Katey’s Pick: Disenfranchised Grief
Disenfranchised grief is grief that is not openly acknowledged, socially accepted, or publicly mourned. For example, let’s say a married couple gets a divorce and then one of the partners dies. The ex-spouse does not feel like they can participate in the mourning of that person because society does not accept that a person could grieve someone that they divorced. So then that grief isn’t expressed, and it turns into other kinds of problems.
Learning about disenfranchised grief has been especially helpful as Katey has been talking to friends and loved ones who are mourning all kinds of losses in this moment. Because there is so much suffering going on, lots of people feel like they’re not allowed to be sad about the disruptions to their lives, which are sometimes really major losses like being furloughed. Just because there’s a lot of suffering going on in the world doesn’t mean that your disappointments and your fears aren’t real.
We are all being impacted in this moment. We have all lost some things, and it’s normal and healthy to grieve. Our society isn’t that great at holding people’s grief in general, so we’re definitely not set up to hold this collective grief that we’re going through. So, if you’re feeling like your losses aren’t that big of a deal, we invite you to spend some time honoring those losses for what they are and for how real they are to you. That step is essential to moving through this time.
Ashley’s Pick: Captain Awkward, an online advice column
Captain Awkward is an internet advice column started by Jennifer Peepas in 2011 that has grown to a huge readership (some readers even organize local in-person gatherings!) Jennifer Peepas is a Chicago-based writer, filmmaker, and educator, and as Captain Awkward, she is a truly excellent advice-giver. What Ashley loves about Captain Awkard’s advice is that it feels like it’s for real, complex people. A lot of it focuses on concepts that are easy to actually apply in real life, so for instance if someone writes in asking a question about a difficult relationship, Captain Awkward will respond with advice about boundary-setting, complete with scripts for what to say and how to navigate a tough conversation about boundaries.
She’s been knocking it out of the park lately during the pandemic, with posts featuring advice to letter-writers asking for help with issues like how to be a good housemate during quarantine, how to have good teacher-student boundaries now that classrooms are virtual and we’re all constantly online, and how to set boundaries and say no to pressure to ignore social distancing and safety guidelines. Ashley’s absolute favorite piece during this time has been one called “How do I set goals if I don’t want anything?” In her advice to this letter-writer, who’s asking for help setting long term career goals during this crisis, her answer is so complex and layered.
“…if you’re feeling disconnected and useless and unsure of what your purpose should be right now, you’re not alone, and it’s possibly because a lot of the messages you were given about how to be safe and good and happy only worked if you cultivated a habit of tuning out the suffering of people who made your comfort possible and mentally reframed a history of institutional and systemic failures into individual inadequacies. If this is so, you didn’t do it all by yourself, your family who wanted you to succeed, your schooling, your workplace, and your media all taught you that this was the right way to be and were very ready and willing to help you maintain that “tuning out” habit, and any time you turned your attention toward the project of correcting injustice in the world or thinking about systems, chances are someone quickly stepped in to tell you that you were overreacting and wouldn’t you be more comfortable over here, buying things and honing yourself into the perfect fit for the right career? Then when you ran into trouble, everybody told you to look within yourself for the answers and work on yourself, so you did, but here you still are, because it turns out that “inside the letter writer’s self” isn’t the only place that problems live and because the pacts that promised a certain amount of success and security in return for perfecting the perfect economic unit self are breaking down much faster and more obviously than usual and breaking down for groups of people who had previously marked themselves “safe” from the whims of politics in a way that is new and stressful for us. We lucky ones who are able to work from home are in a place that we cannot goal-set and self-improve our way out of, and the people who are dying in meat plants are not cautionary tales of insufficient self-actualization who just need some therapy and some goals. If goals must be set, what if we behaved as if our fates were connected to theirs? They are connected, but what if we actually behaved as if that were true? What would we have to change? What would we have to do?”