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Grief, Pie and Healing
December 20, 2012 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Beth Howard travelled 1,100 miles to Newtown, CT in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies, and she dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, and grieving parents

It all started with a simple facebook post; her facebook page details her daily travels and efforts.

She knows grief; here is the book she wrote about her husband’s sudden death and how she dealt with it (yep, pie).

More at her website, where she describes the history of pies and the tourist attraction she lives in, in Eldon, IA: the house made famous in the painting American Gothic (my first post...)
posted by j810c (76 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is just about the greatest thing I've ever heard, and it gives me hope for the future.
posted by ColdChef at 12:47 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm sure that before long, someone will come in here, saying that this is a publicity stunt and that it's self-serving and they'll try to take all the beauty and love out of it, and to them I say, "Have a slice of pie first, and then try to be more positive."
posted by ColdChef at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2012 [30 favorites]


They have always said that when people are depressed they eat. How about exercise?
posted by ReeMonster at 12:49 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like Mr. Rogers says: Look for the helpers. It is a cliche, but entirely true, that the worst brings out the best.
posted by three blind mice at 12:49 PM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


and to them I say, "Have a slice of pie first, and then try to be more positive."

As long as you don't say they're wrong. Because they probably aren't.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Nice gesture, despite the repeated requests of the Newtown residents for people NOT to come and make or harder for them to get around.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Just simply awesome.

No beanplating needed.
posted by yoga at 12:59 PM on December 20, 2012


and to them I say, "Have a slice of pie first, and then try to be more positive."

No, no pie for the haters.
posted by elizardbits at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Of course it is self-serving, but so what. No matter how much benefit the donor may or may not get, that doesn't make the donation any less needed, appreciated or helpful. Not to mention one donation, often brings more.
posted by 2manyusernames at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2012


They have always said that when people are depressed they eat. How about exercise?

How about both? Not like you have to pick one or the other!

Also, I remember reading somewhere that carbs and sugar help elevate mood (temporarily, at least). And comfort food is comforting. Can't see a downside to having some pie when your world has collapsed.
posted by rtha at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


National Pie Day: January 23. My calendar is marked!
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2012


Posted to the facebook wall of the Newtown Bee by Sandy Scheibel Schill:

"A message to the world from the residents of Sandy Hook. Thank you to all of you for your thoughts and prayers. They have helped us during this horrible, unspeakable tragedy. We do have one request though, please stay home. We can not begin the healing process with our small town over run by the media and out of town well wishers. We can't get to work, school or the grocery store. We can't get to the funerals to bury our babies or to our neighbors to comfort them. Our children are afraid to go anywhere in town lest they be approached by the media asking for, yet again, another interview about how we feel. Thank you for all the memorials set up at each street corner, but what about after you leave? Who is left to clean up the spent flowers and rain/mud soaked teddy bears...We are. We already have enough to do taking care of each other but can not start until we are given our town back.

If you want to help us please send cards and snowflakes, donate to the school and families, reach out to your loved ones and let them know they are special. Make this world a better place with your actions and words. We know that you are feeling our pain and appreciate all you have done but please stay home and give us back ours. Thank you."
posted by Blasdelb at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [48 favorites]


Blasdelb, the fact that people need to told this, is just so mind boggleing, try having some empathy. Jesus. Nice gesture. Stay home, and to paraphrase one Newtown resident. Please, please leave us the fuck alone.
posted by sfts2 at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. We visited the American Gothic house in August 2011, and discovered that the adjoining center would dress you up in the clothes of the time and take your picture outside the house. That's actually Becky, my fiancee, and myself in the picture towards the bottom of that American Gothic House wikipedia page.

While having those pictures taken, Becky asked about the house and was told it was currently rented by a lady who makes pies. Now, looking at her website, we know - and have possibly found the caterer (at least in the pie department) for our wedding. Thanks for this great post.
posted by Wordshore at 1:19 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


One mother said she realized she hadn’t eaten since before the tragedy. She was glad to eat apple pie.

...

Another resident knocks on her door. She wanted a pie for her family and for a friend’s. A smile grew across her face when she was given two.

If any of this is true, it sounds like not everyone shares Scheibel Schill's feelings.

Myself, I would be inclined to stay home and send donations, or at least park on the outskirts of town where I wouldn't be underfoot, and let the pie-seekers come unto me. But it hardly sounds like Howard's action is really stepping on a lot of toes. Much better that than teddy bears and flowers (ugh, but that's just me). When Howard leaves, all anyone will have to throw out is a pie plate.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:23 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I used to work with Beth on a special event my company held annually. She's a thoughtful and cheerful woman who was a joy to be around. Her husband was a great guy as well.
posted by bz at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2012


.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


They have always said that when people are depressed they eat. How about exercise?

Good question, wrong time to ask it.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


On the day of my father's funeral, as we were preparing to go to the services, we heard a series of cars pull up in front of my mother's house. It was one of our funeral home competitors, with his entire fleet of limousines. He had shut down his business for the day and had come, unheeded, to provide that service for my family. He also brought a large basket full of homemade biscuits, jam, and butter. I remember that they were just about the best biscuits I'd ever had: steamy, flaky, big as a fist. I will never forget his generosity and the love that went into that. It's exactly what I needed that day, and it's exactly the kind of thing my father in that situation. That's what I thought about when I read this story.

I'm certain that this pie-maker didn't get in anyone's way or ruin anyone's day. If she had an inclination that what she was doing was disruptive or rude, she seems like the kind of person who'd have quickly removed herself. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps her presence was an annoyance.

But between doing nothing from far away and giving a little love and pie to folks who (at least some of them) needed it, my heart goes with pie.
posted by ColdChef at 1:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [35 favorites]


Look at you people:

"I don't care what the grievers are asking (pleading). I'm doing a good thing. Yea me! What a wonderful thing I'm doing. I can just ignore what's been politely requested by folks experiencing a terrible loss. 'Cause, you know, children."

Shame on you.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:36 PM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I suspect the question you should ask when considering just showing up at a location where a tragedy has taken place is: Will I add enough value to compensate for the fact that my presence also creates administrative, housing, and transportation issues?

There is something wonderful about this urge to just show up and help, just as there is something genuinely wonderful about the urge to make care baskets for areas afflicted by natural disasters or tragedies. We want to help. We want to comfort.

I think increasingly people are realizing just being present, or just sending stuff, come out of a noble urge but may not be the best response, because you are giving what used to be called "a gift that eats" -- that is to say, the gift makes demands on the people who receive it. Your presence demands attention, housing, etc. Your care package needs somebody to distribute it and someplace for it to be warehoused. And, as kind and genuine as the gesture may be, your gift may not be the gift that is needed just then. Actual gifts of money are often easier to administrate and make use of then gifts of things, or volunteer labor.

That being said, in this instance, Ms. Howard seems to be looking after her own end, and she's giving pie, which she herself is taking responsibility for distributing. It looks to me like she is adding more value than she is taking away, and the people of the town -- indeed, the people who have directly suffered losses in this tragedy -- are making use of her gift and appreciating it. Instead of simply dismissing what she is doing, it may be worth looking to her to see what she is doing right, so that we can apply some of these lessons in the future, should we feel moved to acts of kindness.

I suppose there may be people in town who are critical of Ms. Howard's work, but I haven't heard them yet, and, until I do, I am going to go ahead and assume that she is genuinely giving comfort, as the story indicates. I have been the recipient of much needed gifts of aid and comfort when I have been in crisis, and it has allowed me to get through the circumstance and get back to life, and some of these gifts have just been little gestures of kindness. So I do not want to rush to second-guess this, unless there is cause to.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:38 PM on December 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


[Folks maybe let's just pass by the tone deaf exercise comment?]
posted by jessamyn at 1:39 PM on December 20, 2012


humboldt32, wow. Bunny Ultramod, right on.

I, for one, find Ms. Howard's efforts to be tremendously generous. I remember reading about her (I think) in a Real Simple magazine once, how she turned to pie (of all things) in the wake of her loss. Those pies saved her, she said, and now she's making pies to contribute to the saving of others, if they want it. High five, Ms. Howard, high five.
posted by youandiandaflame at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit torn on this. My FB feed is full of pictures of either a mob of firefighters showing up for a boys funeral or a line of bikers acting as a shield from Phelps & co. Should they just've stayed home?
posted by dr_dank at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2012


I think there is a big difference between showing up outside a funeral when you know the child wanted to be a firefighter, and showing respect, and showing up with pie, which can surely be bought at a local bakery or grocery store.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2012


If I hadn't heard of Beth Howard before this, I might be less cynical about this. I might not have remembered her name but I do remember podcasts interviewing her about her life, where she lives, her book, and her pies. She was shilling herself and her book then and then she shilling now. Maybe she's a good person and thinks that she doing a good deed but it's a weird coincidence that this also gets her name out in the ether.
posted by rdr at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if any curmudgeon is going to be sympathetic to the GTFO sentiment, it's me, but if she's in her own camper, passing out her own pies with her own hands...? I don't see how she's being a burden on anyone.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But I don't even like apples!"
"I have traveled eleven hundred miles in a 24-foot-long camper to bring you this pie. Chew and swallow, damnit!"
posted by Nomyte at 1:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


She was shilling herself and her book then and then she shilling now. Maybe she's a good person and thinks that she doing a good deed but it's a weird coincidence that this also gets her name out in the ether.

All charity depends on a heavy dose of self-promotion. Generosity breeds generosity.
posted by ColdChef at 1:54 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


All charity should be anonymous.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


All charity should be anonymous.

Most non-profits would disagree with you.
posted by ColdChef at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not really directly related, but this reminds me of possibly the most affecting article in The Onion's 9/11 issue (even more than "and He wept": Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake.
"It's beautiful," Cassie said. "The cake is beautiful."
posted by kmz at 2:02 PM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


>All charity should be anonymous.

Most non-profits would disagree with you.


I posted that comment right after you posted yours - it was a coincidence.

I would agree about non-profits, but I think individual acts of charity really ought to be anonymous. In this case, there is just too much temptation to become part of the story.

That said, I can't really judge this lady. The magnitude of the horror here leaves me at a loss for words

-
posted by KokuRyu at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2012


All charity should be anonymous.

Establishing that standard would literally destroy every institution in America that relies on charity for funding. I know where you're coming from -- after all, Maimonides said that giving anonymously is near the top of his eight sorts of charity. But, then, he also allowed for seven other sorts.

People give for all sorts of reasons, some more noble, some less. Some of the biggest givers do so anonymously (although, in those cases, their motives are sometimes uncharitable -- they don't want to be known so that they don't get bugged by other nonprofits) and sometimes the smallest givers want some public affirmation of their gift (although sometimes for noble reasons -- to let people know they are available for gifts.)

In the end, you take the money, not the motivation, and you try to respect that there are a lot of reasons people give, and you may not know enough to know why, or what they get for it. Target, in Minnesota, constantly trumpets the amount of money they give, and makes great use of those donations for promotional and tax purposes, but, then, if arts organizations in Minnesota turned down gifts from Target, there would be a lot fewer artists in Minnesota. So there's a quid pro quo, and, as somebody who now has his own nonprofit, I think that's fair. I don't demand that people give to my organization for only the most noble reasons. I just ask that the quid pro quo is fair.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


See my comment above.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:07 PM on December 20, 2012


I would not even apply that standard to individual acts of charity. As somebody who has received individual acts of charity, I want to know who gave, so that I can thank them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:08 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit torn on this. My FB feed is full of pictures of either a mob of firefighters showing up for a boys funeral or a line of bikers acting as a shield from Phelps & co. Should they just've stayed home?

I tend to frown on violence, but if there were bikers there to shield a funeral from those Westboro assholes and the bikers decided to do more than just block them from view? Well, shit happens...
posted by zoog at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most non-profits would disagree with you.

The goal of most non-profits is self-perpetuation.
posted by Nomyte at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "I think there is a big difference between showing up outside a funeral when you know the child wanted to be a firefighter, and showing respect, and showing up with pie, which can surely be bought at a local bakery or grocery store."

My experience has been that people who are suffering from extreme grief generally tend to overlook basic needs like cooking and grocery shopping.

It's why you bake a lasagna or pie for your friends/neighbors if they've had a death in the family -- even if they might not actually need it, it's often a huge comfort to have a hearty ready-to-eat homecooked meal at hand. (Or is this something that my family just did? It's pretty much been hard-coded into my system of ethics at this point.)

Say what you want about stress eating. In the right time and place, it can be pretty darn comforting.

Given the scale of what happened in Newtown, it's understandable why they'd need some help from the outside. I'm usually pretty darn cynical about these sorts of things (and a lot of mainstream charity in general), but I'm having a very difficult time coming up with a reason to find fault with what Beth Howard did here. Yes, there's a bit of self-promotion attached, but her motives seem very genuine.

Of course, my opinions may be biased by the fact that I love pie.

*Side-note: Years ago, after Katrina I'd also written off Tide's "loads of hope" program as particularly disgusting self-serving promotional stunt that only existed to make a feel-good advertisement. Last month, virtually all of my Jersey Shore friends were effusively raving on Facebook about how nice it was to be able to finally have some clean clothes after Tide's trailers arrived. Turns out, the program was legit, actually quite large, and brought back a small sense of normalcy to some people who desperately needed it.
posted by schmod at 2:16 PM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


If Rape and Pillage Unlimited Inc. showed up after a tornado and started handing out hot meals, then I'd see both as a good thing, possibly motivated by some of their managers and employees acting out genuine sympathy for the victims and also as an effort by Rape and Pillage Inc. to build their brand. In Ms. Howard's case she is the brand. It's her story that she's selling. She's not any more cynical than the CEO of Rape and Pillage that decides that this is a good way for R&P to get an image boost or she may be just as altruistic as the low level employee of R&P that uses their own time and money to help tornado victims under R&P's umbrella. Ms. Howard has spent years making herself into a brand so when she does something in public I think it's only fair to think about her actions in that context.

I'm not rejecting Ms. Howard's pie distribution as a cynical publicity ploy out of hand but I can't see solely as an act of individual charity.
posted by rdr at 2:20 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll also admit that I don't understand the fireman/biker "solidarity and symbolic presence" thing. If the deceased child wanted to be a systems administrator, I'm not sure that I'd show up to his funeral just because.

Then again, I also have my own way of grieving, both for people I was close to as well as those with whom I was not. I don't expect anybody else to share or even understand how I experience grief, so to each his/her own, I guess....

Bunny Ultramod's commend about adding value hit the nail right on the head about effective charity. While I'm sure that there are many in Newtown who are tired of the media circus and just want to be left alone, I'm leaning toward thinking that Beth Howard and the firefighters did a whole lot more good than harm.

posted by schmod at 2:27 PM on December 20, 2012


“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this,” he said.
A Small, Good Thing, by Raymond Carver
posted by punchtothehead at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Nomyte: "Most non-profits would disagree with you.

The goal of most non-profits is self-perpetuation.
"

It depends. If the nonprofit is dealing with a cyclical issue, self-perpetuation is a very good thing. For instance, I can't really envision a time when the ACLU or Red Cross are going to become irrelevant.

On the other hand, if you're an organization such as The American Cancer Society, I think you'd find that almost every employee -- from top to bottom -- would gladly give up their jobs (and most would take a bullet) for their organization to achieve its goals and become irrelevant. (Disclaimer: My partner does a lot of work with ACS)

Charities generally don't exist for issues that have quick and simple fixes. Yes, there are some shitty ones, but I'd hardly put them in the majority.
posted by schmod at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The media is going to report about something. If I have to choose between the media focussing on acts of charity, or paying additional attention to the shooter and what he did, I'll go with Pie Lady every time.
posted by zamboni at 2:38 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Newtown Bee: Suffering From Media Onslaught.
posted by ericb at 2:42 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tomorrow ...

Moment Of Silence At 9:30 Friday Morning
Governor Dannel P. Malloy has signed a proclamation declaring Friday, December 21, 2012, a Day of Mourning in the State of Connecticut.

Signed on December 18, the proclamation also requests that residents statewide participate in a moment of silence at 9:30 am. The governor is also requesting houses of worship and government buildings that have the capability, to ring bells 26 times during that moment in honor of each life that was taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"Let us all come together collectively to mourn the loss of far too many promising lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Gov Malloy said. "Though we will never know the full measure of sorrow experienced by these families, we can let them know that we stand with them during this difficult time."

Gov Malloy has also written a letter to every governor in the United States, asking each state to consider joining the State of Connecticut on Friday during this time of reflection and mourning.

"Mourning this tragedy has extended beyond Newtown, beyond the borders of Connecticut, and has spread across the nation and the world," Gov Malloy said. "On behalf of the State of Connecticut, we appreciate the letters and calls of support that have been delivered to our state and to the family members during their hour of need."
Local Vigil Will Have Global Reach
The soccer fields of Fairfield Hills will be bathed in the soft glow of candlelight on Friday night as people gather for a vigil to remember the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The vigil will begin at 7 pm on Friday, December 21, and organizer Joshua Milas, a 2009 Newtown High School graduate, said people all over the world will light candles in solidarity with the people of Newtown.
posted by ericb at 2:48 PM on December 20, 2012


I'm glad that all of you who put your personal stamp of approval on actions like this, (maybe the pie lady has a special exemption) hopefully you feel great about overriding the feelings of the parents and neighbors of the dead. Jesus, everyone has a right to their own opinion I guess.
posted by sfts2 at 2:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was one of our funeral home competitors ...

Brings to mind last night's interview with Daniel Honan, director of the only funeral home in Newtown. A true professional. I don't know how he stays composed, but, as he says, he's trained for it.
posted by ericb at 3:01 PM on December 20, 2012


hopefully you feel great about overriding the feelings of the parents and neighbors of the dead

Well, I suppose that depends on whose feelings we are considering. As far as I can tell, Sandy Scheibel Schill's request was posted yesterday, while Beth Howard has been in Newtown since this past weekend, so she certainly didn't ignore anybody's request; no request had been made yet, and nobody has requested that she leave. As to how the other parents and neighbors of the dead feel, there are some communicated in the story:

As she spoke, there was a knock on her door. Women preparing a wake for one of the slain girls would like some pie for mourners.

“Could we give them three pies?” a helper asked.

“Of course,” Howard said. “Will you please put ribbons on them?”


...

Another resident knocks on her door. She wanted a pie for her family and for a friend’s. A smile grew across her face when she was given two.


You don't seem to have demonstrated that Ms. Howard has violated anybody's requests or upset anybody. And perhaps you disagree with Ms. Howard and with the people in the thread, but it seems to me that we're not putting our personal stamp of approval so much as you are putting your person stamp of disapproval. And you have a right to disapprove, but it sounds as though you don't feel we have a right to approve.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:06 PM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


From her Facebook page earlier today:
"Making 30 pies with the students at Newtown High School. The room is filled with the sound of rolling pins moving against the tables and laughter. Lots of laughter."
It's not just about pies. It's also about the therapeutic and cathartic rewards of a community of kids working together in a time of tragedy.
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Related:
"After covering the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., NBC News’ Ann Curry wondered what could be done to ease the national suffering over the loss of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. Why not, she tweeted, commit to doing one act of kindness for every child killed there? People responded – and wanted to up that to 26 acts of kindness for every child and adult lost at the school. Now people around the country are committing random acts of kindness – connected through the hashtag #26Acts (#20Acts and others are also trending). Get inspired: You can start your own acts of kindness right now."
And ... Inspired to spread the word, man's #26Acts Facebook effort goes viral.
posted by ericb at 3:24 PM on December 20, 2012


I'm from Danbury, CT, live about ten minutes away from Sandy Hook, and have spent quite a bit of time in the beautiful Newtown community. Everyone is struggling with disbelief and sorrow, and our hearts are broken for our neighbors and friends. The grief is intense, and I'm not even from Newtown, nor do I have a relative or close friend who was killed - the grief of those who do is incomprehensible to me. I will say that one of the only consolations in the last few days has been seeing the support that has poured in from both the communities surrounding (like mine) and from communities all around the world. Many of my friends from Newtown feel the same. I understand and echo very strongly the sentiment that Newtown needs to be left in peace to begin rebuilding, but if, as ericb says, this woman provides comfort and the opportunity to begin healing by "working together in a time of tragedy," then I admire her for it.

Another heartwarming tidbit - Danbury Hospital had a bake sale on Monday that managed to raise $11,000. They're planning on doing it again tomorrow, and we just got word that the Cake Boss is planning on making an appearance. Some rays of light in all this darkness...
posted by luciernaga at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


*surrounding Newtown
posted by luciernaga at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2012


My impression is that there are well meaning people who are sort of clueless and well meaning people who are more clued in. The clueless have been, with genuine kindness and beautiful intentions, making kind of a huge mess. I would liken them a little to that Mitt Romney "Hurricane Sandy food drive for the Red Cross when the Red Cross doesn't need food" thing. Heart in the right place, but absolutely no clue what is actually needed.

People like Beth Howard seem to be a little more clued in. She didn't give anything to anyone who didn't want it, she was self-contained, it sounds like she cleaned up after herself, and she brought enough gum for everyone. The problem is that her excellent example is so excellent that it inspires more very well meaning clueless people to do more clueless things.

That's not a criticism of either group of people. They are all wonderful and its awesome that they want to help. As it happens, though, most of the people of Newtown need a little time and space on their own right now. They aren't going to say no to your kindness because they know its kindness, but it would be nice to be able to go back home and cry a little with family and friends and then start figuring out where to go from here.

So please don't take Schill's admonition in a bad way. Its just time to let Newtown have a little time on its own to heal and clean up. Also, please don't take it as being critical of the people who have tried to help, no matter what the relative clueless level of those people are. It really is all appreciated and the town is never going to forget it. I've lived away for twenty years and I can't get through more than two or three of the e-mails of support sent to the Newtown Bee without weeping like a river.

We love you guys, all of you guys, we really do, the residents just need some time now.

There is also a third group of people, and that would be the media. My mom, in Newtown, commented the other day "there's no pain so great that it can't be made worse by having a microphone shoved in your face." So, yeah, maybe time to leave one AP stringer there and send the satellite dishes home. Far from making things better, they're making things worse.

But everyone else? Seriously, they've been/you've been awesome even when they've been misguided. This is something virtually everyone has said at various town meetings and private discussions in the last few days. At least according to my family.

No need to scold each other. Go out and help make sure fewer of these mass shootings happen in whatever way you think will be most effective in your communities. I think that's the thing that everyone can do right now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:47 PM on December 20, 2012 [36 favorites]


There is no right or wrong way to grieve. All of us are grieving in some way about this, and to dissect which ways are "better" is the real clueless action.

Also: if I could favorite Joey Michaels' comment a trillion times, I would.
posted by yoga at 4:00 PM on December 20, 2012


This is a slight derail, and I apologize for that, but: a bunch of the articles I've read about Newtown include quotes from outsiders saying stuff like "I felt that I just had to come." I do not really understand this urge. I mean, what do they do once they get there? At least Ms. Howard is providing some kind of service.
posted by troika at 5:02 PM on December 20, 2012


When a former coworker's wife was killed by a tree, our director got some kind of counselor to come in and talk to us. She said those who have suffered a loss like this usually have to deal with two difficult problems.

The first is that the immediate outpouring of support quickly becomes overwhelming. If everyone brings you prepared food as soon as they find out about your tragedy, you end up with too much food.

The second is that after the initial outpouring, support basically disappears. It's as if your well-wishers feel that whatever they did must have fixed your problem, their duty is fulfilled, and they can stop feeling bad about your situation.

If you've decided to support someone who is bereaved, consider checking in and helping out a week, or two weeks, or a month later. Don't insist on helping when there is too much help already, just so you can relieve yourself of the burden of sympathy.
posted by Nomyte at 6:01 PM on December 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


If you've decided to support someone who is bereaved, consider checking in and helping out a week, or two weeks, or a month later. Don't insist on helping when there is too much help already, just so you can relieve yourself of the burden of sympathy.

I've developed a system for when I'm serving a family that I make a particular connection with or who has experienced an extraordinary death: I mark a calendar with three dates: six weeks from the date of death, the deceased's birthday, and one year from the death. Then, on those three dates, I call the next of kin and just check in with them. I usually don't mention the significance of the date unless they bring it up. A phonecall, even if it's just a few minutes long and doesn't really cover much, lets them know that someone cares and someone remembers.
posted by ColdChef at 6:14 PM on December 20, 2012 [73 favorites]


ColdChef, I hope to do business with you when I die.
posted by Nomyte at 6:18 PM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Hah! I hope everyone I love outlives me.
posted by ColdChef at 6:23 PM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have found a quality undertaker and I feel loved. A productive day.
posted by Nomyte at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember ColdChef joking that his business card would read "I'm the last man who will ever let you down," but I think it's not a joke at all.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:51 PM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, when I said perhaps she has a special exemption, I meant that I wasn't meaning to speak specifically about the pie lady, perhaps she is welcome. My point would be once you know that the people of Newtown would prefer you did not come, the only polite action is to honor their wishes. It doesn't seem to me to be that hard to understand this, and in fact, it seems pretty common sense and basic good manners to me.
posted by sfts2 at 7:20 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point would be once you know that the people of Newtown would prefer you did not come, the only polite action is to honor their wishes.

I agree. I don't see anybody in this thread suggestion that people should continue to go, which may be why I was confused about your point. Apologies.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:31 PM on December 20, 2012


I'm sorry too. I know people affected by this, too emotionally invested, I will bow out now.
posted by sfts2 at 7:45 PM on December 20, 2012


They have always said that when people are depressed they eat. How about exercise?

How about both? Not like you have to pick one or the other!

Also, I remember reading somewhere that carbs and sugar help elevate mood (temporarily, at least). And comfort food is comforting. Can't see a downside to having some pie when your world has collapsed.


This whole conversation is making incredibly light of something that has no bright side.

I mean seriously? Pie and exercise for the grieving?

Really?

As someone trying to come out of the other end of grief after a year this December 29th I can't even wrap my brain around something like that. It's so insulting.
posted by Malice at 8:27 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hah! I hope everyone I love outlives me.

We've never met, but I'll bring the whiskey.
posted by jquinby at 8:33 PM on December 20, 2012


Wait, unless I'm the one who's dead. In which case, I'll make a proviso for the whiskey. So I guess I'm still bringing it.
posted by jquinby at 8:36 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry I inadvertently insulted you, Malice.

(Me, after my mom died, I needed pie. Food. Comfort. In any case, my apologies and condolences.)
posted by rtha at 9:01 PM on December 20, 2012


Yeah, having my family around me int he first week after my wife had died, helping me with all the little things was great, but there came a time when I needed everybody to go away and leave me to get back to "normal" life. I can well imagine that for the families in Newtown that feeling is about a hundred times worse, if only for the media attention.

Can you fault the news media though for reporting on the story we all want to keep in touch with, often with the best of intentions?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:36 PM on December 20, 2012


Can you fault the news media though for reporting on the story we all want to keep in touch with, often with the best of intentions?
Like you wouldn't believe.

Animals.
posted by fullerine at 3:37 AM on December 21, 2012


I value those people with the instinct to go out and make grand gestures when there are people grieving, and I'm a guy who loves a grand gesture, myself. That said, when my father died, all the bluster and boisterous blowhard excess I use to mask the fact that I'm actually shy and prone to introversion went away and all I wanted in the onslaught of care was to be left alone.

I didn't want to be prayed for, to be hugged, to be talked to and comforted and told things were going to be okay, and no, my silence and my being withdrawn isn't a symptom of clinical depression, but thanks for asking anyway. I didn't want to be surrounded by loving care, people just being there, or a constant, unremitting assault of overwhelming, treacly concern mounted by people who prefer to grieve in a social orgy of casseroles, awkward prayer circles, and constant chatter.

What I wanted was to sit on the couch with my dog and listen to the same three Björk and Kate Bush songs over and over. I wanted to reread Pema Chödrön, watch my well-worn tape of the 1966 television version of A Christmas Memory and cry at the end, and occasionally venture out for phở with my ex, who knew me well enough to circle the wagons against my friends and family and let me work it all out myself, which is why, fifteen years later, he's still one of my closest friends.

There's a real tone-deafness to grief in the world. It's one of those areas that's become so one-size-fits-all that it's just unbearable for some people, almost as much as the loss they're processing, and it's not helped by the sort of armchair psychology that equates every expression of being down and withdrawn with clinical depression and impending suicide. It's hard to fault the people who overdo it, because they're acting on instinct and trying to do something, even when there's nothing at all to be done, but for those left to figure things out, sometimes what's the most and best you can do is to let them numbly act out the old rituals of daily living while making it quietly clear that help and comfort are available for the asking.

What happened for me fifteen years ago was a lesson, and a reminder not to defer love and care until things break down. If you know me, you will know that you can count on me being there when I'm needed, but you will have to ask. I don't pray, I don't believe that there's a caring, loving god out there looking out for you, and I don't believe that there is a single, obvious path to recovery when the world's upside-down. If you know me well, though, you'll know that when you need a clown, a distraction, or someone to listen without giving you the kind of well-meaning advice that turns grating in the hundredth utterance, I'm there, and when you need someone to circle the wagons, block out the relatives, or leave you to your own process, I'm there, too.

I can't fault someone with a truckload of pie or a litany of prayers, but I can represent for the other side of things. I will not show up with my fantastic vegetarian florentine lasagne unless you ask, but ten years along, you will almost certainly get an invitation from me to step out for phở and tea and conversation to remind you, without overtly saying so, that you are not the only one who still remembers when everything changed. Grief fades, but it is always there, long after the casseroles, awkward visits, and constant attention goes, and catches you at the oddest moments.

Someone from my long-ago past wrote to me the other day, after I posted a picture of myself in my new glasses on a social media site, and told me I look like he remembered my dad looking back in the day, and recounted a story about one of our scout camping trips and how resourceful he thought my dad was. It's this. Fifteen years later, the world has moved on, I'm living my life as I do, and still—

Be there now if you're needed, but even better, be there years down the line.
posted by sonascope at 5:43 AM on December 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nice gesture, despite the repeated requests of the Newtown residents for people NOT to come and make or harder for them to get around.
CNN interviewed some of the people eating pie and they said they were happy to have here there. She also said she was worried she might have been stepping on people's toes but she said the reaction was positive. She also did a pie baking class with the local highschool and gave out those pies as well. One person was close to tears talking about how happy he was with her being there.
Look at you people:

"I don't care what the grievers are asking (pleading). I'm doing a good thing. Yea me! What a wonderful thing I'm doing. I can just ignore what's been politely requested by folks experiencing a terrible loss. 'Cause, you know, children."

Shame on you.
Except, actual people on the actual ground seem perfectly happy with this particular person being there. So... WTF are you talking about?
All charity should be anonymous.
Better the orphan die then some rich asshole gets to brag about saving him, right!
I'm glad that all of you who put your personal stamp of approval on actions like this, (maybe the pie lady has a special exemption) hopefully you feel great about overriding the feelings of the parents and neighbors of the dead. Jesus, everyone has a right to their own opinion I guess.
EXCEPT THERE IS DIRECT EVIDENCE THAT MANY OF THEM ARE HAPPY TO HAVE HER THERE. The fact that there is one person who posted one facebook post about people in general does not mean the people in this town want this specific person to leave. Do you have any evidence whatsoever that any of them do? Obviously it's possible that some don't like it, and aren't saying anything about it to be polite. But it does seem very clear that lots of people are happy to have her there.

It's also entirely possible that some people want here there, and others do not. There is no reason to assume that every single person in that town has the same emotional response to her presence. Some may want comfort from others and others may want to be left alone. The fact that one person wrote one facebook post doesn't mean that it applies to every resident and every person who wants to visit.

I also heard about a group that brought comfort dogs just for people to pet and hug. Seems like the response was pretty positive.
posted by delmoi at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


When Amy passed away, MeFites brought and mailed me pie. :)
posted by mrbill at 8:46 AM on December 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was brought up on that 'nobody does anything good except to flatter themselves' rubbish. It's actually totally discredited behaviourist nonsense. Helping is as much instinct as running away. Self-sacrificing, going out of your comfort zone, that's not instinct, but the empathy from her own bereavement and the caring are natural. That doesn't make them holy or 'good', but it means they're not 'motivated and self-serving' either.
posted by maiamaia at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2012


Also, people who want to help in annoying ways turn up and talk, insist you respond verbally and emotionally to them, etc. She just turned up and made pies available. It's really different when the help is not about the helper, and when it doesn't require any emotional response or attention from the recipient. They can bring their own - or no - response to it. Like the woman who 'realized i hadn't eaten for [days?hours?]'. It's nonverbal so fully-interpretable. Lastly, it is actually helpful - everyone needs food constantly. It's not like knocking on the door and insisting you come up with some way for me to help. It communicates caring, nonverbally, and asks for no response.
posted by maiamaia at 4:24 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


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