August 2, 2016

The Politicization of Grief In History And The Public Expression of It On Social Media

An excerpt from, 'The Cue For Passion: Grief and Its Political Uses' By Gail Holst-Warhaft. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2000. Pg. 2:
"The passion of grief is volatile. The rites of mourning, whether generated from within or imposed from above, are a society's means of performing and containing it. If there is a reason not to contain grief---if rage serves some purpose, becomes political outrage---then it may be translated into violence. Revolutions and riots often begin with a funeral. In our time we have witnessed such eruptions at the funerals of IRA supporters, Intifada fighters, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Kings, governments, and political activists have all understood the danger and political potential of extreme grief and have sought to control or channel it. The manipulation and management of grief through mourning rituals are both the essence of tragedy and a theatrical exercise."
An excerpt from, "The Space Between Mourning and Grief" By Claire Wilmot, The Atlantic, June 8, 2016:
Anyone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one understands that most people are profoundly uncomfortable addressing death in physical interactions with the bereaved, which is where social media can come in. In response to the online mourning of David Bowie, The Atlantic’s Megan Garber argued that social media has allowed people to express their sadness and support the bereaved—a welcome return to an earlier era where social norms to help people cope with death were well established. A growing number of researchers agree—the media psychologist Jocelyn DeGroot posits that social networks can help people make sense of death, and maintain a relationship with the deceased. However, there’s an important distinction between mourning, a behavior, and grief, an internal emotional experience. Social media may have opened space for public mourning, but etiquette for ensuring that outpouring supports the bereaved (or at the very least doesn’t make their situation more painful) has yet to develop.

Certainly, there are people who welcome social media as an effective medium for working through their grief—but nothing could be further from my own experience. The problem with trying to definitively evaluate tools for grief management is that the feeling itself is so poorly understood. Even Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, the champion of grief’s “five stages,” realized on her deathbed that it was futile to try and break up or categorize grief into distinct components. Perhaps more so than any other emotional response, grief reacts with individual personalities in alchemical ways.