A Fundamental Failure of Love

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
I'm not one of those people who wants thousands of friends on Facebook. I use social media as a tool to build and maintain my personal relationships, and to keep track of my friends and family who are far away.

Which is why I was so surprised when I discovered that people who I considered friends - and some family members, too - were completely oblivious when I chose to post the news of my daughter's death. It's been two weeks since we got the terrible news, and there are a number of people from whom I haven't heard.

Now I realize that the world does not stop due to the tragedy of one family. People continue to go places, take pictures, enjoy their events. I want this to be the case, and keeping track of the normalcy of others is good for me.

But I do expect people who purport to care about me to take two seconds to acknowledge the worst time in my life in some small way, whether that's a condolence card, a private message, an e:Mail, a text, a post to my wall - something. And I'm sorry to say that there are people with whom I'm "friends" on Facebook who failed to do that, even though I know for a fact that they knew.

It's a fundamental failure of love, to know those we care for are suffering, and to choose to do nothing when we have the power to ease their pain with a sympathetic word or a small act of kindness.

I haven't quite decided what to do about this. I'm pretty emotionally fractured at this point and not really in a position to make decisions about my future relationships. But I will say that these people's silence has hurt me at a time when I really didn't need any more hurt on my plate.
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ETA: Since this posted, I've been getting texts, e:Mails, and PMs from people who are convinced I'm talking about them. I have to say that in similar circumstances, I, too, would assume I hadn't done "enough" and caused pain to someone I cared for. But that's not the case here. If you sent condolences - in whatever media - I saw them. And they all mattered to me, no matter how clumsily written, no matter if you didn't know what to say. The ones who hurt me are the ones who remained completely, utterly silent. If that wasn't you, you don't have anything to apologize for.

13 comments:

She-who-must-not-be-named said...

((((((((HUG)))))))))) I would say two things to comfort (1) though you posted about it, Facebook as a funny way of screening/filtering things sometimes so maybe, just maybe, they didn't see it? and (2) from personal experience, people's responses are often a reflection of how they feel about themselves - they discount their own importance in the lives of their friends because they don't see how their words or actions could be possibly be of value to the other party. What they don't realize is that it's actually the reverse, their words or actions MAKE them valuable to their friends and it's only the choices that THEY make that limit their friendships with others. I've been learning that slowly over the years from wonderful people like YOU and Stacey. <3

Eric said...

I sent an e-mail, which I hope you received. It was a clumsy and stupid e-mail, because I didn't know what to say. It was a personally-addressed e-mail because commenting on Facebook or even on the UCF forums seemed inappropriate to me somehow. I wasn't even sure if I should publicly respond to this post, even, but I was afraid my e-mail was lost or was so weak it didn't count for anything. (I'm not one for cards, and I can't explain why I don't write letters anymore, not that I ever wrote many even back in the day.)

I even considered sending this as an e-mail instead of leaving it here as a comment, but I don't know if that's the right thing to do, or a better thing, or a worse thing, or would the e-mail arrive.

I hope I'm not one of those whose relative silence caused offense. I don't know what one is supposed to say when somebody is confronted by an unspeakable tragedy, I'm not sure what one is supposed to do. Every choice seems insufficient and useless, and then there's the fear one hasn't done enough (and I probably haven't). Somehow saying one weak thing in an e-mail and nothing else seemed less-worse than saying nothing, but that may have been incorrect.

It was never my intent to cause more grief than you are already suffering.

Janiece said...

Eric, I got your e:mail. I got tons of notes, cards, e:mails, calls, texts, PMs on Facebook and notes on the forum.

And they all mattered to me, no matter how clumsily written, no matter if the person didn't know what to say.

The ones who hurt me are the ones who remained completely, utterly silent. That wasn't you, and I appreciated you reaching out.

Megan Broutian said...

Janiece, ever since I heard the news about your daughter, you're been in my thoughts, front and center, but I've been grappling with the memories of a death I had thought I'd dealt with, emotionally, long ago.

Everyone deals with grief differently; some people need to talk about it, some people retreat to silence. Similarly, some people look at Facebook as a communication medium, some think of it as too public of a display of emotion. It may or may not have anything to do with their relationship with you. Just give yourself and them some time.

Carol Elaine said...

Hugs and love, my friend.

It's a very difficult time that you're going through and I know how much not getting recognition of this difficult time from people you thought cared about you can hurt. But don't worry about them until you're stronger and better able to deal with they pain they've caused.

As Eric and Megan said, they may not know how to reach out and are afraid of potentially pouring salt in the wound. If someone has never lost someone close to them, they may not realize that even the smallest gesture means the world to someone who is grieving.

Janiece, love, concentrate on you and those who are able to give you the support that you and your family need. Perhaps once your grief isn't so fresh, you can talk to these friends and find out why you hadn't heard from them when you needed them most. At that time you may need to re-evaluate certain friendships, but don't worry about it now.

Megan said...

I think people suck, but I also think people feel frozen and unsure what to say. Afraid of saying something that might make others feel worse, they say nothing. At least that's what I tell myself when I start to wonder why people are silent.

Big hugs, my friend.

Phiala said...

Love and hugs to you.

Shawn Powers said...

Oh Janiece,

You may or may not be thinking of me, but you have every right to be, and I'm so sorry. It's true, I don't have words, and I feel like I should. I'm a self proclaimed man of faith, and yet I just find myself angry and questioning that very faith rather than clumsily offering love or hugs, or I don't even know what.

Please know you're loved, by me, by my family. I don't know the right way to handle such things I guess. It's a character flaw. I usually know all the answers, and here I just don't. The last thing I want to do is burden you with my inadequacies, and so I've been silently weeping for you.

Here, in a blog comment, it's far too little, and far too late. But please know I'm the crappy one, my family asks often how you are doing, and I've been relaying information to them, but not doing the same for you. My whole family loves you, please know that. *HUG*

anissa_roy said...

I had a reasonably intelligent comment with a hypothetical explanation for this behavior, but I think Google and/or Blogger ate it. I can expound later.

Just wanted you to know that you and yours are in my thoughts every day. I never met the Smart Daughter, but through your posts I felt like I knew her a tiny bit - and I'm grieving that I'll never know more. I hope that your love for her - which is so bright and clear, especially in the eulogy - helps sustain you through this.

Random Michelle K said...

I just want to second Megan here.

Despite having gone through an unexpected loss myself, I still find myself starting emails to you, and then going, "GOD I can't say THAT" and discarding, hoping that The Right Thing to Say will come to me.

But of course, there is no such things, and there are no words any of us can use to truly express our feelings.

I love you. That's really the only thing I can think to say that doesn't sound horrible and stupid and trite and dumb.

I love you.

Janiece said...

Michelle, "I love you" is always the right thing to say.

Steve Buchheit said...

Janiece, I'm sorry I didn't comment on your eulogy posts and only commented on your first post. In my family, deaths are very family oriented. But I hope you know we we're thinking of you the whole time and still are.

No parent should have to bury their child. I can't imagine the pain you and the Smart Man must be experiencing. And I have no other words of comfort except that the pain may not entirely go away, but it lessens with time and becomes tolerable as the struggle, guilt and conflict fade and leave the happy memories behind.

Janiece said...

Steve, I saw that, and assumed it was for us, at least in part. I appreciate your thoughts.