food and sundries

Shades of Grief

Filed under: Uncategorized — September 22, 2013 @ 11:29 am

“Don’t criticize how someone else grieves.”

I was listening to an NPR story on mass shootings and gun control. The mother of one of the victims of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado was discussing how she and her husband dealt with their grief. When asked if she had advice for families that find themselves in similar situations (as far too many have), one of the the things she shared was that, to support each other, you cannot disparage the actions others may take in their grief, even if you find them abhorrent.

As an example, she noted that one of the other parents went to the re-opening of the theater solely to sit in the seat his son had been in when he was gunned down. The commentator and her husband couldn’t fathom doing that. The grief from the loss of their daughter would have overtaken them, but it was what that father needed to process the loss of his son: he and his son had been movie buffs, going to many films together. He found he had to sit in his son’s seat to process his loss, to mourn.

And was there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not.

I was reminded by the NPR story of September 11. My boyfriend (now husband) and I had a huge disagreement on how we dealt with the horror and grief of that day. The differences had me considering whether we should even stay together, if our ways of being were so different as to be reprehensible to each other.

He watched very little news coverage, turning away from it and moving onto other things as soon as he could, not even speaking of it.

I couldn’t stop watching. Over and over. Flipping channels to get all the viewpoints I could. To see the destruction. I wanted to talk about it, to process it.

He viewed my reaction as some sort of morbid fascination. This disturbed him. I viewed his reaction as an unwillingness to confront horrible things, and as a bit uncaring. This disturbed me.

When we should have been supporting, we were criticizing something we had no business criticizing.

My voracious appetite for the news of that day was borne out of an attempt to understand, hoping that the next news story, the next conversation, would bring some explanation that made sense. They never did.

His reticence to watch was a way to disempower the horror, to move past it as quickly as possible.

In the years since, I’ve come to see that both ways of being were reasonable and caring responses to incomprehensible evil. Both of us cared deeply, but the depth of our grief expressed itself differently.

At times of such trial, we get through it, past it, by coming together, not drifting apart. So, the advice is very wise. I hope to remember it well the next time, for undoubtedly and terribly, there already have been next times and there likely will be more. Take hands and try to understand.

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