Terrible Person/Better Person

OK. I’ve started to see some of the sadly inevitable smug pushback on various things related to 2016 and the horrorshow it has been for so many people out there, so let me break down what not to say as people express their grief. I like to call this game Terrible Person/Better Person. Here goes:

Terrible Person: “Oh sure, everyone was sad about David Bowie, but what about Person X? Huh?”
vs.
Better Person: “I’m sorry that losing Bowie hurt so much; I felt the same way when Person X died. What made Bowie so special to you?”

Terrible Person: “Oh sure, everyone’s upset about George Michael, but nobody cared about an earthquake that just killed 1500 people in Country X! Talk about privilege!”
vs.
Better Person: “I know a lot of people are still reeling about George Michael’s death, but if you want to to channel some of that grief into action that will do some good and might make you feel a little better about the world after the shitshow that was 2016, here are some charities that are helping in the wake of the terrible earthquake in Country X.”

Terrible Person: “People are getting so upset about a bunch of celebrities dying, but they didn’t even know these people!”
vs.
Better Person: “It really seems like a lot of people lost their artistic/personal heroes this year. That’s rough, and honestly I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the families of those people to mourn a loved one they share with the world.”

Terrible Person: “Well you know Celebrity X did terrible things when they were younger, and therefore you are a terrible person and condone all the things they did by liking them or expressing any feelings of loss regarding their passing, right?”
vs.
Better Person: “So Celebrity X did some terrible things when they was younger, yes, and it’s important to remember the whole person. That said, someone who was problematic, even harmful, can have had a positive impact on your life, and it’s OK to grieve that.”
(Thanks to Matt McFarland for this one.)

Terrible Person: “You should be glad for all you have! I’ve had X, Y, and Z horrible things happen to me this year, but I’m not bitching!”
vs.
Better Person: “I didn’t realize this year had been so hard for you. I’ve had a pretty rough one myself – want to talk about it?”

Terrible Person: “You know 2016 is just a year, right? A period of time? It doesn’t have motives and it can’t kill anyone. Stop acting like it’s a hitman or something, that’s just stupid.”
vs.
Better Person: “I know there have been rough years before, but it seriously seems like we’ve had a bigger than average run of deaths, tragedies, and disasters in this one. We’d better come together so we make sure 2017 isn’t more of the same.”

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2 responses

  1. Great post. I’ve often seen these kinds of things and thought, “you cannot guilt people into feeling grief differently, and you’re not a more moral person for trying.”

    December 27, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    • Exactly. As my mom used to say – suffering isn’t a competition, there’s no gold medal for being in the most pain.

      December 28, 2016 at 6:46 am

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