Thursday, February 17, 2011

Still Living

Two headlines in at least two different newspapers that I read daily have me a bit riled up this morning.  Hence, this post will likely turn into a stepping-up-on-one's-soapbox kind of rant that I generally try to avoid, but in this case, annoys the hell out of me too much that I just can't. 

As many people in Philadelphia and throughout the nation know, former Philadelphia Phillies manager and current senior advisor to the team Dallas Green is the grandfather of Christina Taylor Green, the bright and inquisitive 9 year old girl who was killed during the Tucson, AZ shooting rampage that claimed the life of six people and injured others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The lives of the victims and their loved ones will never be the same, and we shouldn't expect them to be. 

Which is why the two headlines today really infuriate me. 

I speak first of this, the headline to a story about Dallas Green speaking to the media about his family's unspeakable loss.

Phillies' Green still grieving over loss of a granddaughter.

And in my local newspaper, the front page masthead sports a photo of a grieving Green with the words "Dallas Green Still Living Tucson Tragedy."  (The headline on the actual article itself is a bit better, "Green's Sorrow Too Hard to Mask.") 

Still grieving over loss.  Still living Tucson tragedy.

The shooting happened on January 8. 

Today is February 17. 

It hasn't even been six weeks.



What makes us think that they wouldn't? 

We live in such a supercharged, instant-everything, gimme the quick fix yesterday kind of society.  Something that happened a month ago is practically fodder for the history books, given the pace of the modern day news cycle.  The implication of headlines like "still grieving the loss of a granddaughter" is that our grief and the processing of such should be as recyclable as everything else we consume in this society.  OK, done with that, move on, next! 

As anyone who has lost anyone knows, grief doesn't have a deadline.  It doesn't come with a timetable.  It has its stages, as anyone who has read or even heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ("On Death and Dying") knows, but we move through them, bouncing from one to another, experiencing some simultaneously.  It's a process, one that doesn't take a matter of mere weeks or months.  For some it takes years.  For some, the cycle continues, in some fashion, forever. 

You don't get over loss, especially that of a child, especially one taken in such a horrific and shocking and unexpected way, in less than six weeks. 

When my infant cousin passed away in 1981, my grandmother grieved the loss of that child until the day of her own death in 2004. In his own way, I know my grandfather did too.  Same with their son. 

This Sunday will mark 26 years since my father died.  My mother, brother, and I are in different places and are different people than we were nearly three decades ago this February.  Yet, are we "still living" with the loss of our father? 

Hell, yeah. 

The story about the Green family's grief isn't the first where I've seen reference made to "still living the tragedy" or "still grieving their loss" within mere weeks or months after the event. The thing is, such a choice of phrase serves only to retraumatize those who are grieving by making them feel as if there's something wrong with them if they aren't back to their usual, pre-tragedy selves within days or even weeks. 

We shouldn't expect them to be, because expecting them to be does them a disservice. It disrespects them and the grieving process.

It tarnishes the memory and importance of those they loved.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Anna said...

That's just wrong! My sister gave birth to her first child 4 years ago today. He was stillborn. Even though she has a happy, healthy 2-year-old, she still grieves her firstborn's death and will for the rest of her life. My dad has been dead for 11 years now, and I still miss him tremendously. The grief has lessened over time, but it's still there. Headlines like this are one of the reasons why I don't like the news. And then they ask dumb questions, like "How do you feel about that?" as if they're not supposed to be upset!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

And then there are the movies or TV shows in which characters say to a "grieving person," after just a few weeks: "it's time to move on."

When my brother died at the age of 43 (when I was 40), it took a long time to move past the horror of it. I am sure there were those who thought I didn't move on fast enough.

Yes, I agree with your frustration...we seem to want to jumpstart everyone's "moving on" process.