Performative Grief

Is… is that even a thing? I didn’t realize it right away, but this is a big part really of what prompted my rant yesterday as opposed to religion itself (that too, of course, but after thinking about it last night, I wanted to talk about this aspect of it, also.)

Whenever we have a tragedy, most of all a death in the community, there seems to be a hunger for people to connect themselves with that loss in some way. And I get it. But sometimes, it’s kinda weird.

People who never even exchanged a word with, or even followed the art of a community member who passed away, will jump to their page with comments like “Never met you, but Rest in Peace UwU” or that kind of tone —I exaggerate but you get my point. They jump to make art to get on that Twitter hashtag, even if they didn’t know about the person until they found out the person died, even if they didn’t know the friends of that person at all. They rush to buy the commemorative pin, to write something about it in a tweet or journal, and certainly I would say most of the time it’s people being genuinely being affected by a sudden, sometimes violent community death, or trying to comfort those who suffered the loss. So that’s not what I’m talking about.

But other times it’s… something else. Not most times, necessarily. It’s something else that I can’t put my finger on. I wish I could explain it… Maybe someone can explain it for me.

It’s like some people, almost for attention, want to jump up, hand stretched in the air, “Me too, me too!” when it comes to participating in this shared grief. What I’m saying isn’t coming out right… I wish I could express it better.

Whenever someone dies in the community, I am affected. I think we all are. So, I’m not trying to dismiss that. The first time an artist friend of mine died at a young age after a brief illness, I was tremendously affected, and we weren’t super close, just at that point between acquaintances and friends. And I still think about him.

I don’t know. As usual, I am rambling. But I see people pushing someone’s death into conversation in a way that feels like the underlying message is “I’m acting as though this affects me for attention even though I won’t remember this person and can’t tell you a single thing about them and will have forgotten they existed in two weeks” or “Look at me, I’m such a good person for mentioning this.”

I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ve ever written “I don’t know” so much in a single journal. Most of the time this stuff doesn’t come across as insincere to me, quite the contrary. This outpouring of love is a big part of why I love this community.

But if you’ve seen what I’m talking about I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven’t, you’ll rightly think I’m being a judgmental prick by nitpicking people’s reactions to a death (which is fair.)

I don’t think I am necessarily blameless, either. When Brandyn died, I made a little post on Twitter with the art I had done for him. There were several pieces. But he wasn’t my friend, and I didn’t grieve for him, I grieved for my friend Kiba, who lost someone he loved. So looking back, I do wonder. Was I, without realizing it, jumping on a bandwagon of performative grief by posting those images?

That little phrase again: “I don’t know.”

Then again, many times since I have gone through my gallery looking for those pieces. I am affected by someone I interacted with several times now being gone, yet always alive in my gallery. I still sometimes go through my gallery to see the drawings of Pandr. I’ll always regret not interacting more with him at cons. I still draw him sometimes, even after he passed. But he and I weren’t friends either. And I’m not going to pretend that we were. My thoughts were most often with Jimmy, who suffered that loss so deeply.

I guess it’s that pretense I often see —of a deep connection that never existed, when others do have a deep connection that is now a source of unbelievable pain to them— that pretense strikes me as disrespectful.

I suppose, if it wasn’t a personal loss to you, that is affecting you, I guess try to make it about the person who suffered that loss, and who is grieving. Comfort them —privately, if possible. Don’t make it about yourself, I guess? I think that’s what it comes down to.

Sorry I’m so rambly lately. People trying to show off how good of a person they are always rubs me the wrong way, especially if I see them lack compassion in other areas (I guess that’s my annoyance with public offers of prayer too.)

But, it’s not up to me to determine the sincerity of people, and really I’m just talking out of my ass, so don’t pay too much attention to me —and if you are grieving, I hope from the bottom of my heart that you find peace.