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It’s not hard to be kind when people grieve

DECEMBER 27 — Oh, Malaysians. When people should be rightly making noise about the mysterious land ownership nonsense with Felda, what is local Twitter making noise about? A candlelight vigil.

The candlelight vigil is such a big deal apparently that the usual beard police are issuing edicts and being more holier-than-thou than usual.

You know, I miss the simpler days when, if someone was grieving, the default reaction was to say, “I’m sorry to hear that” followed by awkward pats or handholding.

But then this is the Internet age. Not too long ago, you wouldn’t know if your neighbour liked listening to Paul Anka or Megadeth. These days you’re probably more likely spot a picture of said neighbour at a music concert and not even have to ask.

Then there’s also the “what about” crowd. Who, will always make any cause or grievance about them. “OMG, why are you crying about Whitney Houston when thousands of cows are being slaughtered to make burgers? Why aren’t you crying for them?!”

This notion that showing you care about one cause or are feeling sad about one incident makes you unable to care about anything else at the same time/other times is ridiculous.

Do we really believe the general human being has the emotional range of a toothpick? Don’t get me started on the “What about Palestine” crowd in Malaysia.

“The Paris attacks? Tragic.” “What about Palestine!”

“It’s really sad what just happened in Vegas.” “What about Palestine!”

“I hear the Lowyat Plaza Sushi King closed down.” “What about Palestine!”

You do not get people to pay attention to the causes you care about by shaming them or making out your cause to be far more important than anyone else’s.

It’s also pretty bad timing to get someone who is currently sad about one thing to try and get them to care about something else by yelling at them.

Still, it’s not surprising that many people are ill-equipped to deal with people grieving. I had a whole bunch of angry Christians unfollow me on Twitter because I said that saying “I’ll pray for you” wasn’t helpful.

Why did I say that? Because I think that it’s a rather lazy thing to say and, to be honest, self-aggrandising. When I’ve lost someone or am hurting, I don’t really want to hear “I’ll pray for you.”

Rather, I’d rather hear “I’m here for you”. “Call me when you need to talk.” “Do you need anything right now?” Or, if you can’t say anything better than “I’ll pray for you” then a hug, a handhold or “I’m so sorry” is still far, far better than “I asked the invisible dude up there to do stuff for you because I can’t be arsed to.”

It sounds crude and mean, but that’s the sad truth of it. Because it’s easy to say “I’ll pray for you” but harder to be up at 3am talking to a grieving widow or letting your bereaved friend stay a few days at your house. Words are cheap, actions are harder.

And if all you have to say are terrible things when people are grieving, whether it’s for loved ones, celebrities or pets then the best thing for you to do? Shut up. That’s probably the kindest outcome for everyone.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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