The less said about today and its terrible significance the better. I am in fact avoiding Facebook & Twitter. So why am I writing about it at all?
Because as I watch some people’s reactions it drives home the thing I’ve been frustrated about for decades and to which I have presently a very unpleasant front row seat.
My friend Beth coined the term “grief vulture”. I’ve also heard “grief vampire” and “grief whore”. The basic meaning is the same–there are people who derive a visceral emotional satisfaction from the intense emotions of the grieving.
I first encountered these people when I began reading about the Nazi Holocaust. I was eight years old and didn’t understand that was what was happening. Since I was eight it was well before the cultural overhaul of the Internet so I only encountered a few of these.
That’s the great thing about the Internet and Netflix and YouTube. The technology of this era has effectively been the equivalent of handing a casual recreational drug user the keys to an evidence lockup. No longer do folks have to content themselves with newspaper stories and library books.
I think pretty much everyone has a strong grief reaction. I suspect that grief is like any other heightened state and releases endorphins and other neurological substances. I think these things are meant to see us through the times of our own exquisite pain. But now it is possible to get a buzz from dwelling on te grievous circumstances of others…a buzz that doesn’t have the drawback of a truly grisly personal price. Plainly speaking, you can get a dose of all the feel good brain juice without having to lose anyone or anything important to you.
One of the most appalling places for grief vultures has historically been church. Prayer requests and prayer circles draw these folk. And I’ve been watching as those brethren swoop in on my loved ones. All summer long I’ve gotten to watch my relations’ processing of my brother-in-law’s suicide become a feeding frenzy for grief vultures. Their profession of concern seems to be a mask behind which their true selves provoke the reactions they need. It’s just so horrifying.
I can’t go into detail here, but this weekend I became the object of a grief vulture who contacted me privately, repeatedly, to hear the details of my grandma’s stroke and impending death. It has been like being emotionally mugged.
So I’m hiding out today, even avoiding my desk altogether and typing this on the iPad.