The Grief Police

Sep 7 , 2019
By Kidist Yidnekachew

Grief, loss of a loved one, pain, anguish.

All are words used to describe the extent of the heartaches a person experiences. We all express our sorrows differently. Some of us scream and shout; some of us keep our sadness bottled up inside, and the rest of us go through denial and act indifferent. The specific kind of grief I want to talk about is the loss of a loved one.

I completely understand the emotional trauma one goes through when grieving for a loved one, as I myself have experienced it before. What I found intriguing is we as a society tend to empathise with those people who express their grief strongly. This is to mean screaming at the top of one’s lungs, calling the name of the deceased, beating one’s chest up, insisting on going to the grave with the deceased, going absolutely insane while grieving the loss of a loved one are what most people consider as real mourning. The rest of us who do not shed a tear or who are not vocal about our loss are not considered as grieving. We are simply considered the heartless family members, colleagues, spouses or grievers.

It is sad to hear people talk about these people behind their backs bad mouthing them, labeling them cold-blooded. “Look at her, she isn’t even shedding a tear” or “He doesn’t even look remotely sad. What kind of person is he?”

I wonder who made these people the grief police, like they were sent by the higher power to make sure the rules and regulations of grief have been enforced correctly? Last I checked, a burial ceremony is to comfort the families or anyone close to the deceased, not to judge other people’s acts. And for the most part, these people, “the grief execution committee”, are not even close to the deceased and came simply either out of proximity because they were neighbours, former colleagues or classmates, distant relatives or they are just edirtegnoch.

I have come across people who break into tears calling names of the deceased the minute they entered the room or lekso bet (the home of the mourners) and they don’t stop. They keep going and going until one of the family members accompanies them and turns the room into an emergency room. I sometimes think it is an act, and these people are putting on a show. You can even tell by the way they cry with their fake soft sobs and crocodile tears. We do not mourn to get attention or acceptance; we mourn to express our inner sadness and pain regardless of who is there. Why should we care what other people think of our mourning styles and label us as evil, cold or heartbroken?

Some of us like to grieve alone by ourselves and prefer to look strong in the presence of others. Some of us have made peace with the fact that the person is gone and nothing we do will ever bring them back. The rest of us feel better letting the pain out and expressing our sorrows openly and vigorously. But one should not be judged and be given labels for not being loud enough or for expressing her sorrow silently.

It has been 13 years since my mother passed away.  Recently, I heard that I was scrutinised for not sobbing loudly during my mother’s funeral. I was deemed strange for not shedding loud tears and for not screaming. But I remember crying my eyes out so many nights, hiding from my family. Whenever I heard footsteps and voices, I used to wipe my tears and stop crying. I remember beating myself up for not kissing my mom goodbye for the last time. I also remember blocking the memory of my mother for a long time as a defence mechanism, so I would not feel pain or guilt.

Most importantly, I remember the days I could not stop myself from crying, because I missed my mom and wish she was there. But not a lot of people know that about me, not even my family. And I know there are many people out there who mourn from the heart and who do all the crying, beating of their chest and every grief-related act unconsciously, because they are in misery. I do not judge their way of grieving, and I completely understand the emotional roller coaster they are going through. Likewise, I do not want to be judged for how I mourn and deal with grief. The only ones I have a problem with are fake mourners who put on a show.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 07,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1010]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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