The “right” way to grieve…

First of all, if anyone has the audacity to question or judge your grieving process, give them a message from me:

“Take your fucking head out of your ass jerkwad, we’ll grieve however the hell we please!”

In other words, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Likewise there is no one way to grieve. Trust me, in my 46 yrs on this planet I’ve experienced a lot of loss, some more recent than others.
Each time my grieving process is different. My needs are different.
And each time, some “good intentioned” jacktard has questioned my process.
I’m not crying enough. I’m crying too much. I’m taking too long. I’m over it too quickly.

Bite me.

I see a lot of my friends struggling with their own process. Stop beating yourself up! Just let it happen in a way that is organic to you. (more on this later…)

Slightly related to this, last night I was asked “why are we having a fundraiser for 2 kids who’s father made 2.5 million dollars” in a conversation with someone, the counter argument being, “why not raise money for head injuries”

Totally valid question.

My answer, in a couple of 140 character tweets was as follows:

‘I think it’s just a knee jerk reaction by a shocked community that feels helpless…People feel the need to do “something”, want to help in some way. The auction started w/one driver (Graham) and snowballed. Some people are going to donate, some are going to buy, some of us won’t be able to do more than buy a sticker/wristband but selfishly we will all feel “better” for having done “something” which will appease our “guilt” for surviving. Make sense?”

Today I had time to think about it a little more on my commute, and I wish to expand on my answer.

Firstly, yes, he did win the Indy 500 this year, with a purse of 2.5 million dollars.
How much of that he actually got? We don’t know. Surely some went to Uncle Sam, some likely went to cover the costs of participating. (remember this was a one off team/driver… they pay to play in May) None of us are privy to his finances from this year or previous seasons, or how the monies are dolled out amongst agents, teams, family, etc… 2.5 million sounds like a lot of money. (hell, I’d certainly be set for life) but you’re talking about spreading that out to cover two infant sons from childhood into adulthood and a widow who suddenly finds herself alone and presumably jobless as well. With likely a lot of overhead to deal with, arrangements to be made, etc… etc…

But here’s the thing, what he made or didn’t make is neither here nor there.
When tragedy strikes, people want… no NEED to do something.

It didn’t start out as a mass fundraising project. It was an innocent gesture by one driver offering to auction off his helmet from that race, the proceeds going to the Wheldon family. Other people wanting to appease their own “survivor guilt” also offered up items. It has since snowballed from there. It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. But it’s happening, and now we as individuals make a choice on how or whether to participate.

Race fans by nature are memorabilia whores. So now, instead of handing over their hard earned dollars for a piece of history/swag from their favourite driver to some dude cleaning out his basement, the money is going to what many are considering a ‘good cause’

No one, not the auctionee’s, and certainly not the Wheldon family, “expects” people to donate, or to put themselves in any financial jeopardy over this.

Much the same way that everyone grieves in their own fashion (some are vocal, some are silent, some are jovial remembering happy times, some are inconsolably right pissed off at the world) everyone has the same right to make their own choices as far as what they want to “do”.

So now we’re back to “how do we grieve? participate? move forward?”

Don’t feel right donating to his family? Toss a couple bucks in his name to the Ahlziemer’s Association, a cause dear to his heart. Stop by your local trauma centre and make a donation or volunteer to help out. Hell, buy the homeless guy on the corner a coffee and toast to Dan on your way to work.
Or do nothing.
It’s all good and it’s ALL right.

Me? How am I grieving? I took a day off work and I walked. I walked a lot actually. Then I listened to a bunch of music that both saddened and strengthened me. Then I sat down at my keyboard and emptied my jumbled brain onto the pages of my blog to try to work through my grief. And I read, and read, …and read. Articles and editorials and emails and tweets. Some made me laugh, some made me angry, most made me cry. All were cathartic.

I don’t have two dimes to rub together, so the auction isn’t even an option for me. But I will certainly throw a couple of bucks together and make a donation of some kind to something.
I wear cause bands for Livestrong, Diabetes, Cara Charities, and the military on race weekends, so it’s a no brainer to me to toss some cash towards a Lionheart band in memory of Dan (which I understand are in the works)
That will be one of my own little ways to participate, and I will carry Dan with me all next season, and I will feel better somehow, and my guilt will be lessened.

Bottomline is this: Whenever and however you choose to participate or not, please don’t feel pressured to “say” or “do” or “write” the “right” thing… it will make you crazy.
And in my humble opinion, Dan wouldn’t want anyone stressing out over any of this.


10 responses to “The “right” way to grieve…

  1. I felt the need to make a prior apology on a post I made today, was just worried about offending the friends I’ve made over the last year of so via Twitter. I guess it’s just the way I’m made up. Glad to see folks that feel your way about these things.

    Folks definitely need to remember that IndyCar drivers don’t make the kind of money that top NASCAR drivers do and that no driver gets 100% of the announced purses. Dan’s family probably doesn’t have as much as people think they do…

  2. My wife and I were there in person, but I don’t feel “survivor guilt”. We will be donating the refunds from our paid tickets to a fund for Dan’s wife and kids. Why? Because we are part of the racing community. When tragedy happens, the community helps.

    (Just my perspective, your grieving may vary.)

    • I’m not saying that the “only” reason people are participating is because of guilt. I’m just saying that based on my own personal experience, consciously or subconsciously there is an underlying feeling of “why him/her” guilt when anyone dies in an untimely or unfair fashion, and sometimes that is one of the motivating factors that pushes people to feel the “need” to do something, whatever that may be.

      This isn’t about the why’s or why not, or what anyone is or isn’t doing. It’s just my way of saying that no matter your motivation for or against whatever means you choose to grieve/participate, it is the RIGHT choice for you.
      And in the end, that is all that matters.

  3. @whatimthinking I’ve had 2 personal losses in the past month and a half prior to Dan’s death: one close and one very, very close to me. So I’ve spent a lot of recent time on my own and time with others who are also grieving. I’d hope that it would be obvious that loss, and reaction to loss, is as individual and varied as snowflakes. But having seen the “looks” people toss around when a reaction is deemed inappropriate (particularly in the genteel south where I live), I realize that what you are saying really does need to be said. The last thing anyone needs when dealing with loss is to be judged for how he or she manages (or doesn’t manage) to push through it. What you’re probably looking at is a sleep-deprived individual who has to be reminded to occasionally eat something or to do any of the many activities that we would otherwise perform as a matter of course in normal life. The best thing anyone can do is just be there. Let the grieving person set the pace. In life, there will always come a day when the shoe is on the other foot. We’ll be the ones who want to be left to grieve in any way that helps us live through the pain. Whatever allows us to keep moving forward. Well said. And thank you.

  4. I think it is a lot like giving blood or a $10 donation to the Red Cross when a national tragedy happens. You have the need to do something, anything.
    You see pain and despair and you want to do something about it. As a community we are in pain over this loss, but we all can’t go give Susie and the kids a hug. So we do what we do. We give blood, we text a code to the Red Cross, or we get involved with an auction that started with the offer of a single helmet. Will my purchase a sticker or a wristband help Sebastian when he is alone at night thinking about his Daddy? No, but it will help with my grief, and maybe help a little boy realize that his father was much much loved. There must be some comfort in that. I hope.

  5. Thanks for the sensible words Meesh!
    SIncerely, Mr. Yettohavethingsallfiguredoutandgladsomeoneallowsspaceforittohappenorganically.

  6. Well said Meesh.

    I chose not to write any Op-Eds on the passing. I just felt there was no way to properly put my feelings into words. I was not buddies with Dan, but he was always a pleasure to interview.

    I guess I am a true race at heart, and would rather not think about death. When it happens, it happens.

  7. Pingback: the year the music died… |

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