Human Nature and Grieving (and my own pet peeves)
Over the last few months I have been observing human behavior and how people react to someone grieving, and the creation/unfolding of relationships. I have actually found the whole process quite interesting. It could be because I love understanding how humans function based upon their programming of how their families were, cultures are especially tied in with their personalities.
I have seen the formation and breakdown of quite a few relationships in the past few months. The formation of relationships were based on the fact some people wanted to have myself and my parents a part of their family because they were close to my brother while others were formed because individuals had gone through the same thing while there were others out of sympathy. Some were formed as it became apparent that our friendship meant more to us than what we had originally thought.
The breakdown of relationships occurred all based on assumptions. People who I considered close family and friends, assumed I needed to be left alone when they didn’t realize how alone one feels when they lose a loved one already. They didn’t realize it is times like this that those meaningless conversations mean the most as they are your sanity, they didn’t realize sitting there together but not talking meant more than any words. A lot of these assumptions were based on how people thought they would deal with the situation but it became very clear that communication and asking what people need from a relationship is so important. I personally have started to work towards communicating more of what people mean to me, how I see them in my life and asking them how they need me to show up.
I am very cautious when you see the sympathy in someone’s eyes for you. I wonder are they around because of sympathy or they want to. I am cautious that I do not want new relationships to form out of guilt or me being a replacement for my brother. This highlighted to me, the general mistrust of intentions that I guess have always lurked there but now along with all my other facets have been brought to surface.
In the last few months, I started exercising a lot of boundaries as to the conversations I wanted to have and with who. I found quite early on in this journey that other people’s time and agenda takes over the grieving families agendas. Why is it that as Indians, is it frowned upon to have scheduled “condolence” times? How is it fair to the family that for the first two months, you are constantly bombarded when people wanting to come over (sometimes unexpectedly) to give their condolences. If you haven’t come over in the first three weeks, you probably weren’t that close – just come for a visit and hang out with the family if you really care that much. We took a healing trip to India, and it amazing that we are still having to experience all of the raw emotions as these people have not seen us yet. Really, at this point, maybe let the family try to create their new “normal” instead of constantly reminding them of the pain and sadness they are feeling.
Then it is the awkward conversation of answering the question – “what have you been up to the last few month?” I personally have been very up front and mentioned that we are dealing with loss but it all depends on the circumstance. I lost out on some contracts because of the lack of follow-up on my end during the critical time, I thought was it awkward I mentioned why I didn’t follow-up but then I thought to myself – “Why do we avoid the conversation about death and grieving?”
Why is it considered taboo to talk about death and grieving without falling into sympathy? Can we as a society, realize it is a part of life? I have to be aware of ensuring that I do not bring up if I am having a bad day on special occasions so it does not look like I am taking away from their happiness. I am also aware of what is going on in other people’s lives even before I go into what is going on with me. In the last few weeks, I have been fortunate to spend time with a friend who allowed me the space to move through the emotions even if we were getting ready for a night out. We were dancing, I started crying at a song, we hugged and started dancing again. It was actually very relieving and beautiful to be able to experience this emotion and still have an evening that showed me again that the happiness is within me.
A few take-aways for those reading this:
1) Honor your emotions everyday. Do what you want to do when you want to do it. This permission should not be reserved for when you are grieving.
2) Allow others to experience what they are going through as if they experience it, they will move through it.
3) Communication is key. Ask the other person of what they need instead of assuming based on your own experience
4) Have compassion that the grieving person will act erratically and be unstable with their emotion. Try to understand that they are seeking a new identity and a new norm.
5) Just be yourself around those grieving. They need the normalcy.
6) If you haven’t been there for the person when they are grieving, be okay that they probably won’t have space for you in their lives either. It is those who are their at the toughest times that the good times should be celebrated with.
7) Use social media as a celebration of the person’s life. It is okay to admit you miss the person but not all status updates need to be about that. That is what the memorial page is for. For those who don’t want to see the reminders, are free to “unlike” the page.
8) Fun, happiness and celebration of life is what we should all focus on.
My purpose in this post is in hopes that death, grieving and dying become easier for everyone to deal with.