I've tried to write on this topic for a while, but found it difficult. If it wasn't for the media we wouldn't have raised over £20k for Alder Hey & Lauren wouldn't be getting her name forever remembered there. If it wasn't for social media I wouldn't have been able to write and create my own version of the therapy I needed.
But the media also causes harm. Perceptions in the media of grief and how people should react creates an image in the mind of the unaffected public. They see the dramatisation of grief and death and think that is how it should always be.
It seems simplistic to say "Don't believe everything you see on the TV" but we have these sayings for a reason. We all tend to give to much credence to what we watch on the TV or read in the papers. Unless we know something about the subject, then we wonder how the media can get away with such inaccuracies.
Not all media portrayals of the grieving are off base, Ricky Gervais' recent "Afterlife" was pretty much spot on, especially the first series. I was convinced he must have first hand knowledge, but apparently he just tried to imagine how he'd feel if his partner died, and wrote it from that perspective.
Other shows tend to go for the obvious stereotype, which can be problematic. A recent Coronation Street storyline was the centre of discussion for a group of bereaved mums who questioned their own reaction as it was different to how it was portrayed on screen. They felt that they hadn't acted correctly as that was not how Corrie showed it. It would sound ridiculous if it wasn't true. Likewise in an episode of House MD that I recently watched, the mother of a dead child was shown as uncaring as she was not an angry alcoholic like the father. It was eventually found she was in denial because it would be impossible to believe that she could carry on functioning after the death of her child.
It may seem inconsequential, how death and more importantly how we deal with death, is portrayed on TV. But like it or not we get a huge amount of our information from the media, and that includes social cues on how to behave. If people who have first hand experience can be swayed in their views, then there is little hope for those with no personal experience.
For me the effect was that I found myself waiting for the breakdown. From what I'd seen on the TV or read in stories I should be rocking in a chair drinking gin (to be fair there was a fair bit of drinking) I should not have been able to function, indeed if I could cope on some level them something must be wrong with me, in my role as Lauren's mum.
Most people won't react in the dramatic way often shown in the media, they won't have very public breakdowns. They will start foundations, raise money for charity, petition for laws to be changed, because the life changing event they have experienced will focus their energy. Some will even write a blog!
Coping, or indeed not coping, is not a portrayal of how much we care or how much we loved the person we have lost. Grief can be hard enough without feeling the need to carry with it guilt for how we manage it.
Believing that grief is unsurmountable can have a detrimental effect on those that are going through it and those people that help them on the way, The reality is there are people everywhere dealing with unimaginable hurt. We walk past them on the street, in the shops, possibly chastise them for being too slow when they are just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the next. Pain and suffering is, unfortunately, and everyday human condition. When we elevate it from the ordinary we make it much harder for everyone to deal with.
“In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth.”