Grief Junkies

I wrote a post a little while ago about witnessing a minor car accident on my way to work and referred to “grief junkies” and how angry they make me. I also promised to explain the concept of grief junkies more fully and now seems as good a time as any.

In the context of this accident, the grief junkie was a person from another car who felt compelled to get out and comfort the driver of one of the cars involved in the accident. Now, the main reason this person pissed me off is they left their car in the middle of traffic in peak hour to comfort someone they didn’t fucking know who hadn’t even been injured. What it comes down to is they wanted to be part of the trauma. They’re a grief junkie.

The perversity of grief junkies bubbles up in all sorts of circumstances. Probably the creepiest and least meaningful is public outpourings of grief at the death of a public figure. The most prominent and also the worst example of this was the death of Princess Di. It isn’t that I wanted her dead, more that in the grand scheme of things she was fucking meaningless. A spoilt, privileged individual, some things didn’t go her way, she did use some of her public profile for noble causes, she died an untimely death, boo hoo. End of fucking story.

It did not warrant the disgusting outpourings and international chest beatings that ensued. I think that description is totally justified. Disgusting. Thousands of people die every day before their time. Most of them in conditions of horrific deprivation and pain. That someone who lived a life of luxury unimaginable to most died in a car crash is a little unfortunate but it’s no fucking tragedy. Until the real tragedies of the world are addressed I’m unwilling to waste my emotions in situations like this.

I think Di may have been the first large scale grief junkie frenzy of recent times but there have been plenty more. Certain circles in the US indulged quite a bit when JFK junior crashed his plane. In Australia (and to a lesser extent worldwide) their was quite a bit of grief junkie posturing over the recent death of Steve Irwin. It’s fine to remember people, recognise their contributions and even honour them where appropriate. But when you don’t actually know them, acting like your life has been touched and expressing your deep personal anguish is just perverse.

It happens on a smaller scale in the media with personal tragedies too. When someone is killed in an accident or is murdered, the media loves playing up the tragedy angle – particularly if the victim is a small child or the parent of a small child. I can’t imagine anything worse than the death of my own child but when it’s someone else’s child it’s their personal grief, not an opportunity for the public grief junkies to get their jollies. I hate the obsession with putting us on a first-name basis with the victims – it’s always the tragedy of baby X or poor little Y. I don’t know these people and I don’t want to intrude on their lives.

And in case anyone thinks the media is acting in the public interest in these cases, here a little tip about the media: They. Don’t. Fucking. Care. Their single concern is selling advertising. They are pimping out individual grief in the name of ratings and dollars. Indulging in grief junkie mentality is simply playing into their hands and being complicit in their sick, manipulative games.

I get really pissed off when it happens to someone close to me.  A few years ago there was an incident that brought home to me how useless this outpouring of grief junkie emotion is to someone suffering genuine grief.  I’d been in a new job for about six months and was getting on particularly well with one guy in my team.  We were getting to the point of being quite good friends when his wife of less than a year was killed in an accident.

He was very popular in the workplace so when he came back after taking some time off people were all over him.  It was really creepy to see an almost constant procession of people coming up to him and going on at great length about how sorry they were and how they were “there for him” if he needed them.  We sat in the same cubicle pod and I hadn’t seen 90% of these people say two words to him in the previous six months so I don’t know why they thought they meant so much to him.

The thing was, I felt like they were putting me in impossible position.  They descended the instant he arrived so I hadn’t had a chance to talk to him before a swarm of grief junkies had vomited their deeply felt condolences all over him.  So then I don’t know what to say – I feel like I can’t say anything without coming across as empty as the ghoulish grief junkies that seem intent on sucking the tragedy right out of him.  But I can’t say nothing.  So I’m sitting there with my brain imploding trying to think of what to do and eventually I tell him exactly what I’m thinking. 

Essentially, I said that I knew nothing I could say or do would possibly make him feel any better but I feel like I can’t sit there and say nothing.  At the same time I can see people virtually smothering him with their concern and I don’t want to make that situation any worse.  So I’m here for whatever you need but I’m not in your face if you don’t need to talk to anyone.  He said he appreciated it and he particularly appreciated the fact I was giving him space instead of trying to force some sort of response out of him. 

Hmmm, this got a lot more personal than I intended when I started.  I really fucking hate grief junkies.

17 Comments

Filed under General Angriness

17 responses to “Grief Junkies

  1. It must be human nature, everyone likes/wants to see a train wreck. Physically or emotionally. I think “Mo Fos” just need to get a life and mind their own damn business. Save the world by saving your own family and children.

  2. grief junkie. Sounds a bit co-dependent to me, emotionally that is. The media behave like cheap crack whores when it comes to tragedy. Hm. Right now, I’m wondering if I should even submit this comment, wouldn’t want cheap crack whores to come out wrong. Then again, I like South Park. And the expression is from South Park. I think they added Thai in between. Or maybe it’s Cartman’s mom who made the cover of Crack Whore Magazine. By now, I probably offended everyone. Oh well, shit happens.

  3. I like how this man thinks… I hate this ‘greif junkies’ as well.
    They think they’re doing a world of justice by comforting someone, almost making themselves feel good over someone else misfortunes.
    They then think that they are kind, caring human beings.
    Fuck ’em

  4. You’re forgetting the Kylie Breast Cancer Saga.

    Don’t get me started on how much of a piss off that was!

    I mean someone actually stopped their car and cried when they heard this? FFS1

  5. I especially hate it when experiencing personal grief someone comes up to me and says: ‘You need a hug!”

    I want to say “I need you to keep your hands off of me!!!!”

    But I just say: ‘I’m ok’ or ‘Thanks’ Now isn’t THAT disgusting.

    Quite frankly Range, I like the Crack Whore statement, but I’m a perv.😀

  6. Ha! I live in Virginia, so the grief junkies here fixate on Dale Earnhart. As I’ve said many times: if a person consciously engages in a very risky activity in exchange for millions of dollars, and dies while engaging in that activity (see Steve Irwin) it is in no way tragic. More like “inevitable”. I am sorry for the people who love those icons, but it means nothing at all to us as a people.

  7. I went through the cubicle thing also. The woman who sits next to me had a miscarriage a year ago, which is a very awkward kind of death – nobody actually knew the embryo, but they know it’s causing the mother pain to have lost it. Since my wife and I had been through the same thing a few months earlier, I did the same thing you did – waited until the weepers left and then a day later quietly told her that I had experienced a similar loss (always say similar, not “the same thing”) and that I was very sorry for her pain and that I hoped she would seek me out if she felt the need. That was it.

    I think a lot of people smother because they’ve been raised to “do something”. They worry that they’ll look like unfeeling cretins if they don’t say something, and instead of being understated and brief, they ramble on and on out of discomfort.

    Ugh. Social situations are minefields.

  8. Salamaat,
    related to grief junkies is how people elevate the dead (AFTER) their death. The praises heaped on them, the eulogies, the poetry, etc. I always wonder if those same people cared about the dead person before they died; and if they did, why didn’t they tell them those beautiful things when it counted?

    it’s all just annoying.

  9. Your blog made me laugh out loud and took the edge off what always has the potential to be a very cranky day. I am currently one of those people who suddenly receives the unwarranted love of individuals who previously hated me (when they find out I am ill). It’s creepy. And, well, fleeting.

  10. Mr Angry – another real lie, everyday blog that is fearless in expression. Yes that whole Lady Di thing was unbelievable. What about children dying because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – that is something for the whole country/ world to cry about. Diana’s family can grieve for her – of-course but polluting the world with cut flowers was not necessary.

    And to Maliha’s point – why not invest all teh emotion and love and energy on loved ones right next to you – and tell them they mean the world to you – instead of crying over someone you mever knew. Same with other celebrity deaths -and people crying over their unlived life.

    So anyway – I am still livid about mass acts of inhumanity and the lack of human quality and my patience is a bit raw today about that.

    Mr Angry – wishing you a lovely weekend, devoid of all grief junkies!🙂

    Nazli

  11. I thought everyone would hate me for writing this, I didn’t realise how universal the feeling was.

    marrngtn: wise words, take care of your own life first

    Clark: I’m assuming that means you agree🙂

    Range: I’ve always liked crackwhore as an insult

    dotcom: I agree, fuck ’em

    Maryam: Yeah, she’s not even dead

    Sandra: Ahhhh, the inappropriate grabbing. Yes, time to hand out the “back the fuck off” business cards

    extrapolator: yep, other people’s inappropriateness make it really hard to work out what’s actually appropriate

    maliha: Oh yeah, waiting until someone’s dead to say good things, worse still when they don’t actually believe it.

    Margaret: I’m glad I helped, at least you’re strong enough to know these people are just creepy

    Dr Nazli: I hope you are having a lovely weekend too – hopefully free of all toxic personalities

  12. Some of these people just need to be slapped… give em something to cry about.

  13. Pingback: Modern Blog Digest - Grief Junkies

  14. michelle: slapping sounds like a good idea

  15. pernickitywitch

    I completely agree! In the uk at the mo, we are suffering another public outpouring of grief due as some lad has been stabbed. Whilst I agree, yes, it’s a tragedy – for the family – the rest of the people should just butt out. What good are online books of condolence going to do? If they didn’t know them and it didn’t impact their life in anyway, why bother writing trite rubbish like “i neva new u c u in heaven” etc, seemingly all written by illerate 12 year olds in any event! I detest outpourings of public grief, and when I go, if it’s in a spectacular pressworthy fashion, I am going to request that the ****ers leave my family alone!!

  16. What creeps me out most about grief junkies is that I think they don’t really care. It’s more that some massive public outpouring about ONE thing lets them gloss over the thousands of horrors visited on the world every day.

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