(originally posted 13 May 2012)
No, it’s not the face of someone whose jaw has been wired shut. It’s the furrowed brow, the eyes full of falsified sadness, the cocked head and often hand-on-the-shoulder of someone who is, actively, vampiring your grief. They will say “How are you?” and “How are you holding up?” while they do it. These questions will almost never come when the two of you are alone. They want to show that they, too, care. That they, too, are hurting. That they, too, can get emotion out of you in the same way that the deceased has seemed to…or so they assume.
They are too self-centered to realize that, maybe, this particular moment, you weren’t having your soul ripped to shreds by pervasive grief. That, maybe, this one moment, you had the liberated feeling of wondering what you wanted for dinner and weren’t sinking to the depths of your own despair with the rock of your own sadness tied inexorably to your feet. Nope, for the 3 minutes a day immediately following the death of their friendquaintance, they decided to come to you, who knew the deceased better, and show you that they, too, care. That they, too, are hurting. And they are bound and determined to do this by vomiting their shallow emotions all over you.
They may finish this off with a hug. A long, long, HARD hug, during which they will pat your shoulders, rub you, and generally touch you more than would ever make you comfortable even if you were about to make out. This is where you are supposed to cry, to break down into them and, if you can muster it, make sure you are facing their audience while you’re doing it. This will show everyone else how close the two of you are, and how empathetic they are. Apparently, rolling your eyes at anyone watching during this process and mouthing the words “help me” is frowned upon. I recommend doing that.
By far the best response for a grief vampire, a death-face abuser, is an unrepentantly cheery smile and an “I’m doing/holding up GREAT! How are YOU??? How’s the promotion/new job/herpes/kid?” Turn it on them. They want it to be about them, sure, but in this moment small talk will render them helpless.
Remember, you’re going to be dealing with this, and thinking about the deceased, for years, if not every day for the rest of your life. They will go back to their daily lives after the funeral/memorial and, after a month, the dead will only enter their mind when they see you. Make it awkward.
Are you a grief vampire? Does this describe you? There’s a cure.
Those close to the deceased, like, really close, are thinking about this almost every waking moment. Not in the “happy memories” way. In the visceral, dealing with logistics, planning the worst party ever way. They’re not reminiscing. They’re busy, and they’re annoyed, and the deceased are in their conscious thoughts constantly. If they’re not actively talking about the deceased to you, DON’T FUCKING BRING IT UP. Trust me. Everyone knows they’re dead. If they’re not talking about it, give them a damned break and either help with the worst party ever or walk away. Because, in grieving as with everything else in life… it’s not about you.