You see it on Facebook all the time, people who are posting their rant of the day because something somewhere didn’t go to suit them. Occasionally though, you’ll find someone who has tried their best to deal with the mess they’ve been handed but has finally reached their breaking point and Facebook seems the only safe way to vent. And, on even fewer occasions, that venting stems from grief and is directed toward someone who has very little comprehension of the ventor’s suffering . . . but that didn’t stop them from weighing in on the “quality” and “appropriateness” of the other person’s grieving.
So, here’s a news flash—actually, several news flashes. Not everyone who is grieving mopes around and cries every time you talk to them. Not everyone who is grieving is so obsessed with their loss that nothing else matters. Not everyone who is grieving refuses to eat, loses weight, can’t sleep, or withdraws from life. If you’re going to describe grief, the only statement that will hold true in every circumstance is that it’s personal. Grief is different for everyone and that difference is determined by a host of factors including, but most certainly not limited to, your age and prior life experiences, the age of the deceased, the cause of the death, the depth of the relationship, and any residual guilt the survivor may be harboring. And folks, that’s only the beginning.
But some well-meaning individuals—or busy bodies whose noses have a terrible time staying on their faces and out of everyone else’s business (take your pick)—have a need to observe and then condemn. They become the judge by laying out their own set of rules for grieving. As the jury they observe the one who is suffering from loss with the intent of determining their degree of compliance with the aforementioned rules. And when that person—who may already be drowning in a sea of despair—fails to meet their standards, they don the black hood of the executioner and whisper behind their back about their happy face, or stolen moment of joy, or lifestyle after loss. Worse yet, they may confront that struggling soul over what they perceive to be disrespect for the person who has died. So, why don’t we just see if we can make their life even more miserable?
If I sound angry or disturbed—or both—it’s because I am. I have never successfully read anyone’s mind or heart. I have never successfully walked a mile in their shoes and I will never be able to. Many people who are grieving struggle just to function, so when they find a moment where life will allow them to smile, I have no right to condemn it. I don’t know how many other moments passed before that one arrived. If they have the opportunity to enjoy themselves, no matter for how long, I have no right to find fault. I don’t know how many hours they have cried or wrestled with the loneliness. So I have a very difficult time understanding how some people simply cannot understand.
Hopefully the next time you see someone that you know is trudging through grief, you’ll smile with them when they feel they can. Hopefully you’ll be grateful when they find a moment of joy instead of insisting that moment be stifled. Someday when—not if, but when—you are required to travel the same path, you will want that same compassion from others. Just don’t expect it if you aren’t willing to give it.