Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grief and Mourning

After the flash flooding hit my hometown, a good friend of mine posted that his parents had lost everything on the first floor.  An acquaintance posted in response "things can be replaced."  My friend replied "that's easy to say when it is not your things."  I was reminded of the comment when I watched an interview with a business owner who was in the middle of clean up and you could clearly see the anger and hear the frustration in their voice as they talked about the response.  My first thought was "wow, take it easy, you survived!"  Then I remembered my friends words.  It's easy to say that when it is not happening to you.  It's easy to say when you're not smelling the mold and dealing with mud and having to throw out items.  It wasn't so much the loss of the item that was upsetting to these individuals, it was more about the memories that the particular item evoked.  These folks needed time to grieve as the reality of their situation became starkly clear.  Yet the world was demanding that they move on and rebuild.

In contrast, we have September 11th coming upon us.  It has been 10 years since that awful day.  Memorial services are planned all around the country to mark the somber occasion.  We will grieve and we will mourn yet again.  Personally I do not have a problem with memorial services.  I do have a problem though with the media who started rebroadcasting the images all over the place again.  The follow up interviews, the "never before seen" footage, the "new and previously not revealed" stories and voice mails and answering machine messages.  When does the information cross the line from being helpful for healing to obsessive and counter productive?  How much is enough?  When does it become too much?

People experience loss all the time and we have sort of this ingrained rating system on how long we think someone should grieve.  You get a divorce, well get over it and get back out in the dating game, we tell our friends.  You lose a job or a business, well, get over it and find another or come up with a new idea.  If a child dies, or a spouse or a parent, we tell people how sorry we are for the loss and then in the same breath tell them how fortunate they were to have known this individual and how we are sure that they would want them to move on with their life.  My point here is that the loss is real and people need time to mourn and to grieve and we have a tendency to not give them the time they need!

On the other hand, sometimes we exploit grief.  And I'm sorry, but that is exactly what I think the media is doing this year with their wall to wall specials on 9/11.  It was awful, it was horrible, I will never forget it but I for one do not need to relive that day over and over again!  A memorial service where you gather to remember and to share hugs and stories is one thing.  Dicing, slicing and rehashing is another thing all together!  It is, in a way, like ripping the scab off a wound and poking and prodding around in the gaping hole and wondering why it won't heal.

Jesus, in his wonderful Beatitudes sermon said "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted."  Just exactly how much comfort are we giving to those who mourn?    Perhaps it's time to start giving people the room they need to mourn and grieve in their own way without interference.  Maybe it is time to just hold their hand and give them a little comfort.  Let's give people the room to heal.

As for me, I have learned the fine art of turning the television, radio and news feeds off.  If enough of us choose to do that maybe the media will finally get the message.  I can only hope....

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