When family members die, people tend to ask how you and your family are coping. The assumption contained within the question being that families come together in times of grief, such as the death of someone related.
It’s a comforting thought if, perhaps, a little simplified.
It does seem as if we are hardwired to ‘hunker down’ in times of sadness, usually with close friends and family. By the same token, however, it also seems like we all handle grief in different ways.
Which brings us to the picture of the ‘unified’ family, utterly estranged from the other through differing ways of coming to terms with sad things (whether existentially or pragmatically, or both).
How can you connect with someone you love – how can you bring your way of seeing the world to bear with how they do – while at the same time come to terms with facts that are perhaps bigger than the bond a group of people can foster? It’s almost as if grief accentuates the divides that stand between those who are meant to be the most important.
There are narratives that we all subscribe too when shit goes down. Perhaps family units are guiltier of this than any one else. I began by pointing out how naive the assumption that families face grief together was. Perhaps it is just as naïve to assume the best people to be with when part of the family dies is the family itself.
Maybe it’s better to hang out with people you up until recently thought were just friends. Great people! But people you had, nonetheless, met through some past time that takes up a lot of your life.
It’s only then, through the catalyst of emotional break down, do you realize that these people are actually the best in your life. Suddenly you’re surrounded by people that care about you, that want you to be happier.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This kind of heart felt, anti-cynical writing isn’t my favourite. I much prefer to take the piss. But I’ve found myself touched and awed by the people I have unconsciously surrounded myself with. And I’ve been moved by their concern for me, as well as others.
This shouldn’t be taken as some anti-family rant…a call to break down ancient groups and bonds. Clearly family does and will play roles that are vitally important. My family, if a little shaken over the past four years, is comprised of a pretty cool bunch of people.
But maybe we shouldn’t fall into pre-conceived ideals and narratives. Maybe we would benefit from looking a little further afield for existential comforts. Which isn’t to say we can’t look to both groups to find truth.
But, maybe, the people that aren’t afraid to hear you voice your deepest fears, your most repressed of thoughts, to see you actively voice doubts about the world and yourself, aren’t who you would expect. Maybe it isn’t your mum, or even your ‘best friend’.
It's definitely surprised me. And I'm kinda humbled.