Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Has your grief ever been dismissed or downplayed? Do you feel that society is equipped to deal with death and grief?
As I have mentioned before, in my article 'The Loneliest Place', grief and death is a topic that is quite taboo. It is already difficult enough for us to deal with our grief and a lot of us do need a helping hand.
Sometimes we do want to talk about the person that we lost and our loss. I believe that people usually assume that it will be depressing and sad. Sometimes it is. But sometimes I want to tell interesting and funny stories about my dad, without getting strange looks or having a heavy, deafening silence fall over the room. I want people to ask me about him and I want to keep his memory alive. But it is not their fault. We need to educate society about dealing with grief, let them know how it feels, and educate them about the different experiences that grievers go through. I need to tell my friends and family this, so we can end the cycle of "grief injustices"... So that they do not feel uncomfortable or hesitant to even mention the very much missed word 'dad'.
Finally, we also need a helping hand- especially at the beginning, when we first lose that person, and on those days when the waves of grief hit. Even just asking how a person is doing, leaving them a kind little note, or asking them if they would like to talk about it means so much. My advice is, if you feel that or notice that your friends and/or family are not doing this or being supportive, let them know (kindly) about these things, and if they dismiss what you say then perhaps they need some help themselves! Ultimately, I believe that what is needed to alleviate these "grief injustices" is education on grief and a more involved and avid conversation surrounding these topics.
Bravely, many of you have reached out to me, sharing your experiences with this and Rosie, from the amazing blog Feeling Sueless, was so kind to have shared her experience with me. So, I find that it is only fair that I share a few of my experiences before you dive into those from the rest of the lovely grief community.
My experience with "grief injustices"
The main thing that I have experienced was a lack of sensitivity from some people. Especially during those raw first few weeks after my dad passed, I was vulnerable and feeling down and was just trying to get by with a smile on my face whilst inside I was drowning. I wish that the people around me had acknowledged what had happened to me more. Of course not all the time, but acting like things were 'normal' or nothing massive had happened to me caused me more hurt and loneliness.
Furthermore, I just wish people would ask me more about my dad! I want to talk about him and that way I can keep his memory alive.
Finally, (I'll keep this one short and sweet) someone once said to me: "I didn't know that it was that sad for you". YES. I KNOW. I just cannot... So let us move on.
However, I must say that there were some people who were amazing to me at that time and I feel that I must mention these wonderful people. People who epitomised kindness and a good heart: my amazing aunt and cousins, my brother (the best I could ever ask for) and my two lovely English teachers at school at the time. Their actions flooded me with such gratefulness- the type of appreciation that I cannot even describe and I will always remember what they did for me- big or small, even if they may not realise it. And, I must also mention something more recent- my brother's girlfriend and family. They messaged my brother and I on the anniversary of my dad's death. For them to even remember that had astonished me and just made my heart melt. No one had ever done that for me, and that (even though a message may seem so insignificant to some) I will remember forever.
I asked: "Have you experienced any grief injustices?"
"Yes, I used to feel scared to talk about grief and to be more precise, I used to feel that it isn't right to talk about it in public. This kept me not talking about it for 10 years.
Now, after 10 years, I decided to talk about it after I matured enough to know that it’s okay to talk about grief, it’s okay to miss someone and talk about it. I will keep talking about my grief journey with no shame and guilt."
"One of the things I got a lot after Mum passed away was “at least she’s not suffering anymore/in a better place” etc. But she shouldn’t have suffered, to begin with, and she’s not in a better place because she’s dead and she’s not here with me. Also since the process of selling Mum’s house has been happening, I’m not the named executor of Mum’s will but my aunt and uncle are. Even though they both lost their sister, I feel as though they don’t understand how much it’s affecting me having lost my Mum at 23 and then having to sort through/get rid/donate all her things by myself, tidy up mums house (Mum was a bit of a hoarder and didn’t much care for gardening) and the effect that had on me. It took me ages to sort everything, no one helped me, it was so draining, and I kept having to then meet all these expectations and jump through hoops (I had to register her death, apply for probate, contact relevant services and companies about mums death), and I had NO experience with any of it. Yet was still expected to do this all without any help! I felt as though they’d totally forgotten that I’d lost my Mum throughout this."
"100% in so many different aspects of my life. When I lost my dad, I felt pressured to put on a facade and jump back into all the normal things. Institutions like my school and workplace (I worked for a municipality at the time) seemed to see it as a concrete timeline of recovery—I felt that people were cold when I surpassed the expected timeline and wasn’t “back to normal” yet. It was as if people thought I owed them my happy, positive self, even when I didn’t feel that way because, after a certain amount of time, my trauma and grief became an annoyance. "It’s been about two years now and I can honestly say that I’ve lost most of my friends because after you say no to hanging out two or three times, people stop asking.... and again, it’s as if they thought I owed them the good sides of me and I should hide the bad. Also, I struggle with people comparing their loss to mine. I would NEVER downplay anyone’s grief and it really frustrates me when someone pretends to understand. I think people don’t realize that it’s better to say, “I don’t know how that feels but I’m here,” in opposed to pretending and consequently, minimising my grief. "Ultimately, I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s normal to be a different version of yourself once you’ve lost someone so close to you... but unfortunately, not everyone understands this. The most hurtful thing is when people compare me to past versions of myself without acknowledging the trauma I’ve been through. If you burned yourself on the stove, would you go back and touch it ten seconds later ?? I have triggers, I have baggage, but I’m still me— just a version of me that has had to endure a whole lot."
"He died months before our wedding so everyone kept telling me that it was a good thing that we didn’t get married (apparently only married people suffer from losing a life partner). Also, everyone told me I should get another boyfriend fast because I’m still young. It’s been a year since my fiancé passed away and it still feels like, hurts and miss him like is day one, I simply can’t imagine my life with anyone else."
"I think my grief has sometimes been downplayed by others (unintentionally) who have not experienced grief themselves. Those of us who have experienced significant loss understand that grief is not a linear process but rather a continual rollercoaster of emotions that has no end. I think sometimes people don’t know what to say so perhaps try to make light of things and say things like “don’t worry, everything will be okay” which can make you feel like there isn’t the space to talk when you feel like you need to."
"My high school announced my dad's death over the PA system the next day without asking me first."
"Someone once questioned why I still felt sad a few years on."