There's No One Right Way to Grieve
As part of their odious attack on the integrity, honesty and motivations of the survivors of the Parkland massacres, a lot of right wing creeps and James Woods types have been circulating images of the Parkland activists smiling in photos taken after or around the shooting as evidence that they’re being fundamentally dishonest.
On February 28th, 2018, Woods linked to a video of several of the survivors of the Parkland shooting laughing and smiling on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with the sarcastic caption, “Grief wears many faces.”
The implication was clear: these children are phonies. They’re dishonest. They profess to be distraught and broken-hearted over the eminently preventable mass murder of their classmates and yet here they are, smiling and laughing and acting as the world somehow contains more than just horror and death and pain and hopelessness.
They’re not laughing because they’re sociopaths. They’re not smiling because they’re crisis actors paid by George Soros and Black Lives Matter to fake being part of a massacre as a pretext to abolish the second amendment, and steal everybody’s gun as a prelude to instituting martial law.
No, people who’ve survived massacres and shooting sprees sometimes smile in the days and weeks and months and years afterwards because the human mind and the human psyche are almost unfathomably complex and complicated. They sometimes smile and laugh even though they’ve been through the worst kind of pain because one of the many miracles of this sick, sad, broken beautiful world is that people are wonderfully resilient.
We’re not doomed to live for eternity in our darkest and most despairing moments. We don’t need to let the worst thing that’s ever happened define us. If you’ve suffered the way these children have suffered, you don’t owe the James Woods of the world—who hate you because of the things you say and the things you believe and the way you’re trying to create life and meaning out of the death and darkness you’ve endured—a lifetime of frowning and performative sadness. You don’t owe them a goddamned thing.
You don’t have to tell them a goddamn thing, but Sarah Chadwick, one of the survivors, eloquently tweeted, “Yes we smile and laugh sometimes and yes we get put down for it, but what people don’t see is the panic attacks we have, or how every time someone drops something heavy we all freeze, you don’t see us sitting in the dirt at the memorials crying our eyes out. You don’t get the feeling we get in our stomachs every time we look at that building or hear his name. The number 17 isn’t different for you like it is for us now. You don’t understand so don’t tell us how we should be acting.”
This doesn’t just apply to the aftermath of massacres. People smile in photographs sometimes to convey genuine happiness and contentment but they’re just as likely to use that smile to conceal their true feelings, to put a literal happy face on a grim situation. Alternately, they smile because that’s what people are supposed to do in photographs: smile. It’s a matter of politeness oftentimes, if nothing else.
There is no right way to process grief. There’s no right way to process or deal with assault or abuse. Everybody is doing what they can to survive so if you see someone smiling or laughing in the aftermath of something awful and you’re tempted to judge them, don’t. You have no idea what they’re experiencing or what you would do in their circumstances so let empathy be your guide rather than the kind of stern, sour, myopic judgment practiced by Woods and his loathsome ilk.
You know what, motherfucker? Grief does wear many faces. You’re not qualified to judge any of them.
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