IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Fat-Shamed At My Grandmother’s Viewing

Most people have meant well and tried to offer comforting words and support to my family during this difficult time. Of course there is always that one person who just doesn’t know what to say.
Publish date:
April 15, 2014
grieving, fat shaming, funerals

It’s bad enough that people try to shame you when things are going well. It feels even worse to get shamed while grieving for a loved one.

Only a month has passed since my paternal grandmother’s sudden death. She was my last living grandparent, and her absence is still much too surreal to comprehend. Most days I alternate between crying a little and weeping for hours. Crying is as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth for now.

Occasionally, to shake things up, I throw a little bit of anger in the mix at a few deserving people. Most people have meant well and tried to offer comforting words and support to my family during this difficult time. Of course there is always that one person who just doesn’t know what to say. One in particular takes home the award for epic rudeness in a grieving setting –- *Sister Rudy McRudeperson, a deaconess at the church my daddy pastors.

I should have anticipated her rampant rudeness. A few days prior to my grandmother’s viewing, she made a snide comment to my daddy. “Do you think you’ll be able to preach your mother’s service?” she asked. “You could barely get through the other one.” He preached the funeral of a close church member the week before my grandma passed and broke down in tears. My daddy is a strong man, but he makes no apologies for getting emotional. The last thing he needed was a reminder of how difficult it was going to be getting through the service.

The day of my grandmother’s viewing was nerve-racking. My emotions were already on edge. However, I worked to remain calm so I could be a rock for the rest of my family. Normally my grandmother is the rock, but now someone else has to take on the role. I nominated myself, mainly because I realized the entire family can’t have a breakdown simultaneously. Imagine more than 20 adults all in pieces because their matriarch is gone. Someone has to take control and comfort everyone.

The church was soon packed throughout the three-hour viewing. My grandmother’s passing was such a shock for our entire family and community, so quite naturally no one took it well. Everyone, from in-laws and neighbors to her siblings and great-great grandchildren, was overcome with grief. It was no surprise for me to see my mother sobbing in the back of the church. Apparently Sis. McRudeperson had a problem with it. “How are we supposed to comfort your husband if you’re back here carrying on?" she said to my mother.

I must have missed a chapter in the book of grieving that stated who can or cannot mourn a loved one. My mother and grandmother had their own special bond. She had just as much a right to fall out at the viewing as any of the flesh and blood children. My grandmother touched lives whether she was related to a person or not. Of course Sis. McRudeperson wasn’t done. She approached me next with a criticism on her tongue.

“You’re putting on weight,” she said.

“I’m grieving,” I coolly responded.

I just thought I would point it out,” she replied.

Between comforting family members, greeting visitors and making sure the funeral program was flawless, I was trying to keep it together. It was hurtful, to say the least, to have my weight flaws mentioned without so much as even a hello first. What happened to trying to comfort the bereaved? There is a time and place for everything, but my grandmother’s viewing was hardly the right venue to mention my weight. I’ve been thicker than a Snickers for years, so my size is nothing new. I know I need to lose weight and have actively worked on it.

The weeks before my grandmother died, I had actually been exercising, counting calories and so forth to get back to college-size fine. Of course that all went out the window when she passed. Only in the past week have I started working on my weight again. It’s been much harder because I am an emotional eater, and most days I feel down.

Every time I eat more than I should, I think about what Sis. McRudeperson said. That just makes me feel even more depressed (and hungrier). Fortunately she didn’t attend the funeral. She probably would have had something else negative to say. A person can only try me so many times before I snap. I am still a work in progress on my Christian journey.

I should be used to Sis. McRudeperson’s behavior by now because she’s been this way for years. Usually she insults my natural hair. Once she told me, right before the start of a church service, my brother’s hair was growing back so nicely while I looked like a short-haired, nappy-headed boy. I cut all my hair off after my brother lost his to chemotherapy earlier that year. His hair started growing back after the treatments ended with a much finer texture and at a quicker pace. God gave me shut mouth grace that day, because normally I would have read her like a New York Times bestseller. But I digress.

Over the past year, Sis. McRudeperson seemed a little nicer and less rude during some of the visits to my old church. I was hoping she had turned over a new leaf, but it was not meant to last. Her rudeness returned at the worst possible time. I wonder if Sis. McRudeperson’s problem is no one has ever told her that she says so many hurtful comments. My dad has preached countless times to be an encourager and not a discourager. Clearly she hasn’t paid any attention to the sermons. Any good memories I had of her as a child have been clouded by all of the mean-spirited things she’s said over the years.

Perhaps I should have given Sis. McRudeperson a good old-fashion cursing out at the viewing. That would have straightened her out. Then again that’s not my style. Maybe I should give her an etiquette book on dealing with a bereaved family.

At the very least, the next time Sis. McRudeperson insults me, I’ll take a cue from my mother. While at the cemetery after the funeral an acquaintance said to her, “Oh, you’ve put on so much weight.” My mother smiled gracefully and responded, “Why thank you for telling me that,” and walked off, leaving the woman in her own ignorance and shame.

*Name changed to protect the not so innocent.