Fending off Bereavement Bullies: Beware the All-Knowing Rules Maker Who, in Pat Cliches, Tells Us How We Should Act and Feel, and How Long Our Grief Should Last and What Form It Should Take

By Shapiro, Carol | USA TODAY, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Fending off Bereavement Bullies: Beware the All-Knowing Rules Maker Who, in Pat Cliches, Tells Us How We Should Act and Feel, and How Long Our Grief Should Last and What Form It Should Take


Shapiro, Carol, USA TODAY


MOST OF US think of grief as a time when others will come to our aid with understanding and compassion. We also so like to think of ourselves as being understanding and compassionate with others in their time of need. The three people in the following anecdotes were not prepared for the response they received to their grief.

* Susan's father had died quite unexpectedly just one year ago and, as she sat at the memorial service, tears fell silently down her face. Remembering the richness of her relationship with her father and how much she missed him, she began to sob in earnest. After the service, an old friend of the family approached. Susan looked up, anticipating a warm hug and consoling words. Instead, she was greeted with a frown. "It's time for you to snap out of it," he instructed her. "Your father would not have wanted you to behave like this. You are making everyone else here uncomfortable!"

* John's wife of 30 years died after battling a long illness. One of his friends came to the house for a visit. "It's been nine months," he scolded. "Don't you think it's time for you to start going out socially again? It's also time to get rid of all of your wife's clothes. It's morbid to keep them this long. Just give them to Goodwill. Other people have things much worse. At least you had a wife for 30 years."

* Maureen was fighting a deep and almost paralyzing grief. Her adult daughter had committed suicide, and the pain of the loss, as well as the manner of death, was devastating. A distant relative called her on the phone to offer condolences. "It could be much worse," she stated. "At least you have other children."

Sound familiar? It is not difficult for any of us to imagine these scenarios. Many of us have been on the receiving end or, unwittingly, have been the well-intentioned perpetrators.

Dealing with death and the grief that survivors experience is extremely difficult. As in many of life's challenging situations, although we often try our best, we still end up putting our foot in our mouths. Enter the bereavement bully, the all-knowing rules maker, that seemingly well-meaning soul who has all the answers, delivered in pat cliches: Life goes on. Time heals all wounds. He was so sick; he's better off now. The bereavement bully tells us how we should act and feel, and how long our grief should last and what form it should take.

Loss never has been an easy subject to discuss. We do have clearly defined rules for what to do and say in the first few days or even months after a loss. There are condolence cards to send, a wake or funeral to attend, casseroles to bring to the home of the bereaved, and many people surrounding the grief-stricken to help share the emotional burden.

After the initial few months, however, when the casseroles no longer are showing up at the back door, it seems we often convince ourselves that it is time for everyone to "get on with life." Are we being compassionate toward the bereaved or is it our own discomfort with the situation that we are attempting to ameliorate?

Since each person's experience with loss is unique, why would we try to mandate rules for dealing with the death of a loved one? Perhaps the answer lies in the very commonality--sooner or later, all of us will feel this pain and be faced with the troubling task of overcoming it. Actually, what we often are experiencing when a friend or neighbor loses someone they love is fear.

We are afraid of uttering the wrong thing and inadvertently causing more pain. We just do not know what to say. We simply are not well prepared for dealing with such extreme feelings. However, since we do want to be helpful, we employ the same strategy that we have learned to use in other difficult situations--push. It is what our teachers model for us in school and our parents do at home. We are pushed, bullied, and "shoulded" through all sorts of tough situations from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fending off Bereavement Bullies: Beware the All-Knowing Rules Maker Who, in Pat Cliches, Tells Us How We Should Act and Feel, and How Long Our Grief Should Last and What Form It Should Take
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.