The inconvenience of grief: A primer on keeping your sorrow to yourself.

I have a friend. Above average intelligence. Above average trauma. Eight years ago her daughter died in an off roading accident. I didn’t know her when it happened but over the years as I’ve gotten to know her and the effects of her loss have come to me in a trickle that has become more of a steady flow.

I have never lost anyone that meant anything to me as much as this woman’s daughter meant to her. So for me even having a perhiperal connection to the progression of greif is a new experience. What I have found has surprised me; the depth of her grief and the way it affects her is disturbing as well as confusing. But what has been more of cold glass of water in the face for me is the completely inexplicable flak she has gotten from her friends.


I’m sure that many of you are as confused as I was to hear that along with the soul crushing primary affects of losing her daughter, there is blowback from her friends due to what is seen as this woman’s excessively discussion her daughter and showing naturally uncontrollable signs of grief.

One of the disadvantages of prose media like blogs is that it doesn’t allow you to take a dramatic pause as you might on television. I will ask you to share my sense of disbelief in a moment of silence.


Over the years I have heard my friend discuss her friends who have made it clear that they would cease any social interaction if the level of discussion of my friend’s lost child didn’t decrease or end entirely. After hearing similar stories for years I read a blog that my friend wrote; there have been a few blogs where she has tried to get a handle on what she has been feeling for the last eight years, to make sense out of something that defies sense. While her blogs have been heartbreaking, the last one evoked another volatile emotion from, one beyond sadness: Anger.

By reading this particular blog it became clear to me that part of coming to terms with her loss and its aftermath involve resolving the complaints of her friends in her own mind, seeking the best outcome.  To me it seem like it’s asking an awful lot to add that trivial bit of her friend’s narcissism to her tottering plate.


Here is where I editorialize, though to me it sounds like something as obvious as the presence of oxygen in our atmosphere. The miracle of life is…life. Without children the human race will end. And so, as part of our grace, most of us are given the desire to bring children into our lives, sacrificing everything to give those children the chance to live a full and meaningful life. While there are a few unfortunate individuals who lack maternal or paternal instinct, our gateway to life, past and future, is our ties to our  children. Consider for a moment that God has passed His grace on to us through the tie to our children’s well being and often through the tie to children who we adopt or even take under our wing.


Grace, as stated in both testaments is also earned through our commitment to help those who’s lives might be as good as our, both in terms of quality of life and financial security. If we are to take care of our brother’s and sisters under all circumstances, I find it hard to believe that the list of tradgedies that call for our grace and aid wouldn’t include the loss of a child. Doing anything else seems to me to be the most selfish of behavior.

It makes me wonder what type of grace these friends subscribe to in the face of a death? It’s a false kind of grace that shields the owner from the disturbing reality that in God’s world awful things happen and that we need to be ready to buttress anyone who has the misfortune to be the victim of loss. We all owe each other that much.


No matter what how you look at it, this bizarre condescension from people who lives and families are intact toward people who have been devastated by a tragedy is a form of social Darwinism with no place in faith or the lives of ethical people. We have become a conspicuous consumption centric society, full of people who emphasize prosperity and success over the values we are taught by our clerics and our teachers. No so coincidentally, Pope Francis, in his trip to the US has spent hours of his short trip serving in a food kitchen and washing the feet of prisoners. Our scripture is full of statements that emphasize generosity over our own comfort.

As for my friend who has dealt with her loss bravely and with generosity for others who have experienced similar loss, no good explanation for her tragedy has materialized; she lives in a world of constant doubt and confusion. For those who seem “oh so weary” of her devastating travesty, ask yourself what you would require were you to lose your young child. Those with the smallest shred of faith and morality would be able to answer this in a second. I leave it to you to figure this out and to remember “there but for the Grace of God go you”.


The sad reality is that my friend still feels the same connection to her daughter and can’t simply turn off her connection for the child she gave birth to. This grace is not meant to go away and so she must find a way to express it. Strange, in a world where we are used to logical explanations for the knottiest of problems. But there is no surgical adjustment that God or our biological make up offers us to simply “stop caring”.

How this is missed by so many astounds me. I consign these people to ugly dark place they inhabit. And I leave my phone number available to people who’ve experienced horrors as my friend has.


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