to not be overly sympathetic to grieving friend

(436 Posts)
znaika Sun 12-Jan-14 21:34:04

I know that everyone feels grief in different ways and that some people feel genuine upset at the death of their pets etc, however, AIBUnreasonbly cuntish to feel infuriated by a colleague who keeps banging on about what a tough year 2013 was, becasue she lost her grandmother.
She was not raised by her, she's in her 40s - her grandmother was in her 90s, she had a month's compassionate leave, and while I understand she may miss her, it's really not that tragic is it? to lose an extremely elderly relative.

horsetowater Fri 17-Jan-14 18:56:34

Going back to Sarah's post - I also don't think you can 'rank' loss.

My mother lost 3 sons and her husband. I lost 3 brothers and my father. Who suffers more? Of couse she does - but I suffer because my dcs have lost the vast majority of their extended family (the cousins live with their Mums - dbs were separated). I suffer because I have no family backup - if something goes wrong there is literally no-one to turn to and this will continue through my adult life now. No advice from brothers, no sharing, no talk about the old days. No money loaned and repaid, no birthday parties, no joint holidays, no cousins for the dcs.

My mother is 86 and she went through the war in fairly extreme circumstances. She has seen far worse than any of us here and has survived through it. Resilience is her middle name.

In real terms, I am suffering far more than she is, been off kilter for a year or two, coping with a prospect of a future with little or no extended family. She still has her routine, her health is good, she's looking after herself while I'm overeating and faffing about, lost confidence, trying to deal with the aftermath of dbs leaving children and intestate which is complicated.

But I absolutely feel a duty to look after her and put my own needs second even though mine may be far greater / my reaction to the losses has been far worse than hers.

Ironically she doesn't want mollycoddling or looking after and sends anyone packing that thinks they know what's best for her so I can't win. But it does get hard when everyone around me shows huge concern for her and absolutely none for me because I am 'just' the sister / daughter.

Adeleh Fri 17-Jan-14 17:00:18

So sorry for your loss, Love thanks
Your post very moving.

LoveAndDeath Fri 17-Jan-14 16:43:58

The thing is, znaika's colleague has a job. And in the world of work their has to be fairness to everyone. So there must be "norms"
When my granny died, I got a few days off work. It took more than a few days to get over her loss but elderly people died, people are expected to work around it. When my Dad died, I got 10 days off work, when my daughter died, I went back to work four months later when my maternity leave ended. I was only just able. You can't give one person a few days off when their granny dies and give their colleague a month. Who is to say who misses their granny more and who is suffering more. So their have to be norms and rules.

I was not "over" my daughter's death after four months, who would be? I will never be over my daughter's death. But at some point, I had to go back to work if I wanted to continue to work at all. I had to decide if I could do the job and carry on. I take two days off a year relating to my daughter, her birthday and the anniversary of her death. Those two days come out of my annual leave.

And actually yes, from my perspective, of course I can't tell someone else how they should feel after the death of their beloved grandmother and wouldn't presume to do so but if they were phoning me six months later looking for time relating to their granny's death, after they had taken a paid month off around the time of her death, damn right I would be thinking that they needed to get some perspective. Old people die. It's the natural order of things. Yes, get upset. Yes, remember your granny. But don't let it impact on your work. That's not "ranking" grief, it's just common sense.

And of course we can and should rank grief. Not in a hard-and-fast way because some grannies are closer to their grandchildren than other grannies, some parents die younger and more unexpectedly than others, some people regard pets as being part of the family. But if you don't rank it in some way, you get the situation that everlong and I have both experienced where a stupid person compared the loss of our children to the loss of a pet ( in my case it was the stupid person's dog!)

messalina Thu 16-Jan-14 23:23:47

Am sure thread has moved on by now but I cannot believe people were calling a widow a bitch several pages ago. I can understand her anger. She lost her husband at a tragically young age. Losing a grandparent in their 90s is just not the same as losing a husband in one's thirties.

messalina Thu 16-Jan-14 23:14:31

2013 was a tough year for the children of Syria. I know grief is relative and I too was very sad when my grandparents died but to take a month's leave for the death of a relative in their 90s seems very unusual.

Belize Thu 16-Jan-14 23:05:45

Sarah sad thanks.

Absolutely humbling post as have been everlong's and ithaka's and of course to everyone who has had such an awful experience the like of which none of us should ever have to go through.

Not that it's down to me but I hope this thread finishes on these last few shared experiences as there really isn't anything anyone can add IMHO.

ithaka Thu 16-Jan-14 22:15:45

Sarah I am so sorry for your losses and everyone else on this thread who has lost a loved one. It can be so cruel and random, it is hard to comprehend. I would not wish what I have been through on anyone, really it is better not to understand the pain of a bereaved parent - who would want to know what that feels like?

My greatest wish is that I never have to go though it again and I wish the same for all of us.

everlong Thu 16-Jan-14 21:12:34

No no don't worry Sarah.. just sad for you having lost so much but glad you have your son..thank you for your kind words about my son also flowers

SarahAndFuckTheResolutions Thu 16-Jan-14 21:06:59

Everlong, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry, and I'm so sorry about your son, it's an unimaginable loss.

Thank you everyone, I'm glad I managed to make some sense of what I meant.

They do indeed make perfect sense. A brilliant post.

anakin40 Thu 16-Jan-14 20:44:59

It does strike me that people bleed it for all its worth. As an adult, we expect our parents and grandparents to die before us. As difficult and as painful as that is, it is not like losing a child. Life shouldn't stop while you fall apart and indulge yourself in grief. Cry until after the funeral, pick yourself up and get on with it. Get back to work!

everlong Thu 16-Jan-14 20:42:04

Sarah your post made me cry. I'm so sorry for your losses.
Thank you taking the time to express your thoughts, they make sense.

WhenWhyWhere Thu 16-Jan-14 20:37:26

Sarah. What an eloquent and heartfelt post. thanks

PortofinoRevisited Thu 16-Jan-14 20:20:19

Sarah - that is a wonderful and emotional post. Chibi, I hate to say this but I think Sarah did say it all and maybe you should think about that.

curiousuze Thu 16-Jan-14 20:04:10

Sarah what an incredible, dignified post.

Thrown into harsh relief by Chibi's passive aggressive tantrum.

OP YANBU.

workhouse Thu 16-Jan-14 19:06:36

Sarah - surely your post must be the last word on this subject, it was very moving. So sorry for your losses.

chibi Thu 16-Jan-14 18:22:58

which funnily enough, is what many other posters have also said. hey ho.

chibi Thu 16-Jan-14 18:21:40

i wrote and deleted a long post, because who will read it- i have apparently insisted that a worm being squashed is more tragic than the death of a child, that the death of a 643256 year old person is tge worst and most tragic death, that all deaths and all grief is exactly the same, and that people are not only right to make these equivalencies, they should tell bereaved people.

ffs.

i have only ever said that someone's feelings are none of anyone else's business to dictate, no one should pronounce on anyone's grief, and if someone's work habits are cause for concern, you should follow the HR guidance which exists expressly for this purpose

Crowler Thu 16-Jan-14 17:50:05

Sarah - beautifully written post. thanks

sisterofmercy Thu 16-Jan-14 17:30:58

She might be stuck in one of the stages of grief, the grief may have brought up earlier losses or abandonment or she may be depressed. These are quite reasonable in that it is not unheard of and it is possible to be very sympathetic.

However, if your workplace is suffering as a result YANU to look at your capability procedures and see whether she is now triggering a capability process. You could always ring Acas and talk it through with them if you need to make some decisions about moving on with this in the fairest possible way. Occupational health could well suggest something to help if your workplace is big enough to have an occ health provider.

Adeleh Thu 16-Jan-14 17:21:32

stubbed toe in oncology ward is excellent analogy, Sinister.

Adeleh Thu 16-Jan-14 17:20:26

I'm so sorry for your losses, Sarah thanks.
Your post is spot on and crystal clear btw.

SarahAndFuckTheResolutions Thu 16-Jan-14 16:06:25

From what the OP has said she is this persons manager, or at least is in some capacity responsible for taking the next steps in the employers policy for time off for this reason after this amount of time.

OP gave this woman the month off work when the grandmother died and says the woman isn't following procedure and she is the one now having to deal with that.

It's not ranking this woman's grief to think that months later she should either be back at work properly or correctly taking the leave allowed her if need be.

It's this in-betweenness that has the OP wondering what is going on and what to do about it.

If the worst grief someone feels is the worst grief the have felt up to that point then yes, some people may (and do) compare losing a pet to losing a person, may compare a close relative someone saw daily with a distant one they have met maybe once or twice.

And they may feel perfectly valid in doing so. But I know someone who was 'comforted' by a friend who liked her relationship break up with my friend holding her baby and watching her die in her arms. She kept being told the break-up was as bad as a bereavement, and to her maybe it was. But you can bet the first time she is bereaved she will realise that it wasn't the same at all.

Everlong has had her son's suicide likened to the death of a horse. I've lost a pet, I know it hurts to lose an animal you love, I've cried for days when various dogs died and still miss them but comparing the lose of a pet to the loss of a child is like comparing a paper cut to having your arm amputated. My losing my dogs has been nothing like Everlong losing her son, it's not on the same scale at all. Not even close.

If you call that ranking grief, then yes, and people do it all the time, even to themselves, but there's nothing wrong with that.

I lost a baby to stillbirth, a baby to prematurity and now have a four year old son. We thought we would never recover from losing our first son before he was born and felt that nothing could be worse. But holding our daughter and watching her die was worse. And god forbid if we lose our son now or in the future, that loss would kill me. It's unimaginable. I actually don't want anything to be worse than the pain we've already been through because I can tell you now, losing DS is the only thing that will be worse.

I think we can be compassionate about anybody's loss but there will come a point where someone still grieving over a pet or distant relative will be compared to someone grieving a child, parent or partner. I still sympathise with people who are grieving but I'm not going to pretend that break-ups and losing pets are worse than losing children or suggest that losing a grandparent to old age is more tragic than losing a child to a terrible accident or illness.

I said before that I was devastated when my Granddad died, and it took months to feel back to 'normal', but just days to get back into my work routine even though it was hard. And I know my Granddad would be the first one to encourage that because we had spoken about his death before it happened. He wasn't sick or anything, but in his own words, he was old and that was life, old people die and he didn't want me to be upset when the time came. He had lived his life and was accepting of the fact that he knew he was reaching the end of it.

And that's a view many people seem to take as they get older, they have lived a long time, they don't want their family to be suffering after they have gone, they have had a good life.

There is comfort in that that you cannot take when a person's life ends at a much younger age and there's nothing wrong with saying so. Nobody has expected this woman to mourn her grandmother in days, but this is months later with it still affecting her daily life to a degree that many people find unusual.

I do have the comfort of knowing my Grandfather died peacefully in his 80's but there is no comfort at all in knowing my son never took a breath and my daughter died at two hours old. And that does make the grief I feel for them considerably worse.

normalishdude Thu 16-Jan-14 15:45:36

Doesn't seem like a good reason to hate someone.

Crowler Thu 16-Jan-14 15:37:18

I don't know if there are any Gwyneth Patrow haters on this thread but her insistence that her life has been marred by tragedy/the death of her father in every single interview is one of the many reasons I hate her. She needed a year off to cope.

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