I have recently experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, in a public forum. Modern western literature and the media typically depicts only isolated individuals and families dealing with their own private grief in a public forum, yet these experiences are actually social. Who has heard from the media about the Bali bombings, the daily loss of life in parts of Africa as a result of the AIDS pandemic & the mass movement of environmental refugees across the globe? The media exposes the darkest times, the heaviest of memories and you who is grieving go back to work in an attempt to normalise your experience, because that is what is expected of you. This happens to us all, everyday around the world. So I question the social and political impact of grief on us as a society.
As humans we generally experience the following losses in our lives, "Physical “such as the loss of a loved one, the loss or use of a limb or body part and "Symbolic losses" Where there are changes in our Psychological or Social experiences, these can include a loss of self-worth, sense of peace from wartime exposure, loss of future direction and as a result can lead to loss of employment & financial security (Miller & Omarzu 1998: 6). In my personal experience of grief in the media, it is sadly, a fashionable topic in the daily newspaper, inappropriately managed, and scrutinised publicly, whether in your favour or not. So, I ask you, have you grieved?
The position often affirmed by western culture is that grief should be contained, At least in public (Walter 1999). Grief not contained can become political outrage translated into violence, riots and often death around the world. Yet, At the same time the general standpoint is that every person should be able to grieve naturally and that its expression may be appropriate and healing. Government and activist groups use disasters and public mourning as tools to capture public opinion around the world to in effect enable effective force and legislation change. An example of this being the hastening Gun law reforms in Australia following the tragedy of Port Arthur where 35 innocent people were murdered.
Grief can be disenfranchised. That is, when a loss cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported (Rando 1993: 498). As a society we have decided this, whom, what, when and how we grieve. We may not understand the relationship if it is not like our own ties or as individuals view it as socially insignificant. Either way it is viewed, grief in our society forms many contradictions when we are at our most vulnerable. At best, in today’s society we can offer therapeutic tools to understand the grief process, talk and listen, but we are all still grieving alone as a nation.