s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: An emotion observed

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An emotion observed

I've been thinking a lot about grief lately, because of some recent events. (Nothing that close to home, though — don't worry about me.)

I'm a very shy, introverted person and when under any sort of stress, I become even more shy and introverted. This means that when I'm grieving, attention — even in the form of sympathy — is really the last thing I want. (The last time I had any major loss to mourn, I was grateful that almost no one knew about it, so I could be left to my pain in peace.)

I realize that not everyone is like this, and that many people find such behavior confusing. Melyngoch once confessed that she often has a hard time "reading" me when really stressed. (Apparently "sad quiet," "happy quiet," "angry quiet," "upset quiet," "hurt quiet," and "embarrassed quiet" all look the same — who knew?)

How do you grieve?


At July 23, 2008 11:19 PM, Blogger MB said...

Stoically. I'm an old New Englander. But I think it may not be the best way. Does it deny other good-hearted people the gift of being able to "mourn with those who mourn"? Does it reduce connectedness, a thing I value in other areas of my life? Or do stoics just have different ways of connecting?

At July 23, 2008 11:35 PM, Blogger Whistler said...

I'm terrible at mourning over people I know who have died - I've had very little practice with it. I went to my first funeral this year, but mostly as a "mourn with those who mourn" kind of thing (I didn't know the deceased very well). With another acquaintance and a professor of mine passing this month, I've been wrestling with how best to mourn their deaths - I like to remember the good experiences I had with them, especially the jokes. I like to think about if I would be disappointed if I suddenly died as well (that doesn't sound much like mourning though...). And if disappointment in life counts as mourning, I've done my share of sulking and complaining.

At July 24, 2008 1:13 AM, Blogger Confuzzled said...

From your description, I grieve pretty much the same way you do. Very quietly.

At July 24, 2008 12:11 PM, Blogger Sonya said...

I'm an outgoing person, so it's not surprising that I wouldn't classify myself as a 'quiet mourner'. I don't find keeling helpful :) but I'm trying to figure out the best way to explain it.

It's more like I want everyone to somehow simultaneously treat me normally, and indicate in some magical way that I am in grief.

I had a best friend die during college, and I wanted to scream to everyone that they knew that she was my best friend (we were semi-famous on campus) and acknowledge that I should be in the most pain.

I didn't of course.

I did realize that besides time, what I need to do to move through grief is to talk about it. That's how I process everything - saying the words that make up the shapes of my thoughts.

That first one (in college) was the hardest. I didn't talk so much about it (because everyone was busy trying not to bring it up). Now, I recognize it, and try - as painful as it is - to say the words I'm thinking out loud. It speeds up the process which is otherwise simply about time passing.

It's much better than going numb, which seems to be what happens when I stay quiet.

So how can you tell what kind of support to give someone? Perhaps we need a lexicon that includes words like 'verbal griever'.

At July 24, 2008 5:18 PM, Blogger Katya said...

MB - Interesting question. Over time, I do tend to grieve with a few close friends and family members, so I think it's more a matter of pouring out my grief into "fewer buckets," so to speak.

Of course, many of the things I've had to grieve have been very personal things which weren't generally known, so the default was for people to not know I had experienced a loss.

At July 24, 2008 8:23 PM, Blogger Trueblat said...

The only way you would recognize grief in my family is the overabundent amount of constructive work that would get done. When my mom died, I was teaching in the classroom the very next day, my sister completed the next week's worth of homework in a couple of days. We just become intensly focused on our responsibilities.

At August 02, 2008 11:52 AM, Blogger Ginsberg said...

I also avoid telling people about grieving stuff until at least a couple days have past. I guess I feel like I want to get a little bit of a handle on things or because, like a stereotypical man, I'm afraid of looking weak. (But I doubt this, because I often end up crying once I do start to talk to people about whatever it is.) I don't think I'm quite as hard to read, though, I usually wear things on my face whether I want to or not. Good question, Katya.

At August 06, 2008 7:43 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Sonya - You sound a lot like Melyngoch, my best friend, so I'm not surprised that you'd need to find an extroverted way to grieve. It's interesting to hear you describe it, though, because it's not something I understand from personal experience.

At August 10, 2008 3:52 PM, Blogger Portia said...

If what I'm feeling couldn't quite count as "grief," but more as "anger, disappointment, or frustration," I'll probably yell at inanimate objects and run away crying and generally make a fool of myself, should anyone be nearby.

If it is true grief, I might act sad and despondent, or more shocked, than anything, depending on how expected it was. If I feel like I should be grieving, but really am not inside, I might put on some false bravado and act like it's not a big deal at all.

For those few things which I would share with no one or next to no one, they tend to boil up inside of me and come out in strange ways. I think the things that hurt me the most and that are the hardest for me to deal with aren't such things as bereavement--more like injustices over which I feel I have no control.


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