This week, in the midst of national grieving, I happened to be editing a new zine by Dr. Faith… about grief. When I sent back the edits, I asked if she had any thoughts to share for folks coping with the tragedy in Orlando. She sent along the thoughts on Intimacy in Times of Fear she’d posted on her own blog, and suggested we blog an excerpt from her zine: The Griever’s Bill of Rights. Here it is:
“June Cerza Kolf created a Bill of Rights for the Bereaved, published in her book How Can I Help?. Her bill of rights, with my slight alterations and suggestions are as follows:
Grievers Bill of Rights
1) Do not make me do anything I do not wish to do.
Unless you are in literal danger, you have the right to not have someone’s will forced upon you. Even if it is for your own good. Even if they are dead right and have all the best intentions. At least not in those first days and weeks when you are absolutely shattered. Keep breathing in and out. It can wait.
2) Let me cry.
Fuck, yes. Cry. Be angry. Be numb. Be hysterical as all fuck. Whatever you are feeling is what you are feeling. Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others. But get whatever you need to get out OUT.
3) Allow me to talk about the loss.
Kolf’s original said “the deceased.” But I’m opening this up to any grief experience. You get to talk about it. If you don’t have people who can be with you in that process, find a good counselor or join a support group. Find closure. Don’t hold in your story. Telling our story helps us find meaning and helps us heal.
4) Do not force me to make quick decisions.
If decisions need to be made quickly, pick someone you trust to be your point person. Everything that isn’t pressing can fucking wait. You don’t have to make decisions when you are reeling. In fact, making BIG decisions right after a huge loss often leads to regret and damaging fall-out in the end.
5) Let me act strange sometimes.
You may be fine for long periods of time and then something may trigger you. You may not even know what. But you may weird out. You’re allowed. You’re allowed to act strange. You are allowed to not even know why. With time you will start to recognize these triggers and be prepared for their eventuality.
6) Let me see that you are grieving, too.
It can be very healing to share your grief, whether with someone who is hurting along with you or for your pain. Human connection is vital.
7) When I am angry, do not discount it.
Anger is a secondary emotion. It’s coming from a place of pain and makes sense. You’re allowed anger as part of your experience. It’s a healthy part of the process and can be extraordinarily healing if you attend to it.
8) Do not speak to me in platitudes.
This goes back to what to say/what not to say. Platitudes are far worse than silence. They are a tiny Snoopy band-aid on an enormous wound. They don’t help, they don’t heal.
9) Listen to me, please!
You have the right to be heard. Not just listened to enough to respond to, but deeply heard in your experience. If you aren’t getting that from the people around you, ask for it. Or find it in a more formal support experience (therapy, self-help group, etc.)
10) Forgive me my trespasses, my rudeness, and my thoughtlessness.
Ok. Don’t intentionally be a dick because you can get away with it. But you do have leeway in this regard. You are not responsible for the care and feelings of others. You need to try to not actively be awful, but you get space to be spaced. Keep breathing. Apologize if you do or say something un-fabulous. But don’t beat yourself up for being in the muck if that’s where you are.”
In case you haven’t discovered her work yet, Dr. Faith G. Harper is one of our most prolific authors whose book hasn’t even come out yet. Her forthcoming book Unfuck Your Brain will be available in fall 2017; meanwhile, her constantly growing collection of zines combine science, compassion, and a lot of wonderfully hilarious swearing to tackle topics from Anger and Anxiety to healthy Relationshipping. The Grief zine comes out as soon as it’s back from the photocopier.