Recently I’ve been introduced to a new term: grief shaming. Grief shaming happens when someone ridicules you for not grieving enough or the right way or the right thing. It’s been pretty prevalent recently.
If you grieve a service dog who was lost in the Paris attacks, you are shamed on the assumption that you don’t care about the people who died.
If you grieve the loss of life in Paris you are shamed because it is assumed that you don’t care about the people who lost their lives in Lebanon the week before.
If you care about what happens to Syrian refugees then it is assumed that you don’t care about homeless vets or struggling seniors right here in our own country.
Folks, we don’t live in a binary world. If I chose A it doesn’t mean that I also cannot choose B. I just might not be able to express both at the same time.
There are legitimate questions to be asked about how we frame the events of this world and how race, religion and culture plays parts in those decisions. There are legitimate questions to be asked about national priorities when more people vote for an American idol winner than the people who will represent them when decisions are made that affect them, their homes and their families.
But those questions don’t get any easier by using shame to ask them. Shame doesn’t open us up for dialogue and discussion. Shame shuts us down. Shame stops the conversation.
So if your friend changes her Facebook picture to show support for Paris, instead of shaming her ask her if she’s heard about the other places that are also suffering after public attacks. If your friend shred the tribute to the slain service dog instead of shaming him, understand that many of us have powerful connections with dogs and we feel the loss of anyone’s dog. Oddly enough, we can care about both dogs and people (although some dogs make it easier than some people.)
The truth is, I think most of us are muddling along the best way we know how right now. Some of us are reverting to old coping mechanisms of fear and anxiety. Some of us are struggling with what our faith demands of us in such a time. Some are just angry. Some are just sad. Some are just afraid.
Some of us need to find the courage of our convictions. Some of us need the courage to step out of old and familiar and limiting comfort zones. All of us need the wisdom to bring thought, reflection, compassion and resolve to the knotty problems of the day.
No one needs to be shamed for grief.
If you’re struggling with grief this holiday season I’m offering a free webinar next Tuesday, November 24 @ 11 am EST on “When the Holidays Are Tough Days.”
I know the week of Thanksgiving can be crazy in its own right, so the webinar will be recorded and everyone who registers will get a link for the playback.
You can learn more or register here