There seems to be a recurring theme in my life at the moment. I read sad stories. Lots of them. Not to make myself feel sad or depressed but simply because I’m drawn to other people’s struggles. It could be said that we are used to hearing the bad news before the good news, the nightly news pulls in its viewers with the ‘doom and gloom’ but it made me wonder how much grief is too much? Is it unhealthy to subject oneself to tragedy if you are an otherwise bright and happy person?
Like many people around the globe I have a fascination with the popular TV series, Mad Men. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the characters all have some inner conflict. Don Draper has more skeletons in his closest than a graveyard. Betty finds it hard to shake her loneliness even in her second marriage while Peggy and Joan try to find their way in what is essentially a man’s world.
But I guess I watch as I feel there is hope because women have more rights now and African Americans aren’t referred to as “black coffee”, or at least not in my world. The marital problems of the characters really haven’t changed all that much in the last 50 years and perhaps that hits a raw nerve. Maybe people don’t like to watch dramas that are too realistic.
My mum has always said that she likes to read books and watch films to escape, not to be reminded of how much pain and suffering there is in the world and maybe she’s right. Why do I read these sad stories? Why did I read ‘Madeleine’ by Kate McCann when it just gave me nightmares and made me paranoid? Why did read Jaycee Dugard and Natascha Kampusch’s survival stories when it just made me feel disgust at the human race? The reason I’m drawn to these books is I feel they are too sad to be ignored. If I don’t read them, who will? They allow me to appreciate the freedom I have in my life but this also makes me incredibly sad.
Thousands of people this week have googled Gerard Baden-Clay. Why do we do this? Does it make us feel better about our own lives and our own families? I understand that most of it is just harmless curiosity but I wonder sometimes whether we really need to be subjected to so much pain. The Christmas Island boat incident is another example where Australians feel powerless so the only way we can really acknowledge what has happened is to read about it or watch it on TV because if we don’t, aren’t their lives lost in vain?
After reading my last survival memoir I still stuck to a similar genre. I’m reading crime fiction but hey, at least it’s fiction! It’s hard not to read Caroline Overington’s ‘I Came To Say Goodbye’, ‘Ghost Child’ or ‘Matilda Is Missing’ without thinking about a case that was recently in the news. And while I read these books with fascination to try and help solve the puzzle, I remember that there are thousands of parents (and children) out there who don’t have the answers to why their loved one was killed.
As I continue to click on stories about grief it has made me wonder whether the process is somewhat cathartic. We all have problems in our lives and by reading other people’s stories I guess it helps keep them in perspective. We’re not alone in our grief and while the world can sometimes be a lonely place there is always someone out there on the other end of the phone, or in cyberspace who is willing to listen to you and hear your story. And that makes me feel happy.
Do you think we focus too much on grief? Do you think this is good or bad for our health? Are you drawn to tragedies or do you read sad stories too much? Why do you think this is?