Working, While Taking Time to Grieve for People You Don’t Know

san bernardino flickr

When I read the Bloomberg Business story about Dan Price two days ago, my workday stopped. This story affected me more than, say, the James Deen story that broke last week because I met Price when he spoke in Seattle. I reported that “Price’s happiness radiates throughout the conversation and afterwards, as he continues to answer questions, meet fans, and shake hands.”

So, when the story that he might have lied about his business and might have abused his ex-wife becomes public, there are three separate reactions.

First, there’s the emotional reaction. As I told a friend: “My instinct is to believe the woman and hope it is not true simultaneously, but we don’t get to do both.” I also know, statistically, which outcome is more likely.

This prompts the second reaction: trawling the internet to see what other information is out there. This takes as much or as little time as you give it—and as we all know, it’s very easy to spend a lot of time searching for information—and you are doing this while you are still emotionally processing the news.

Then there’s the third reaction: checking for follow-ups. You can do this on the hour. You can do this every time you take a break from work. You will definitely do this every time you come back from getting a glass of water or using the bathroom, because the laptop will be open and your mind will be on this news, this devastating news, and you’ll want to see if there is any bit of hope in the situation.

Which brings me to yesterday’s mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Everything stops and my heart aches and I start clicking links and opening tabs and part of me is grieving, and part of me is furious that mass shootings are still an entrenched and unstoppable part of our culture, HOW IS THIS STILL HAPPENING, and part of me is thinking, angrily, “I just did this yesterday.”

I did it for Paris, and I did it the next day for Beirut, and I do it every time there is a mass shooting in America because the other option is to not do it, to let the stream of news pass by and think “eh, there it goes again.”

I rarely publicly tweet about my response, mostly because there are already so many better tweets to share, and also because I have nothing to say besides “This is sad. I am sad. I am angry.” There’s a honesty and also a strangeness in grieving people you don’t know, in situations you only see in thumbnails and news footage. You are grieving the idea of people, really. You are grieving humanity.

I am writing this on Wednesday afternoon, about one hour after the San Bernardino news broke and a little over three hours after I posted a Billfold story about how Black Friday broke the record for gun background checks. If I weren’t writing it, I’d probably be refreshing Twitter and clicking links. I get to cheat, this one time, and turn my emotional energy into work—instead of putting my work off until later in the evening.

Do you keep working, when you learn the news? In some workplaces you don’t have the luxury of pausing to reflect; in others you sit in your cubicle and refresh CNN when your boss isn’t around, and whisper to your neighbor and do just enough to get by. I’ve been in those situations, too.

At some point we may all keep working. Tragedies will become routine, except to the few people for whom they are personal, who will wonder where the all the support went and tweet aloud that nobody is paying attention and we will, resolutely, not pay attention. It’s already started happening.

I have no suggestions and no solutions and no response besides this is sad, I am sad, I am angry.

And now I have to get back to work.


Photo credit: Cody



Show Comments

From Our Partners