I’ve long since learned, and try to live by a simple rule. When in pain, grief, fear, or frailty, there are only a couple of rules for being a good human. I call it the Dumping Circles Rule. When someone has died, for example, there is an order of who gets to dump sadness on whom. Because of current events, I’ll use George’s passing as the example here.
It starts in the middle, with Family. Family should always be allowed to dump out, and should never be dumped on. If you are not family, you do not get to say, “I can’t handle this,” or, “This is just too hard,” or, “It’s not just about you,” to the family. Ever. End of story. The only things that should go “in” are compassion, support, respect, and honor.
The next circle is Close Friends. This isn’t about people who know someone a little bit. This is the circle of people who know all of the deceased’s fears, illness, weaknesses, and passions. Friends are the people you trust so much that you’d die for them. Friends are the kick in the ass you need when you aren’t looking hard enough for a new job. Family gets to dump on Friends. Friends do not get to dump on Family. It’s the responsibility of the Friends to comfort the family if they can, and bring support from others even closer to the Family.
The next section is for less close Friends, and Friends of the Family. These are people who knew the deceased, but not everything about them. This circle knew their schedules, and their birthdays. They knew what the deceased liked on their pizza, and saw them on a regular basis. These people may have known the deceased a long time, or a little. These people don’t know about daily struggles, or successes of the day-to-day. This circles gets to dump out to the next level, and help in their own ways.
The last section is for everyone else. If you knew each other by name, or you attended some of the same parties or restaurants, this is your circle. This circle lacks knowledge of hobbies, diet, birth dates, religious preferences, and/or passions. This is not a bad place to be. It’s just a guideline for who to cry with, or who to support.
Now, none of this negates your experience. Whether you had a short but powerful bond, or you knew the deceased your whole life, you can’t compare pain. I’m not saying you should minimize your emotions, or make them less. What I’m saying is:
Know your audience.
If you think you might be dumping in, then stop. Bring the conversation back to them, and maintain your composure if you can. If you can’t handle it, greet the person in the inner circle, wish them your best, and then find an appropriate shoulder to soak with tears.
To George’s family: If you feel like I’m dumping in, tell me. This blog isn’t for dumping in. It’s for sharing my experiences as honestly and plainly as possible. It is not in any way meant to affect you negatively. I cannot fathom the depth of your loss, the memories now changed, and the pain of losing a lifetime partner and friend. I am always at your service, and send my love, respect, and prayers with you. But I can’t leave this experience off. Terminally Intelligent has become one of my most powerful coping mechanisms. I can only hope you understand.