Reminder: Grief is Not a Commodity You Should Hoard
Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people died in a tragic helicopter crash on Sunday. You may have seen something about it in the news or on your socials. An event like this brings out a range of responses in people. One of these is a bizarre reaction that I’ve decided to call “grief-shaming”.
Here’s an example of “grief shaming”. Someone writes in on our Facebook stream while we’re doing a segment updating the latest following this horrific accident. The message is something like “All you phonies claiming to be sad! You didn’t even KNOW any of these people”. Or, (this is verbatim) “YOU SPEND ALL THIS TIME CRYING ABOUT KOBE! WHAT ABOUT OUR SOLDIERS?!? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO DO A 15 MINUTE SET ON THE INNOCENT AMERICANS KILLED IN BAGHDAD!!!”
The implication is clear but bewildering: because we’re talking about THIS tragic loss we’re “wasting” all the grief that rightfully should go to others.
First of all, this assumes we’ve never talked about military casualties. We’ve been talking about it for 17 years. In fact, we’ve been accused of “highlighting the negative” when we’ve talked about the human cost of the War on Terror in the past.
Secondly, there is no scarcity issue when it comes to grief. You can grieve a person you don’t know and still have grief left over for later. It reminds me of some of the comments after 9/11. “So a couple thousand people YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW died. What about the millions that died because of (fill in other nightmare scenario here)”. What kind sense does that make?
Think about this for a second: People are being shamed for saying they feel bad about what happened to Kobe Bryant. As if being saddened by “a basketball player you didn’t even know” in any way drains the well of grief that you might otherwise have saved up for someone else (someone more worthy, I guess?) . When people are jarringly reminded of the fragility of human life it evokes emotions. When that reminder comes with a face and a name you feel like you know, those emotions might be stronger.
I felt sad when I heard the news. I was even sadder when I learned that Kobe’s 13 year old daughter also died, probably in his arms. It made me stop and think about my daughter, also 13, and what I would feel like if she and I were in a hopeless situation and only had a few moments to say goodbye to each other. That’s what made me really sad. And it made me want to see my daughter as soon as I could and tell her how much I love her.
What’s so shameful about that?