Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Can't Be Selfish in Grief

I learn something new everyday but my lesson this week is a culmination of things that I have learned over the past 7 months: You can't be selfish in grief. You would think that it's the one time that you're really entitled to feel what you want to, act the way you feel like acting, and pretty much find your own way but can't.

The first thing you learn is that you have to be extremely open-minded when it comes to religion. Regardless as to what your own religious beliefs are, you are bound to learn everyone else's take on your tragedy and how it relates in a religious way. You listen to people tell you why the person died, what they are doing now, and why you should be happy that they are "at peace", "no longer suffering", etc. You must smile and nod at these things, even if you don't believe them or agree with them, because to insert your own beliefs at this point would be considered rude and ungrateful for the comfort that the person is trying to provide.

You have to accept the fact that everyone is going to interpret your actions differently. If you cry too much then you're going to get accused of depression, in need of psychiatric help, and possibly put on suicide watch. If you don't cry at all, or at least don't do it in public, then you'll get accused of not caring enough. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium.

There is actually an acceptable time limit regarding how long you are allowed to wallow and complain about your loss. It seems to be around 2 weeks. After that, everyone else is ready to move on and doesn't want to hear about it anymore. You learn not to talk about your sadness with the majority of people because later it comes back to haunt you when people proclaim that you have "too much drama."

Of course, it's a little hurtful when you and your "drama" is placed in the same category as those who complain about their frequent breakups, money troubles, and friend bickering. But soon you figure out that complaining is complaining to some people and they just don't want to hear it.

On the same note, you have to be happy and smiley around a lot of people when you do go out or else you're afraid that you won't get asked out again because you're "too depressing." And when in some situations you do forget yourself and actually talk honestly about how you've been and how sad you are and you DON'T get asked to do anything again you'll spend the next month kicking yourself for opening your mouth.

You have to be careful when trusting some people, though, because there are actually people out there who feed off of tragedy. There are people who wear it like a badge and as a bragging right to those who know you, as well as those who don't. They write about your mental state, talk to others about private things that you have told them, and publicly announce things that they have done for you. This doesn't feel that great either.

You're not allowed to have temporary amnesia. I have heard other people say that you don't start feeling real pain until months down the line because in the first few weeks or so you're in shock. I believe this. With that in mind, I remember the day that Toby died down to the last detail, regardless of how "out of it" some people describe me as being that day. However, the next few days are a complete blur. I remember things happening but I couldn't tell you who did them. I have no idea how I got dressed, ate, or when or how I slept. I tried to thank everyone but there are still those who believe they weren't thanked enough. I guess I should have kept a record.

You can't get angry or emotional. Other people can lash out at you but if you try to defend yourself or counter-argue then you're ganged up on. Just because you've just had a tragedy doesn't mean you get any leighway.

You have to reach out to most people yourself. While in the beginning people will make an effort to come around, be supportive, and check on you after a few weeks (or days in some cases) you have to make the phone calls and write the e-mails. Which might be okay if you could even remember what day it was.

You can't talk about your loss to just anyone. There are friends and family who just don't want to hear about it. You learn who not to bring it up in front of and who it's okay to. You end up censoring yourself a lot. 

And strangely enough, you find that you end up making other people try to feel better about the situation. When friends, family, and even total strangers talk to you about your situation and start crying or getting upset you turn into the comforter.

So, in short, you can't be selfish in grief. Yesterday when Mom and I were talking about our friends that not only blocked me from Facebook but also her she wanted to know what "we" did to them. Usually, I would agree and worry about it and lament and probably even contact them and ask what I did. This time, though, I figure it's not worth it. This should have been the one time that I was entitled to be off my rocker a little bit. If this isn't the time to go a little crazy and get depressed, then when is?

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