Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grief Etiquette 101

I took a break (again), but I’m back. Let Writing Wednesdays resume once more.

Unfortunately I’ve had to work through grief over the past few months due to the passing of my beloved grandma. This isn’t the first time a loved one has passed away, but quite naturally it hurts deeply to the core of my heart.  I’m finally coming to terms with my grief thanks to lots of prayer, grief counseling, and the support of family and friends. However, I cannot come to terms with the blatant ignorance of grief etiquette I’ve experienced. If my grandma was here, we would probably sit at her kitchen table and discuss the offending parties. Alas and alack she is not. Instead I must write about it. It’s almost as if the world needs an etiquette book on dealing with a bereaved family. If I wrote such a book, a few chapters would look something like this:
Chapter 1: Your maid doesn’t live here.
Don’t ask a member of the bereaved family to prepare your plate when you come to “comfort” them. At one point I was ready to snap on people visiting the family because they kept sending me to get something.  Apparently it didn’t matter my grandma just passed away. Most visitors were quite capable of getting their own plate. Yet I kept getting requests to make a to go plate or a to stay plate. I should have given them a plate in the face. And don’t even get me started on a visitor who was trying to get a slice of a cake someone made for my cousin, while she was crying to the side. No one cares about getting you cake, food, soda or anything else. Get it your own self. You should be making sure the family is served, not the other way around.
Chapter 2: Age ain’t nothing but a number.
I know people mean well, but so many statements are annoying for a grieving family, such as, “I know what you’re going through.” Actually you don’t. You can empathize, but you have no idea. Avoid saying that. Also there is another phrase to avoid. I hated the question, “How old was your grandma?” Often when I answered, “In her 80s,” the response was, “Well she lived a long life.” Is that supposed to make me feel better? That doesn’t make the pain easier. She lived for 80 + years, but I only had her for 29 of them. She could have lived to 100, and her passing would have still been too soon for me. Just strike the entire “lived a long life” phrase from your mind.
Chapter 3: It’s a shame what you say.
People get shamed for everything, but it doesn’t make it right. It’s even worse when someone is grieving. I wrote a good thousand words about my family getting “shamed” (grief shaming and fat shaming specifically). So I won’t linger too long on this point. The key thing to remember is you don’t shame a person for how they grieve. Grief is not specific to one person in the family. We all have pain. And commenting on a person’s weight gain (or weight loss) is the quickest way to get told off. Or in my case, to get an article written about you and posted on an online publication (the pen is mightier than the sword).
Chapter 4: Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee
Don’t try to take items of the deceased from family members. I have developed quite the attachment to my grandma’s dusters. Not only do they make me think of her, but they are absolutely comfortable and feel fantastic. It’s like naked hour with clothes on (much to my roommate’s relief). One visitor had the audacity to tell me I better give her some of my grandma’s dusters. She was on the quick track to getting told off. Those dusters are my inheritance. Grieving families are under no obligation to give any of their loved one’s possessions away. Demanding something from them is just downright rude.
I could go on and on. I’ve realized people can be stuck on stupid when you’re just trying to grieve. The Incredible Hulk side of me almost came out, more than once and rightly so. Perhaps my future book, “Grief Etiquette 101- How NOT to Get Stabbed by the Bereaved,” will make the world a better place for bereaved families everywhere.

What etiquette tips do you have to share? Or is your grief etiquette lacking?