Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Human Reaction That I Just Don't Get

We just recently had a gentleman at my office die suddenly. He literally went home for lunch and when his wife came home for her lunch she found him dead in the bathroom from what we assume was a heart attack. The shock/grief was apparently enough to put her in the hospital.

I did like this gentleman a lot, in spite of the fact that he was very Old School and had certain ideas about the roles of women in society. Not that he thought they should be in the home or anything, but that women were always in supporting roles in the workplace, not managers in their own right. That being said, he was a man who would literally do anything that he could for anyone. So I am sad that he died. I've known him for nearly half my life.

But...here's the thing. I do not understand this crippling grief. And I absolutely factor into this the fact that while I knew him and liked him, I did not love him. I am in no way trying to compare the sadness that I feel at his death to what his family is feeling. What I'm saying is that I completely fail to comprehend the kind of grief that doesn't allow you to function.

I've lost people who were close to me. I've sat and cried and screamed and thrown things because it hurts and I miss them. But that was an hour, maybe two at the most. Then I got on with my life, still missing them, but functioning.

Every time I hear or see something about crippling grief I just want to ask, 'Really? They can't get out of their bed because xxx died? What's wrong with them?' I want to reach out and *shake* these people until they get up off their butts and start doing what needs to be done. Life goes on, the world's still turning. Why do they think they have the luxury to wallow in their pain as though nothing needs to be dealt with?

I get that this is a terrible attitude for me to have, and I promise that unless it's one of my own relatives (or the middle of a zombie apocalypse wherein I really need that person), I will never ever actually shake a grieving person and shout at them to stop freaking crying and get their ass in gear. I'm not saying that they should 'get over it' because I know that grief doesn't work that way.

I just...I don't get this reaction to death. How can they be so completely tied up in another person that their death destroys them?

I don't understand, is basically what I'm saying, and I don't feel bad about not being able to be more sympathetic towards people who react like this. I am utterly mystified by it, to be honest and suspect that one or the other of us may have an emotional imbalance. I'm not even laying money on which one.

10 comments:

  1. Some people do not experience crippling grief. Its not universal. Its usually experienced at the death of a child, parent, or spouse. Those that are extremely close and large parts of our lives. Even then, some do not experience it when that person passes. It has something to do with preparedness and personality. It also has to do with how reliant you were on that person to function. Like my grandmother never recovered from my grandfather's death because she was 100% dependent on him for everything including her social life. When he died, her life died with him. Its really hard for independent people to comprehend such a situation.

    I don't completely get it either. I could see it at the death of my child but I think I'd be horribly sad for a few days at the death of a parent or spouse. But that doesn't mean I would stop doing my responsibilities because of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I just remain so utterly baffled by it. I can think of reasons, like you've laid out, but I can't understand it at all. It just seems so pointless and self-destructive.

      Delete
  2. I can actually you might want to hit me. as in, if OH died suddenly and he wasnt old or ill. just dropped down dead, I wouldnt be able to go on. I've been with him all my adult life. from a teenager till now. All my hopes and dreams for us would die with him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :( I promise I would never hit you!

      Delete
  3. In this particular case, I have to wonder if she had much purpose outside of him. If he was older, and felt that women were mostly supposed to be supportive, then a big part of her identity might have come from taking care of him. In that case, I can see how that would be a huge blow that could make it difficult to function. What do you do when you lose your primary purpose and identity?

    I've only seen one person in my life react at all close to that, thoug. When my aunt died, the next time I saw my uncle he was clearly not doing well. He was functioning, he was going to work and even met us for lunch and everything. But he had cancer, and there was this sort of resignation about him that he didn't really seem to have any motivation to fight it and keep going. We weren't very surprised when he died a month or so later. They did everything together, I can imagine that after she died nothing would have been the same and all the daily routine things would have hurt too much with her not there to do them with him. That's a lot of change and loss to take when you're older and have been doing the same thing with the same person every day for several decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I don't know. I only knew him through work and her not at all. She does have a job, but I don't know what it is. So that could be a factor, yes.

      I really just wish I didn't feel so harshly about people who react like this. I don't think they can help it, but it just drives me crazy. Happily, I know enough to never actually say anything like this to the people who react this way. Because that would be douchey.

      Delete
  4. How sad about his sudden death. I wonder if she reacted this way because it was so sudden, and like others have suggested, her life was tied up into his too much. I feel sorry for her, but I do see your point as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe all of the above? I don't know. It is very sad, like I said, he really was a kind and wonderful person.

      Delete
  5. I definitely think sudden death can be a huge factor.

    I think it made a huge difference in my reaction to my father's death (he died when I was 17, from lung cancer), that I knew it was coming, it wasn't a surprise. It still hurt like hell, and I still today, 7½ years later, have days where I'm upset about it and cry for an hour or two, but then get up and continue taking care of my responsibilities.

    However, as said before, it also depends on how much of a life you have without that person, my grandfather never fully recovered from my grandmother's death, although she died of breast cancer and he also knew it would happen. But again, their lives were just so intertwined he didn't quite know who he was if it wasn't in relation to her.

    In the same way, I think it would've been much much worse for the teenage-me to have lost my mother, than my father. My father had Asperger's, and although I love(d) him dearly, he wasn't a huge part of my every day life. It was my mum who kept everything together, who I talked to about everything, who made sure we stayed in touch with family etc. Without my mum, the life of my entire family would've fell apart (and I probably, being the eldest daughter, would've been the one who'd try to pick up the pieces and bring it all back together).

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can't understand this type of grief directly because I've never even experienced anyone very close to me dying (closest were my grand-mothers and my aunt) but I can imagine it when it's the most important person to you. I'm not sure if that could be me - I hope not especially since I have other responsibilities... But if both my kids died, I'd certainly feel like I have nothing left in this life.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...