Let Them Grieve Privately

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 0 comments
Here's a very heartbreaking article from the Guardian. I totally agree that grief is a very private affair.

Joanna Moorhead of the Guardian wrote:

The Chinese authorities failed to shield from the media those families who are stricken by grief.

They were dazed and crazed in their grief: one woman ran headlong into the corridor, confused and wailing; another – who, we were told, had lost her only son, her daughter-in-law and her only grandson – could barely walk and was being half-carried by friends. The reporter's voiceover was accompanied by the howling and wailing of other relatives who had lost their loved ones on Flight MH370.

As the 10 O'Clock News beamed all this into my sitting room last night, there was only one thought in my mind: we shouldn't be seeing this. No reporter, no camera, no prying eyes, no public should have been allowed into the room through which the grieving relatives, who had just been told the Malaysian plane has definitely been lost with no survivors, had to walk. At the top of the piece, presenter Huw Edwards warned viewers that the report contained "some flash photography"; it would have been more appropriate for him to have warned that it contained some scenes that should never have been broadcast.

Grief is a private matter. If we choose to air it, it is one of the most powerful and moving emotions we have to share. So today, many of those same relatives we saw on the news last night have chosen to use their grief, some carrying banners that read "Mum, Dad, without you what will I do?", to march on the Malaysian embassy in Beijing; they are claiming that the Malaysian authorities have been distorting the facts of the airliner's disappearance.

But that is very different from the raw scenes of grief we saw paraded on the television last night. I don't blame the journalists – I'm a journalist myself, and I know what journalists are. We're takers: we take what we're given in the way of information and pictures and stories. But we're used to being managed in situations like the one that's unfolded in Beijing; we clamour for all the information we can get, but we know that some things aren't possible, that some individuals need protecting, that there is a time and a place for people in extreme situations to be kept away from us, and a moment when they can come forward and pass on, through us, the emotion they want others to witness and be aware of.

Those scenes last night, in a hotel corridor in Beijing, were not those moments. They were intensely, deeply private moments; the sort that, even in a 360 degree-connected, fully-wired, mobile camera-dominated world, are not made for any kind of sharing. They are not moments to record, or encroach on, or in any way savour (and putting them on the TV news is surely savouring of some kind). They are moments none of us would wish on anyone; and for those faced with them, they simply have to be endured, and survived, and worked through – in private.

The people who can most help in moments of extreme grief are relatives and friends. Their instinct, as well as to comfort, is to protect; another of the images last night was of a man hitting out at a TV camera with his bag; he looked very much like a relative trying to protect a grieving loved one. But beyond that group of supporters, people in extreme grief often have to rely on the humanity of a wider circle; and in Beijing yesterday, that wider circle most certainly included the Chinese authorities, who should have moved heaven and earth to protect those families from the media. They let them down, horribly, in their complete failure to do that.

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