Different Forms Of Grief

The plan was that I was not going to post anything today. There was no need. I thought I would not post until Monday, simply because I’ve already exhausted what I can say on how I feel about the loss of Dan Wheldon. No one is ready to discuss anything else at this point. So instead of repeating and rehashing what hundreds of others have already said, I was going to respectfully lay low. But after an exchange between readers in the comments section from Wednesday’s post, I reluctantly felt the need to respond.

A reader was compelled to voice his/her opinion that it may be time to move forward. Then after a response from another reader, suddenly they felt comfortable enough to try to explain what I was really thinking.

Just so that there is no interpreting what many "think" I mean – let me be clear: I said on Monday that different people handle death in different ways. Many feel the need to grieve publicly. Personally, I’m not comfortable with that, but that’s me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or the way I was brought up or both or what. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – it’s just the way I am.

If some continue to grieve publicly several days after the fact – that’s fine. That’s how you deal with it. However, readers should not be attacked here or anywhere else simply because they do not grieve as long as others. Consequently, no one should be reprimanded for taking too long to grieve. We deal with things differently. Disagreements are fine, but words that were never said should not be turned and used against someone simply because they grieve shorter than others.

This hasn’t just happened here. I’ve seen the same confrontations on other blog sites and on Twitter. Is it really necessary to verbally confront someone because they want to move forward? Just because someone types to the world how much they are hurting, does that mean they care much more than those that prefer to internalize such emotions? I can sympathize with “Nomex” because I’m not a very outwardly emotional person, but it doesn’t mean that I care any less than those that tend to wear their emotions on their sleeve.

Is this really a time for IndyCar fans to fight amongst themselves? With what happened last weekend and so many non-fans now looking to end our sport, it seems trite for fans to be fighting over who hasn’t grieved enough. Does it really matter?

For the record – I, too, am leaning towards the school of thought that we will soon need to move on. Just keep in mind – we are all still very sad, regardless of how much or how little we show it

My only real points of contention that I will tackle on Monday, are the irresponsible journalists out there and the relentless attacks against Randy Bernard. As Kevin Lee asked so well last night on Trackside – do these people have no heart? Kevin, I think it is apparent that they don’t.

I hope everyone will do something fun and entertaining this weekend to forget everything for a while. Then please watch the Versus telecast of Dan Wheldon’s Memorial Service in Indianapolis Sunday at 4:00 Eastern time. After Sunday, I think everyone will be ready to turn the page. We won’t forget about Dan, but I think by then it will be time to respond to some of the ramifications of this past week.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “Different Forms Of Grief”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Regarding Randy Bernard and the series in general getting hammered by non-fans and the main stream media over Dan Wheldon’s untimely death…
    It is unfortunate, but we now live in a nation/world where there are many individuals looking for someone to blame for everything (which explains why there is one lawyer for every 256 people in the USA). Likewise we must also endure a media group that are journalists in name only, who have no intention of simply reporting on anything, preferring rather to editorialize and sensationalize any and everything in the news (whether they have any knowledge or experience with the subject matter or not). I don’t think that there is any question that incredible advances have been made in making this sport supremely safer than it ever was and that this is and will continue to be a primary mission of this league. Do I think that driving in packs of open wheel cars 2-3 wide at 220+ mph on a 1.50 mile oval is dangerous… Yes.. Should something be done to reduce speed somewhat… Yes… (there also needs to be more R&D into creating anti-sail technology to spoil the tendancy of these cars to become airborne when part or all of front and or rear wings have been damaged) …
    When it comes right down to it, most of those persons who are quick to heartlessly point the blame finger at a single individual over Dan’s death, really have little knowledge of this sport and are not at all qualified to pass judgement on anyone, or anything related to it…

  2. Thank you George for publicly being so open with your thoughts. I always appreciate a voice that speaks from reason and calm in turbulent times.

    I managed some laughs or two on Tuesday night with some friends (who are regulars on my Indy 500 trip), but made a point of not discussing the accident and trying to just regain some normalcy.

    I continue to be surprised how much more deeply this one has affected me than previous Indycar deaths, so getting back to normal is taking longer than I may have guessed.

    Much work for Indycar to do and the sport will need every fan’s support more than ever.

  3. Robert Brown Says:

    You said it all in the title of your previous entry. There are no words left to say right now. So many public responses to the tragedy are filled with intense emotions that have yet to be personally dealt with.

  4. Looks like you and Meesh are having a “great minds” moment. In case you hadn’t seen: http://meeshbeer.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/the-right-way-to-grieve%e2%80%a6/

  5. George, I’m glad you and Meesh have posted similar sentiments. I’m a farm kid so I was raised to grieve quickly at the beginning, isolate that grief because there was work to be done, then move on and finish when the time was there. My family never sheltered me from the reality of mortality.

    Monday night I was chastised via DMs for not grieving after I had posted a couple fun photos and comments when I went to bingo with some friends. This person refused to believe that I could return to the normalcy of my life so quickly.

    Death is a part of life. Everyone handles it differently. Instead of breaking down I prefer to be strong and someone my friends can lean on when they are struggling. I was that way Sunday night when I took my friends to IMS and I’m sure I’ll be that way Sunday afternoon at the memorial.

  6. If George and I are on the same wavelength, then I am indeed in good company.

    It would appear that both of our takes needed to be heard by someone.

    I still have “teary” moments as the realization that he is really gone hits me suddenly, or I put myself in the shoes of Susie and her babies, which grips me to the core. And admittedly I felt a little guilty last night going to a function and being “happy”, which sort of was the catalyst to my sitting down a exploring the grief process a little more. But life goes on.

    My personal timeline for things like this is you grieve openly from notification to burial, then you privatize and compartmentalize your grief and get back to a “new” normal. Depending on how close you were to the deceased, that could take considerably longer than the next person.

    So, come Monday morning, I will start looking forward, not back, and begin to discuss things other than Dan, and scrutinize, and look ahead to 2012.

  7. During the last few days I have been watching some YouTube clips of interviews that Dan did over the years, such as when he was on Letterman after his first Indy500 win and one he did with Lauren Bohlander. Dan had such a quick wit and was such a scamp that I find myself laughing away the sadness. Of course, Lauren Bohlander is no slouch in the wit department so the two of them together was pretty funny. I believe (as PressDog has suggested) that with the passage of time fans will remember Dan more for the kind of person he was than for his considerable racing skills.

    Never-the-less, when it is once again time for our good friend Jim Nabors I will be surprised if there is a dry eye in the stands.

    Thanks for sending some more thoughtful bytes our way George.

  8. George, I am 56 years old, have followed this sport since 1960, my 1st Indy 500 race. I have seen more than my share of racers parish in practice/qualifications/race day at the speedway. I have watched races on TV, and last Sunday’s race went from the highest highs to the lowest of lows. Today, I drove to the speedway to pay my respects at the Turn 1 gate. For the life of me, I have never been affected in the past, like Dan’s passing has affected me this time. I hope the old attage, that time heals all wounds, is true. I know it is, but right now, time seems to be standing still. As mentioned before, “Taps” and all the other pre race festivities, ie Jim Nabors and “Back Home Again in Indiana”, there’s no place to be other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It captured Dan Wheldon just like it captured the rest of us. R.I.P Dan, you were a true “Champion”, on & off the track.

    Thanks George for allowing us to express our feelings also with this outlet.

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      Great stuff JHall14… Thanks, Bent…

    • I can’t add much more to that except to say that Indianapolis is where Dan really lived. I know now the hurt my parents felt when they lost Vuky. They were there that day and he was their guy. They spoke of him with reverent tones for many years afterwards.

  9. Indygrrrl Says:

    I will be glad for the time I can laugh, post, or tweet without feeling guilty that I don’t feel bad enough for everybody.

  10. Like JHall14, I’ve been around racing a long time, and no death in racing affected me like this one, simply because Dan Wheldon was so ready and willing to reach out to everyone, including those of us in the media.

    But one can grieve and criticize the circumstances that led to his death at the same time. And much, from the size of the field — six more cars than allowed for a race other than the 500 in the rulebook — to the role Bernard had in circumventing that rule, plus selecting Las Vegas, a track with a history of open-wheel accidents with smaller fields, to the instructions given to the field by Brian Barnhart. I’d find it unfair to criticize the individuals in the race, who, after all, go racing when the green flag is waved.

    But such criticism should be backed up by facts and logic. A New York Times story a few days ago was riddled with factual errors, and served only to malign Wheldon’s reputation to those with no knowledge of him beforehand.

    • Ben Twickerbill Says:

      So unlike the NYT to come off half cocked about something like open wheel racing…. The NYT nanny newsrag for the nanny state.. The southeastern portion of it at any rate…

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