Is There a Limit on Mourning?
Three months ago, a child died in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A memorial was placed near the park, and a woman went there on Thursday and started dismantling it, saying that the neighbourhood had mourned “enough.” It was her right to do so, she told the person who confronted her, because she also lived in the neighbourhood. Police came to speak to the woman, and the person who confronted her left, leaving the situation in the hands of law enforcement.
The story is obviously sad in and of itself, and who knows how that act affected that family’s mourning process. Or his friends.
But it also spoke to this larger question, one that many people who have grappled with loss have confronted at some point in their process: who gets to determine what is “enough” grieving time?
Humans love to quantify things, which is why the Pirahã fascinate us: this culture that quantifies nothing. Whereas we have an obsession with numbers: price tags, speed limits, time, paid leave. It doesn’t surprise me that we try to extend it to grief. Though examining how ridiculous it is when applying a time limit to grief, you see how ridiculous it is to apply numbers to anything. Why is our maternity leave 12 weeks? Who ever thought that you could really straighten out your life and your heart in 12 weeks? And for others, 12 weeks isn’t necessary at all. The speed limit near the park was deemed safe until a car collided with Sammy Eckstein as he chased his ball. Now some people want it lower. Other people drive as if it’s higher. The truth seems to be different for each individual.
I would caution anyone in determining anyone else’s mourning time; not just when it comes to cutting down memorials, but stepping in for someone’s “own good” and telling them they need to move along. You never know when your actions are like a fingernail, scratching off a scab, bringing forth fresh blood.