Everyone has an opinion these days. Hell, some of us make an entire career out of our opinions. Whether you feel it’s a good, bad or indifferent state of affairs our relationship with the opinions of others can be pretty fraught, particularly when it comes to subjects as emotionally charged as grief.
The media seems to have instilled in us that there’s a right way to grieve and a wrong way. Just look at two stories today – the woman who accidentally live-tweeted her own husband’s death and the girlfriend of Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker. In scenario A the comments section has a hard time believing the poor woman is actually grieving because she’s also continued tweeting. Ya know, because obviously the two things are mutually exclusive.
Exhibit B shows us a woman who apparently knows how to grieve. How can we tell? Well the Mail (yeah, sorry) has kindly highlighted how awful she looked as being the unmistakeable signifier of true grief. No makeup, messy hair, baggy jumper, tired jeans and bare feet in public? Someone give that girl a hug immediately!
Besides the obvious sexist undertones that they even mentioned the fact the poor 23-year old hadn’t bothered to make herself up when she left the house (grieving or not, makeup is not an essential for everyone) it’s startling how sympathy is evoked more by this image than by a woman seeking the comfort of strangers online. We all grieve differently – as individuals and cultures – so why the judgement?
The main bug bear of people on the Gawker article seems to centre around one of @ScanCouver‘s tweets from about six hours ago about how her number of followers had jumped since the story broke. The tweet came around seven hours after she first heard of her husband’s death. Social media brings together communities of like-minded people so it’s understandable that some people will flock to her account in order to empathise and offer their support. Sure, some will be there to gawk, others to troll but once their weeded out we should never underestimate the impact of the kindness of strangers.
There was a time when the media was supposed to report the facts and leave the opinions, assumptions, tasteless jokes and snide comments to the public – now they seem to second guess us and report it as part of the story. We’re looking at you, Daily Mail.
Where they fail there’s always someone willing to take up the mantel in the comment section. When did we get so mean and judgmental? When did our need to be right over-rule the right of people to do things in their own way? We can’t say for sure how we would react in situations like these but as avid Twitter users and normal human beings we’re pretty certain it would be a mix of hot mess and hibernating bear with some mild comfort tweeting.
The statement ‘leave us to grieve in peace’ has never been so apt.
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR