Making a List

How the Bereaved Keep Score

When I visualize my grief underbelly it’s on the set of a film noir —
preferably with a light mist or drizzle. Photo Credit: Movie Still from Third Man
Illusration credit: author

I felt guilty that I had many texts/emails/voicemails/cards that I couldn’t/didn’t want to respond to and confused about why I was hung up on the people I hadn’t heard from.

When it comes to relationships with friends and families, I am generally not much of a scorekeeper. I never kept tabs on gift-giving, who-called-first, who went to the party…but in grief, all of my normal social habits are out of whack. I have a long list of people who have ‘wronged’ me, and I spend a substantial amount of time thinking about them.

I wish their siblings had died…not mine

That girl from math class who contacted me out of the blue one day about buying skincare products? Eerily silent now that shit has hit the fan. My 3rd grade best friend? I guess she thinks that my sister dying unexpectedly wasn’t a big deal because she congratulated me when my daughter was born but vanished 10 months later when my sister collapsed. I now hate these people with a fiery passion.

When Scorekeeping Infiltrates Everyday Life

Scorekeeping can come in a variety of different forms and might show up somewhere where you’d least expect it.

My 2018 goal is to resist the urge to rank holiday cards on my fridge. Photo Credit:

Why do we keep score?

My best guess is that it’s a concrete place to direct your anger over what has happened to your loved one and to you.


When I look back at my list, the people all have one thing in common. I expected something from them and they failed to meet my expectations. The old coworker was a good friend, and I was just so surprised that he didn’t bother to say anything because a couple of years earlier he was kind and supportive when I had a miscarriage (and started crying uncontrollably at work).

I Didn’t Know What to Say empathy card by Emily McDowell & Friends

Navigating sibling & parent loss and trying to change the way people support each other in grief. Founder at

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