Ponderings From A Wannabe Fatropolitan
I think it’s time for Tracey’s Tips for dealing with an individual or family that is grieving. Just a side note: this is from my perspective of having had some big losses in my life, and are merely my opinions, and based on my Caucasian/American cultural viewpoint.
In the 1980s we lost my Great-Great Aunt, whom we loved dearly. In 1988 we lost our Grandma to Cancer, then in 1991 we lost my older sister. In 2007, our Dad died, and 6 months later, our Mom died. I have worked as a Hospice Social Worker and Grief Counselor for 6 years.
Here’s the thing: We (hopefully) don’t experience loss that often, so we haven’t learned the etiquette (if you will) of how to treat people who are grieving. So we just kind of muddle through when people we care about experience a loss. So here are my suggestions when someone in your life has suffered a loss:
As far as Social Media goes, a short simple expression of condolences is appropriate. Pouring your heart out with paragraphs and paragraphs of how you don’t know how you will survive without this person, and posting pictures of the deceased, TO THEIR FAMILY MEMBER’S FB PAGE, is not okay. This is making the death about you and your grief, and that’s not okay.
Most of us are hard-wired to want to be where the drama is, to see it all as it happens, so because we weren’t there, we want to know all the gory details. And we ask…don’t we? “How did s/he die? What happened?” And the family, not wanting to be rude, will tell you, even when they feel like they want to throw up! Don’t be that person. Don’t pry for details about the death. If the family wants to talk about it, they will. If not, don’t ask.
If you are around the grieving family shortly after the death, don’t make them your soft place to land. We all have a soft place to land, so take your grief home to your mate or your best friend or your therapist. If you can’t hold it together, then excuse yourself. I’m not talking about getting a little teary, I’m talking about wailing and bawling. This is not fair. And the last thing a grieving family needs or wants is someone else’s drama.
DON’T say, “Well, at least s/he is in a better place.” We are hard-wired to try and fix things for people. And when we see a friend or someone we care about in the throes of grief, we often think that there is something we could say to make it all better. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN SAY TO MAKE A DEATH BETTER FOR SOMEONE, so don’t even try. Less is more when talking to a grieving person. JUST LISTEN!! And keep your comments brief. A simple, “I’m sorry” goes a long way.
DON’T say, “I know how you feel." No you don't know how they feel. No loss is the same. Losing my Mother was my experience of losing her, and no one else’s. My Brother had a different experience.
DON’T say, “Well at least s/he’s not suffering anymore.” OMG, how insensitive is this for a comment? So in other words, you’re actually saying, “It’s a good thing s/he’s dead.”
Take the grieving family some food and don’t stay long. And for goodness sake, make the food in a disposable container, or better yet, buy a new casserole dish for them and gift it to them. How awkward is it to call this grieving family weeks or a month later and ask, “Uhhh, sorry, but can I come over and get my casserole dish?” Bad form! And I shouldn’t have to say this, but some of you know you are out there: Don’t call and ask how they liked your casserole or the better-than-sex cake you took over!
The family wants privacy right now. Don’t horn in and invite yourself, or just drop by unannounced. Respect that the family may be in a fog, in shock, or feel numb. Would you want someone just dropping in on you at a time like that? No!
Don’t gift the family things that may/will die. No plants, no flowers….unless you know the person/family LOVES plants, and know how to care for them. I was given plants when my mother died. I do not have a green thumb, so I felt like these well-meaning people were sentencing the poor plant to death by giving it to me. Flowers take care and attention, you have to make sure they have enough water every day, and mix stuff into the water. Then they just wilt and eventually die, anyway. And they are actually dead when you buy them! I thought, “Oh great, I just watched my Mom slowly die, now I get to watch these flowers/plants die too.” I know this seems harsh, but think about it! The peace plant I was given did well, because it didn’t require a lot of work. I even repotted it. It was beautiful! That plant became a reminder of my Mom’s death. Then I moved to Virginia and had to leave it behind. I gave it away, so I have no idea where my poor peace plant ended up. I’ve had to let that go now, just like I had to let go of my Mom. My point is…don’t give plants to grieving people! If you want to give gifts, give gift cards for a meal, or for a grocery store, something they will use. On a side note: I was given a Christmas cactus for my birthday last year, by a well-meaning person (I know). Well, because I didn’t know how to care for it, it almost died. I repotted it in the wrong soil. So it nearly died again. So I finally researched it, and now, with just a couple of little stumps left, it looks like it might live. I had to buy it special soil, and liquid fertilizers. I know it’s tempting to buy people plants for many occasions, but I absolutely feel like a failure when a plant dies on my watch! Please don't gift people plants if you don’t know if they want to or know how to care for them!
Grief is a horrendous time for individuals and families, but we don’t have to make it even more difficult for them. Just a little common sense and asking “How would I react if someone said this to me, or gave this to me, during such a trying time?” can save us from making, at best, a nuisance of ourselves, and at worst, a complete ass of ourselves. Think about it!
I had an interesting experience last night at our local Aquatic Center. Apparently, they had to do some sort of repairs in the Women’s locker room so just for one day, the locker rooms were switched. So I proceeded to enter the Men’s locker room; something I’ve never done before. It couldn’t possibly be that different, besides the urinals in the bathroom. Then, I turned a corner and was horrified to see it…the shower room. No private shower stalls, no curtains, no privacy.
“I’ll just shower at home,” I told myself, “no Woman will shower in there,” I reasoned. I got in the pool and asked my husband, “So you guys just shower all together, looking at each other naked?”
He said, “Yeah, we walked past the showers several times in the Women’s locker room, looking for them; it was funny. Then we were like, curtains and private stalls? Wow!”
I was amazed, flabbergasted even. Men don’t need privacy? I let it go, for the moment. After my swim, I walked back into the Men’s locker room thinking I would just rinse off. As I entered the shower room, I was amazed to find a Woman from a Middle Eastern country and an Asian Woman, both naked and showering, minding their own business. I looked around. No one was staring. There were two little girls changing on a bench. After a few moments of contemplation, I got brave and dropped my suit…and showered, there amongst the other Women. I was amazed that no one screamed, no alarms went off, no one pointed at me like in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers forcing me to put my clothes back on. And the little girls who were changing? They didn’t giggle or run from the room screaming to their mothers for safety from the fat woman, either. It was very uneventful.
Then I got to thinking. Is it because the other Women showering were not of American descent? It just didn’t seem “normal” for Women to voluntarily take their clothes off in front of each other. Is it just American Women who don’t want to see each other naked? It wasn’t until I got home that the difference in the two locker rooms really dawned on me: Our society not only condones, but encourages us (Women) to be ashamed of our own bodies. How sad.
Approximately 2+ years ago, a new show debuted on CBS, and currently airs on Mondays at 9:30pm. When it first started there was alot of controversy about two fat actors in leading rolls in a television show (http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/overweight-couples-on-television). Well, the show has been a success, and I have to admit that I watch it. It would probably be more accurate to say that I have a love/hate relationship with the show. I love it and continue to watch it because on what other show can us hearty-folk see people who look like us, leading normal lives, loving each other, laughing, having careers and deep meaningful friendships, and dealing with hilarious dysfunctional relatives? What I dislike about it is the almost constant barrage of fat jokes. It's sad that we have to tolerate so many jokes at our expense just to be able to see actors that represent our population on television. And I feel bad that this is the only venue where people of size are represented in such a “normal” light. I have really had to have a discussion with myself about this, because the show is downright funny. Mike’s mother is a hilarious blend of guilt trips and one-liners, Molly’s mother is a much too skinny lush with a sordid past, and Carl’s grandmother (who is also a large lady) is an active member of her church, and sexually active. But the one constant on the show, is Mike and Molly’s love for one another, and their ability to not allow the fat jokes, or society get to them. I do fantasize about Mike and Molly eventually getting to the point where they stop attending their Overeaters Annoymous meetings and accept themselves as fat people…(and start getting into intuitive eating and swear off diets forever). Their characters just got married at the end of last season and this season they are actively trying to get pregnant. How’s that for normal?
Hi everyone! Welcome to my new website. It was such a thrill for me to hold a copy of my book for the first time! It has been four years in the making. I had a vision of the world of the Hearty Folk back in 1999, and quickly jotted down 2 pages of notes. I did nothing about that vision for nearly 10 years. In November of 2008 I began writing, and finished within 10 to 11 months. Then I began the editing process, which continued until it was published, just recently. I am so thankful and grateful to Dr. Peggy Elam, owner of Pearlsong Press for agreeing to publish my novel. I hope you all enjoy Jenny Crandell's journey to self esteem.