Hell Is Other People

So we seem to mostly be dealing with the chaos that life has handed us these past couple of months. I think we’re actually over the hump. I can look at a picture of Bowie without crying; that’s something at least.

And in trying to make some sense out of it all, to accept all that has happened, I keep playing various scenarios over in my mind. Particularly ones with other people. That is, remembering who stepped up and who got in the way. None of the “getting in the way” folks did so intentionally, I don’t think, but there’s a real social cluelessness that seems amplified when it comes to death. I don’t know if it’s simply that I am/was more sensitive to it, or if it’s because people are just uncomfortable dealing with grief in general.

But some of the things people said or did with regards to our situation are just mind-boggling.

The worst had to be the questions. Bowie was a neighbourhood fixture. And when he was gone, people noticed. Some people noticed and said nothing, aware that the answer to what they were thinking was none of their business, and using their brains to conclude that if the lady with two dogs is now seen with only one dog, that it might not be the best time to ask her where he had gone.

Others shoved their nosy faces in mine and demanded to know where he was. On a handful of occasion, they were people I didn’t even know. So I’m already heartbroken and grieving, but I’m forced to stand there on the street and tell someone I don’t even know, yet again, that he had passed away.

And in case there was ever any doubt, let it go down on the record, that if the answer to your nosy busybody question is “He passed way,” there is ONE correct response – just one – and it involved the words “I’M SORRY”. To hear that. For your loss. Whatever. If you know me well, a hug or a touch on the arm will reinforce your sincerity. But at no point EVER, is the correct response to demand to know the details.

I am happy that people loved my dog. He was a loveable guy. But if he’s not here by my side, then there’s only a few scenarios that could have happened. Have some fucking compassion already.

Only marginally less worse were the people who demanded to know and then started to cry when I told them he was dead. Again, glad that you thought so highly of him, and usually these folks had some expression of sympathy, but don’t then make it my job to stand on a street corner and comfort you (likely a stranger) when I’m the one suffering. Seriously.

The worst has been a gossipy little woman from down the hall. She did the standard demand to know, demand the details schtick. And I was offended, but didn’t say anything, and managed to escape. Then a few days ago, she cornered me in the laundry room. I even tried the whole “I’d rather not talk about it, it’s still very upsetting,” thing. Nothing worked. When I mentioned that the vet had suspected spleen cancer, she had the gall (or stupidity – or both) to suggest that the spleen cancer was caused by something we had fed him.

Ex-fucking-cuse ME? Did you just insinuate that I killed my dog? I’m sure that’s not what she meant. But that’s how it came across. I glared at her and said, “No, spleen cancer isn’t caused by diet,” as she followed me out into the hallway (!!). I don’t know if that’s true or not, but for fuck sake, lady. Get a goddamned clue.

Even reasonably intelligent people don’t seem to have a clue about dealing with other people’s grief appropriately, though. I wrote a piece on Save Your Fork one night about cooking big batches of soup because I was so stressed. It talked a lot about the grief Greg and I were going through. It got tweeted to the TasteTO twitter account (it’s set up automatically and I forgot to turn it off), and the next day, someone from the food community who I don’t particularly like used it in a round-up of news bits. While I am normally all about linking to articles and sharing information, this is not a post that I would have linked to without the author’s permission. Even if it was considered a lovely piece of writing, it was just too raw and personal for someone else to use for their own gain – it wasn’t “news”, it was a personal essay in which I poured out my heart. I didn’t care if people went and read it, I just had an issue with someone else “using” it.

I sent the person a message, asking them to remove the link. No reply. Then another person linked to it. So I posted a message on Twitter asking that the link to my piece be removed. No reply, no action. So the next day, I changed the text of the post so that when people followed the links, they hit a diatribe about how rude it was to use such a personal piece of writing without permission.

The kicker of course, is that not only was permission not sought, neither person ever offered any kind of condolences. And after the fact, neither had the compassion, respect or common sense to apologize. So incredibly tacky.

Like I said, we’re getting through it, but it hasn’t been easy. Even genuine and caring expressions of condolence have been hard to deal with. As a heathen atheist, cards with the “Rainbow Bridge” story or prayer have been particularly hard to take. I dearly hope that I’m wrong and heaven really does exist, but I don’t really think that Bowie is bouncing through a field of posies, chasing bunnies and waiting for me to croak so we can be together. He’s in a box, on the shelf and when I die, we’ll go somewhere (likely a nice beach in Nova Scotia) together. The end.

Clearly, I’m not past the anger stage of the grieving process yet.