grieve for a loss if you are healthy or have family still alive. Grieving must be restricted only to orphans with poor health, and even they must shut the fuck up if they have friends or cat.

Digital grief is the exact same emotional journey someone experiences after loss in the real world. It’s a messy, snot filled journey that comes with highs and lows that can be triggered by the opening chords of Purple Rain.

You may feel like you’ve accepted your loss one day only to wake up the next morning overwhelmed with righteous anger that your loved one was taken from you. But you have to keep it inside of you… all the anger, rage and denial because to express it just encourages the grief police with their well-meaning advice.

It’s important to understand that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

If you can’t say anything meaningful to a person grieving, then I suggest you type up all your platitudes, print them out, tear them into smallish strips and then chew them. Savour the taste of those bland platitudes before you utter them to someone who is hurting from a loss.

Earlier this year I lost a client.

She was the first person to buy my books and programs. She gave me my first designer bra (shame on you husband 1 and huband 2 for never buying your wife lovely lingerie) and she gave me a space bra. You have no idea what the space bra means to me. Every time I wear it, I walk 10 feet tall.

She was an amazing woman, and I’m lucky to call her friend.  My grieving has been limited by two things – not being closer and knowing her more online than offline.

My friend’s daughters included me in the funeral and kept me up to date. I am eternally grateful they included me when they had so many relatives to communicate with across the world. They did their mum proud, and it was another reminder of what an amazing woman my friend is. Was. I can’t get used to was.

I can only imagine what the grief police were saying to them…

  • Why announce the bereavement on the business FB page? Death is such a private thing. You need to focus on the funeral
  • You’ve put the details of the funeral online. What if a bunch of strangers turn up?
  • I would’ve prefered it if you hadn’t blasted details of the death all over Facebook, where’s the diginity?

In a time when more women than ever are finding their voice, I’m discovering few people know when to shut up and cannot stop telling people how to behave. Just look, I’m doing exactly that in this post.

Only someone who has experienced that type loss knows what it feels like. The rest of us can only imagine. Let’s be honest, imagining the loss of a loved one isn’t something a healthy human adult does on a regular basis. You don’t know what it feels like so don’t say it.

Like many I’m not comfortable with death or talking about it. Every brush with it is a reminder of my own mortality. Every time it could’ve been me I’m glad that it wasn’t and I feel the guilt that a survivor does. Maybe that’s moving into the next phase of grief? But the stages of grief are only linear when they’re written down.

Death Makes People Uncomfortable

It truly does. Especially if you’re British. The only person on the planet happy to talk about death was my ex-husband. He’d happily ask you what your arrangements are, whether you wanted burial or cremation, whether he was expected to lend his shoulder on your coffin… what you were leaving him in your will. Yup, always the same conversation in that same order. He’s petrified of dying but oh so happy to talk to anyone older than him about their death plans and the benefits to him.

I can remember my family’s anger and annoyance that my obit was published in Feb 2010 by accident. I’d drafted it here, on this site. I went on my honeymoon (2 years after the wedding) and it got published by accident.

The outrage. How dare I write by own obit? Like I’d leave my story to some stranger that didn’t know me… It’s always a debacle when the vicar (new to a parish) has to pretend they’ve known the deceased… it’s uncomfortable and we don’t want to get comfortable with those feelings because that means we’re at that advanced level of being in our 20s and feeling immortal.

By the time you get to your forties you’ve experienced more death, but you’re not innoculated for grief. Our generation feel it like no other, we’re the first lot to be active online and we’ve having to pave the way for the young uns. We’re dealing with the deaths of people that we know and love, yet never met.

We’re still working it out, and the grief police have had a field day with all the deaths in 2016. The world has lost some incredibly talented well-known people like

  • Caroline Aherne
  • Victoria Wood
  • Prince
  • David Bowie
  • Nathalie Cole
  • Muhammed Ali
  • Alan Rickman
  • Andrew Sachs
  • Kenny Baker
  • Alexis Arquette
  • Anton Yelchin
  • Pete Burns
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Carla Lane
  • Denise Robinson
  • Paul Daniels
  • Harper Lee
  • Terry Wogan
  • Florence Henderson
  • Robert Vaughn

Not only are we losing our musicians, writers and actors we’re losing our friends and family.

They all mean something to us. Your life has been touched in some way by their art. You’ve danced to their music at a wedding reception. You’ve lit a candle to Hallelujah. You’ve laughed at their way with words. You’ve been inspired in a manner unique to you.

So if someone is grieving over a loss you don’t feel. Shut your trap. Taste your words. don’t be the grief police. No one is going to thank you for it, not now not ever.

Know that one day it will be you grieving for a person you’ve never met, that the pain you feel will have been felt by others before you. They’ll be the ones leaving a heart or a comment of support on your social media update. They’ll do this because they want to spare you the pain of the grief police.

And should you have a brush with the grief police?

Send them to this post and I’ll tell them to shut the fuck up and keep their platitudes to themselves.

Amd if anyone has a nice line in condolences for the family of someone you’ve loved yet never met, do leave it in a comment below.

Sarah

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