Friday, October 19, 2007

samhain and death and grief

I am trying to come to grips with something.

Why is grief such a selfish emotion?

In other words, why do so many people respond to death in such self-serving ways?

It has seemed to me in recent days that some of the outpouring of feeling I have read online about Chas (a friend who passed on October 16th in Ohio) are little more than thinly-veiled expressions of people's own agendas and issues, disguised as expressions of grief.

Then I find myself wondering if I am guilty of the same thing.

Why do we do this?

I am thinking this will become a much longer rant. But for now, I am just pondering it.


Pax said...


Grief isn't about the person who has passed away, as much as it is about their sudden absence in our lives... people face that empty spot and react in radically different ways... although I am not sure if that is exactly what you are posting about. It sounds like some politics, aganda's and bs are being tacked on to peoples grief.

Peace, and my condolences,

Peg said...

yes, actually I agree with you. But it is true, I was thinking of people who, rather than acknowledge the impact a particular person's loss has on them, use the occasion of death and grief to advance some kind of agenda.

Years ago, I ran into an acquaintance and told her about a friend in the pagan community who had been brutally murdered earlier that week. I mentioned some of us were calling people to tell them and she interrupted with "I wasn't called." She then said "I could probably pick her out of a picture." Then she started lecturing me on her ideas for a pagan burial ground where pagans could be buried according to their wishes. I was horrified. Later on she wrote to a community newsletter and started by saying "A friend stopped by to tell me about the death of (__)." Then she proceeded to rant about her ideas she had brought up to me, afetr saying something abotu how she "wished her well as she journeys to the Summerland" or some other sort of empty pagan claptrap.

So she not only lied about how she found out (I do not consider her a friend, nor did I "stop by" to tell her about what had happened), but felt justified in using this tragedy as a way to launch her agenda, which apparently she thought would be of great interest to the community.

I personally do like the idea of green burial and find it a significant topic for pagans, but there is an appaopriate time and place for such discussions.

More recently, I was struck by what I considered very self-centered and insensitive comments online regarding a friend who died recently. One person decided she needed to tell people how to grieve and what they should do to make themselves better equipped to face sudden death in the future. As if we had not already thought about this when other loved ones in this same community had passed in recent years.

Another, after describing how she never really "hung out" with the man who had died, proceeded to say how it "miffed" her to read that others wanted him to recover, when she thought he was "ready to go." She also claimed to "know" he had passed before she had the news and "felt peace". I did not understand why she would feel the need to make these self-serving comments about someone she claims not to have known well or befriended. It seemed like an attempt to show her own spiritual superiority.

If these are examples of selfish behavior in the face of death, then I guess my own angry response to it is a similarly selfish reaction. Hence my dilemma.

Anyway, thanks for your good wishes.