Luke and Sophie Perry: where’s the shame in grieving your own way? | Rebecca Nicholson

It’s bad enough trying to cope with the death of a parent without finding yourself judged by strangers on social media

Of all the difficulties to navigate when caught up in the sickening grip of grief, to be told you are not grieving correctly by strangers must be the one of the most bizarre. The actor Luke Perry’s 18-year-old daughter, Sophie, was driven to write an Instagram post, in which she defended herself against criticism she had faced since her father died suddenly, of a stroke, aged 52. She wrote that she had received a lot of attention online since he died. She said she had not asked for this focus to be upon her and that, among the kind messages, she had also been “shamed” for her “grieving process”, which, it seems, has been seen by some as not being sad enough.

“I’m not going to sit in my room and cry day in and day out until the internet has deemed it appropriate for me to do otherwise,” she said, with more dignity than anyone who caused her to write that really deserved.

Grief is now so ever present that it appears in our lives almost daily. A famous person dies and we judge their fans for mourning them as if they knew them, or we judge a person with a morbid sense of humour for making a joke about it, before it has been decided that a respectable amount of time has passed.

It used to be that a phone call home would start, or end, with a list of who either had died or might die; I still have that with one grandparent, who is a more reliable mortality gauge than even Facebook. For those of us on Facebook, there are posts in our feeds of others mourning the death of people we never knew, or people we met once, or the parents or grandparents of close friends, or distant friends, or people we went to school with. The comments on these posts, the love and support, show exactly why public grieving can be so powerful. Simply, it makes people feel less alone.

We all grieve differently, from person to person, from culture to culture. We all find our own way through what it is like to miss someone you love deeply, to learn to accept that they are gone. We might post endlessly on Facebook, looking for support. We might pretend it isn’t happening, until we’re ready to face the fact that it is.

But to feel as if we can judge a stranger for their choices, no matter how public their circumstances might force them to be, is a choice that is more difficult to understand.

Leo Varadkar was right to beard the bigot in his den

Leo Varadkar and Mike Pence.
Leo Varadkar and Mike Pence.’ I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

When Leo Varadkar became Ireland’s youngest taoiseach in 2017, there was a curious contrast between the lukewarm things the Irish people I knew said about his victory and the international commentary.

Beyond Ireland, the broad line seemed to be celebratory, because Varadkar was gay and the son of an Indian immigrant and nobody seemed to have batted an eyelid (“I’m not a half-Indian politician or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me,” he told RTE Radio 1 in 2015). Unconvinced Irish writers were keen to point out that he might be those things, but are you paying attention to his politics?

Whatever you think of his beliefs, you can respect his decision to bring his partner, Matt Barrett, to a meeting with the US vice-president, Mike Pence, a man who has repeatedly argued against same-sex marriage, passed a law in Indiana that legalised discrimination against gay people on religious grounds and opposed HIV and Aids prevention funding. Pence’s wife, Karen, did not attend the meeting: perhaps she was busy teaching at her school, which has banned LGBT students and staff.

“I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, skin tone, gender or religious beliefs,” said Varadkar. Still, I wonder who benefits most. Pence might smile and offer a “warm reception” to the gay men in his home, but that doesn’t make him less of a threat.

It’s game on for Ken Wong with his love story

Ken Wong.
Ken Wong, the creator of Florence. Photograph: Mountains Studio

I always love the Bafta games awards, which, like their cousins in film and television, act as a recap for the past year or so and a reminder of what you might have missed. They are, however, far less predictable than most awards ceremonies and they highlight achievements that might otherwise have passed under the radar. Last year, in an upset so huge it makes Green Book look like it was the obvious choice for best picture, the weird, wonderful and literary What Remains of Edith Finch beat Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to win best game.

This year’s nominees are a similarly mixed bunch. The blockbusters are present and correct and no doubt Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War will do well. But Florence, a beautiful, slight and sensitive mobile game, has as many nominations as Red Dead. Its lead designer is Ken Wong, who also made Monument Valley. “I wanted to explore what kind of stories and what kind of dynamics we can get without resorting to violence,” he told the Verge in 2017. Florence, a graphic-novelesque love story, makes brushing one’s teeth seem engaging, so he certainly seems to have succeeded.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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