The Public Nature of Grieving in the City

Filed under fun times on the subway, living in new york sucks so hard

The other day, my friend Nik told me the story of a crying woman on the 4/5 train who, it became apparent as she sobbed to a friend, was on her way downtown to identify the body of a loved one who had overdosed. It seemed that she had found out the bad news that morning and looked as if she had been crying nonstop since. Her friend comforted her as far as Union Square and then left the train, reminding her that she should call him and his wife if she needed anything.

The woman continued to sob alone until another woman excused herself from the mass of other passengers the train and asked if she could pray with the crying woman. They bowed heads and quietly murmured healing words to one another until other people from other parts of the train car came to rub her back, lay a hand on her shoulder, and whisper encouragement.

Read the rest here.


  1. thickcrust says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t there because if I’d have seen that woman ask if she could pray with the crying woman, I would have thrown up on the train. Which of us would garner more sympathy from passersby (or a longer blog post)? Barf-boy or mourning-glory?

    But I’m with you on the public grieving. It’s like people who announce very personal misfortune on Facebook. I just don’t understand that. I’m not judging! I’m just saying it’s completely foreign to me. Same with how some people like peanut butter. Yuck.

    • Tears stink of pitifulness, but barf stinks of feet, so you lose, Barf-boy.

      I don’t mind people sending me consolation over e-mail, so I can see myself announcing minor personal misfortunes over Facebook, but when I’m legitimately crying, all I want is to be left alone.

  2. While I disagree with thickcrust on the peanut butter issue, I agree that public grieving is…uncomfortable. For most people. Also not judging, but I just can’t imagine doing that. There is nothing, literally NOTHING, more humiliating to me than crying in public.

    • Seriously. I guess I don’t mind crying in front of, say, Tracey, but some of my worst moments have involved crying at work. And crying on a train full of total strangers must be way worse than that. Especially because I KNOW you’re one of those really snot-y criers.

  3. Except for maybe peeing my pants.

    Sorry. Just thought of that.

  4. Sandy says:

    I don’t know… when my dad died, 16 years ago, I was extremely private about crying. But when Jamie died last year… he was a very public person in many ways, and I didn’t have the luxury of being alone with my grief. Out of necessity, I had to post it on Facebook after I notified his family. That’s crazy shit.

    A good friend took me out the day after he died, and we sat at a bar all day, drinking, eating, reading the impromptu community memorial that had popped up in the comments section of a newspaper obituary online, and crying. Everyone knew Jamie, and in some ways there was a “we’re all in this together” vibe, but other times, I wanted to be like, “I WAS HIS BEST FRIEND. I KNEW HIM MUCH BETTER THAN YOU DID.” It’s a double-edged sword.

    • Oh, man, I can only imagine how I’d be if Tracey died. When my mom died, everyone was all, “She touched my life so much, you were so lucky to have her as your mom, I’ll never forget the way she did this certain thing,” and so on, and I really appreciated every word, because there was never any doubt that I was the closest person to her other than my dad. But I don’t think most people have best friends like you and I have (had) best friends, you know? One of my college professors wrote a book, The Middle of Everything, partly about how much best friends mean and how empty her life was without one, and I was like yes. Because I don’t think most people get it. So what I’m saying is that if Tracey dies, don’t try to pretend you were better friends with her, because I will cut you.

      • Sandy says:

        Hahahaha, I don’t know if people were trying to pretend they were better friends with him, they would just say shit, and I’d be like, “No, that wasn’t him. AT ALL.” And a lot of that came from how he showed himself to people compared to how he revealed himself to me (not in the… indecent exposure sense, though I do have a story about that).