Grieve Quietly.

by Lori Dwyer on June 22, 2011 · 30 comments

We’re so uncomfortable in our society, with grief and mourning.

I’ve always had a fascination with those pictures that float around on the Net, taken in the very early 1900′s. Portraits of people, taken after death. Memento mori.

That idea, today, would creep the hell out of people. But it was logical, then- photos were so expensive. If you didn’t have any, what memories could you hold with you, once that person has gone?

(Photos, I don’t have enough, never enough.. I always wanted to, had a feeling I should, get more photos taken of the four of us together… I didn’t, and I wish I had. if this is on your “To Do” list- take more photos of your loved ones- please do it. Today.)

I’ve always been uncomfortable with death, with people grieving. I think it’s a common thing. While some cultures treat grief as a right, our’s seems to treat is an inconvenience.

And a negative. Mourning is not always negative. Mourning can be, at times, a joyful process.

People avoided me, avoided calling me, avoided talking to me. I get it, I understand. Grief is difficult, and I would have been the same. We seem to put a time limit on grieving, and we get impatient when people don’t pull up their grotty socks and get on with it.

I’ve seen footage of women in other cultures, weeping and beating at the grave of their dead husband, or father, or brother. It’s expected and respected, a painful, vocal outpouring of sorrow.

Had I tried that at Tony’s funeral, I would have been carted off to the local pysch ward.

What a strange fucking world.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimmie June 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Two Squared June 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

I've recently been surprised by the newfound compassion of a friend who has just experienced grief. After being an arsehole about my behaviour he has for the first time ever, asked me about how I'm travelling. It's made me realise that some people just don't get it until they've faced it themselves. Grief is one of the more isolating experiences we can have, but it also somehow teaches some people a deeper understanding or empathy for others if they didn't already have that ability.


Just Jennifer June 24, 2011 at 10:20 am

I know a little girl who flung herself on her mother's coffin and cried. Thankfully her father is comfortable with letting his kids feel what they feel.

My husband and I just purchased a pre-need funeral policy for him because he has the health problems he does. Although I know it's a good thing to be prepared, I hated doing it. I hate that I think about my husband's eventual death so much.

Believe me, whenever it happens, I won't take shit from anyone about what THEY think is proper grieving!


Eccles June 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Lori, I've pasted some url's for photos of Mrs Reagan, the late US President Ronald Reagan's wife, grieving at her husbands funeral. In front of the whole world, Mrs Reagan wept, kissed the coffin & rubbed her hands along the length of his coffin as if to feel him once more before he was laid to rest. She did all this in front of leaders from around the world, cameras from around the world, without shame or embarrassment. How we grieve; how long we grieve, is no-ones business but our own. Lori – you grieve long and loud & we will be here for as long at that may take (X);=1


Queensland Girl June 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

It is a strange world Lori. People are quick to judge, even quicker to try and get away from something uncomfortable or difficult, such as the raw grief you are going through.
Friend's of ours suddenly lost a "healthy" baby when she was less than a day old, they had no pictures of her, so took them after she had died so that they had something to hold onto. Those pictures were used on the thank you cards after the service, disturbing but somehow so right.


Hear Mum Roar June 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I was at high school (year 11) and mentioned to a friend (strict Christian upbringing) that I was going to my uncle's funeral tomorrow.

She said, 'make sure you don't cry!' My bottom lip started wobbling and I said, 'what are you talking about? Of course I'll bloody cry!'

She told me that her mother (who by the way had strange ideas about pretty much everything) said that when you cry at a funeral or about someone's death in general, you're being selfish because you want them to be with you, and you should be happy for them because they're going to heaven.

I should add here I'm not a Christian. I tried to calmly tell her I disagreed (didn't want to cry then and there, there were ppl all over the place) and could we please drop it.

I walked off, and she said, 'sure. But don't cry!!' and then she giggled. Bitch.

Two years later we went to a funeral of a school friend, and there was that mother, glaring sternly at all of us who were crying. I felt like telling her, 'this girl was a heathen, no way was she going to heaven, so I'll cry all I bloody want!'

Anyway. I think you can see where I'm going with this. I hate this crap that people go on with, and I don't know what purpose it serves to hold your grief in except so as not to inconvenience anyone else who's not going through it.

People are sick. Let it out.


Karen June 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

Having to worry about being judged on how you are or not greiving while you try to handle the grief. Lovely. Ugh! :-P


River June 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I've read in books about other cultures who do the wailing and beating themselves with twigs, painting themselves with ashes etc, but in most of those, they do it for a certain set time, then they "put it behind them" and get on with their lives. It's the expected way, but I'm not sure it's the right thing, even though they've done the very public grieving for their culture, how can they just set it aside? Surely they must still be grieving on the inside, just as we do here.


Cake Pop Fusion June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I don't know why we in our society have such a hard time accepting others' expressions of grief. I think we lose a lot by keeping it all inside. I say, mourn as you need to mourn. It's a tribute to the person you lost, and a poignant one at that. It's a healing for you, and the first step in accepting that your loved one is gone. About the photos after death, I totally took a few photos of my beloved grandmother in her casket at the viewing. I have them in my scrapbook. I loved her in life, and I love her in death. She's always with me. :)

Sending you virtual hugs and letting you know that it's okay to feel what you feel and to let it out.

~ Pia


Muddled Up Mumma June 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Maybe we need to be taught how to handle grief and death…. not sure where. Maybe as Western society moves away from religion the teaching around grief is lost. I am not religous so I don't even know if Churches do help, but I wonder what is was like for generations before who "seemed" to have a better handle on what the done thing was. I personally struggle with knowing what to say to someone who has experienced something I can't even imagine, but I figure saying something even if a little off the mark is better than saying nothing. I think with age & experience too plus with reading of other's experiences (thank you Lori) this is something I have given more thought to and feel less awkward about.

Thanks also for the reminder re. family photos. I hardly have any of our little family and even less of me and my little boy as I am always holding the camera.


Kellie June 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Strange indeed, Lori. And thanks for the suggestion of family photos. No, we have't done it yet (not since the addition of Baby Holly) and yes, we should! Your post has been my catalyst. As always, lots of hugs! xx


Cate June 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I love the way people in other cultures howl and wail at death. Why wouldn't you? Death is so unfair. So permanent. So devastating. Why oh why oh why would we want to force ourselves to hide that love we feel for them.
But we do.
And we are praised for our dignity. For our restraint.
No one in our culture has ever been praised for having a really good screaming fit.
Being forced to just suck-it-up is just wrong. And anyone who says otherwise is wrong too.


Zoey @ Good Goog June 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

It seems slightly inappropriate to bring it up here (but I'm not above being inappropriate so I'll continue on), I really found this when my cat died. People expect me to move on at a certain pace because she's was an animal not a human. And I haven't.


Dorothy June 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Isn't it?

And there are many, many reasons why people need to grieve. Not just death… Loss comes in so many ways…


Naomi June 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I was thinking the other day about the way in our society we used to wear mourning clothes… sometimes I want that back. I want people to know I am grieving. To know I am at a loss, and beyond sad.
I get annoyed when people correct me if I say dying or dead. Apparently passed away is the only right words. I hate it.
I don't know what grief should be, but I'm fairly certain it's not hushed tones and silence.


Heartbeatoz June 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Grief is a very personal pain and like many here a lot of people have walked away even though I grieved in Private I still made them uncomfortable, it is 13 Years since my Son died and I have recently been able to open up to my new Hairdresser who lost her Son 3 Years ago we talk about our Sons and I think being able to share and talk about the loved one is important and remember it never goes away just becomes gentler.
Also as Suzi said we are here by your side.
Take care Jacki


Vicky June 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

Like all things that people don't understand until they have experienced themselves – mental illness, death, divorce, cancer, loss of a child… anything that creates profound human emotion… people feel uncomfortable and instead of being honest and saying "I don't know what to say, I don't even know what I should I be feeling" they want the person who is creating that feeling of uncomfortableness to "go away" "suck it up" "move on" or as you put it Lori "pull up your grotty socks".

I won't pretend for a moment to even understand your loss hun – but I can understand the nightmare that is PTSD … and if enables me to empathise with you on your journey then so be it.

There is no time limit on healing. Its a process – just like growing.



Miss Cinders June 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

Since a friend of mine was diagnosed with Breast Cancer afew years ago [who is now still fighting the brave fight <3] I have made an effort to get more photo's at every opportunity, it was something she asked me to do with my Family, and I am.

Not only pics of the family, but make sure YOU get in front of the camera. Make sure YOU are a part of them moments in pictures. Leave the memory of YOU in there too.

It's too late to have T in them, but it's not too late to build a collection for the kids of you.

I think grief is something nobody really truly understands because it is soooo different for every individual. Back in the day, it wasn't right to openly grieve the loss of a Child/Husband/Loved one. I remember a story my Mother told me of my Nana. My Aunt was born still [my Nana would still to this day question that she was born sleeping], but society wouldn't allow Nana to grieve Aunty S. She was never spoken of for many many years, until us Grandchildren were old enough to ask questions. It was like through us she had permission to grieve the Baby she lost years before.

Don't let society make rules for you. Your grief is YOUR grief. The way you deal with it, is your own way. And if it takes 20+ years to get to the next step, so be it.

I hope you find a little spark of happiness somewhere in today, and whatever that little spark is, it makes you smile.

Miss Cinders xx


Jayne June 23, 2011 at 4:52 am

Grief is such a normal human emotion. I have NEVER understood the distaste over it. I understand that it can be overwhelming or even uncomfortable for some people, but there should ALWAYS be a profound respect for the person that is grieving.

You can grieve with me, with the people who read your words, any way you'd like ans we will wrap our arms around you.


Melissa June 23, 2011 at 1:21 am

So so true. Even here in the US, there's this image of the silently grieving widow. Somber, respectful, crying silent tears, still looking beautiful in her black funeral attire. And then after the funeral… there's nothing. no protocol for how grief should look – so everyone hides it away, and hides from it.
You can roar and wail and rage and weep here, Lori – we'll bear witness and try to hold you up.


JourneyBeyondSurvival June 23, 2011 at 12:28 am

I don't think grief is neat and tidy. It's unpredictable. Perhaps that is why it's so unacceptable.


Anthony from CharismaticKid June 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

I think that's hollywood banging on their chest. But it probably has happened.

I actually think people look very peaceful and nice at their funeral.


T June 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm

So so so true, our society wraps grief up in a nice neat little package that has an expiry date and things you are allowed to say and do. It's the reason I am now back at Uni, my dream is to research and educate on grief at a societal level. I believe people really just don't know how to act or what to say. There is such a limited understanding in so many areas of grief. I think ignorance is the place where all "rules" are set for the bereaved. Not a purposeful ignorance but a plain old lack of knowledge. I want to be able to offer more knowledge.

There are many wonderful cultural ways others deal with grief that I know would have been so beneficial to me.

I did go to my daughters grave and screamed, cried and tore at the grass with an icey pole stick during torrential rain a couple of weeks after she died. I don't care if it sounds weird it helped and for once I was without anyone else especially my living child and I could really let loose. It was an outpouring I needed and I needed to do alone.

Always wishing you peace on your grief journey


Suzi June 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Everybody grieves differently. Do it how ever you need to, we will be at your side.


Kelloggsville June 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

In someways I now find some of my grief has got worse with time. The initial stabbing pain is gone but regrets still grow and change and have to be dealt with as each come up. Falling apart after many years is looked upon as a lack of strength or mental illness. It's not it's grief, leave me to get on with it. You've got PTSD to deal with as well but I guess that will be looked down upon too. I think wailing women have something to be said for.


Hope’s Mama June 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Oh do I get this. Do I ever. Three years on from the death of my daughter and I KNOW people are over me and my grief. And people have walked away, many of them. This isn't really a process, or a journey – this is life. We'll grieve for the rest of our lives. No getting over it, going around it or moving on – you just have to keep going through it. Every day.
You're right, as a society, we abso-bloody-lutely suck at grief, grieving and knowing how to treat the grievers out there.
Thinking of you, Lori.


Kellie June 22, 2011 at 8:49 pm

No-one will ever be happy with how you grieve, so you just do it in your own way. Only you know how to do it.



Alienne June 23, 2011 at 4:59 am

I certainly got the feeling that a lot of people expected me to be 'over it' after a year, and yet in some ways the second year was harder – partly because so much of the support had been withdrawn. By then it seemed like only family understood that it wasn't over.

I do second the photo point – when I searched I found hardly any of all 4 of us. There were plenty of me with both kids, and him with both kids. But not both of us with both kids – I really wish we had got other people to take more photos of us as a family.


Crystal Cheverie June 22, 2011 at 9:46 pm

So true – our culture (yes, I definitely include us North Americans in there) in general does have a very unhealthy attitude towards death and grief. It's like you said; we try to be sympathetic for a while, but then we're all: "OK, aren't you finished yet? Come on, let's go. Hup two, hup two!" It's awful.

I hope you continue to have the guts to grieve in your own way and not to let anyone else tell you how to do it or when it's "time to stop." HUG!!


Toni June 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I always used to think it was strange that in some countries, you can hire professional mourners.
Now, I think it's a fantastic idea. A heap of people wailing and beating their chests and throwing ashes on their heads — that's just what I wanted to do.


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