I am, to many, a chronic oversharer.
Ask me about my childhood and my family; I’ll tell you the things I haven’t blocked out. Why am I sick all the time? Stress. Lack of gallbladder. Losing two inches of my large intestine to a ruptured appendix. What about the most traumatic moment of my life before my husband passed? Definitely being blackout drunk and regaining some sobriety while involuntarily losing my virginity (aka rape and/or, if you are an asshole keen on victim-blaming, “Don’t get that drunk and bad things won’t happen to you.”)
This is who I am and what I have been through and why and how it has shaped me. It feels significant. These details are part of my story. Some of them may help people who have dealt with similar situations. There is sadness in finding common place or understanding with your peers over shitty situations, but there is also comfort and mutual healing.
Ron’s accident and his death are significant and have shaped me too. I don’t keep those details to myself either.
And yet, privacy is important.
There is an invaluable collective element to everything that I share, and that is the fact that I have a choice in the matter of sharing.
I was pretty adamant about avoiding media involvement following Ron’s death. I even asked officers both at the scene and a few days later if there would be media involvement and if I had the legal right to stop it–the answer was “Maybe and no.”
There are reasons for my opposition, which I will address shortly, but suffice to say, at some point over the past few months, an article, unauthorized by me, was published on Ron. After an uproar in my defense and an email in which I did not choose kindness, the article was removed. (Subtext: I am not perfect.) (Sub-subtext: There are unfortunate times when choosing kindness doesn’t work, and then you just choose to be as kind as possible–even if all that means is “choosing not to threaten to cause physical injury and/or property damage because the loss of a person you don’t have a connection to may be worthwhile but the loss of your freedom when you end up behind bars is not.”)
Then, recently, I, myself, shared Ron’s story with a reporter.
You may wonder what the difference is–why it’s okay for me to choose to share and why does it seem like I want to control that ability in other people?
Let’s readdress that invaluable common element. Choice.
When I choose what to share and what to keep to myself, I run through a series of questions.
- Does sharing explain things worth explaining or, in some way, benefit people other than myself?
- Is my story true and accurate?
- Do I honor the people (those deserving of honor) involved?
- Am I giving away too much and putting myself at risk?
If the answers, in order, are not “Yes. Yes. Yes. No.” then I keep it to myself.
So, a reporter is contacted by someone other than me. I’ve already lost my ability to choose. But maybe it will be okay?
It wasn’t. Why wasn’t it?
- In my mind, I tell Ron’s story for two reasons–he was an organ donor, and more people need to register as donors AND he lost his life in a preventable accident because, somehow, drivers are still not attentive enough to remember they share the road with motorcyclists, and that needs to stop. Maybe, hopefully, my story will promote my causes. In the mind of the reporter who wrote the article and the people who contacted her in the first place, neither of my causes seemed to matter. I will not place blame or claim to have discussed the background behind the need for the article; I will discuss fact. The fact is that the article never once addressed motorcycle awareness or safety on the road–though it did, momentarily, touch on organ donation.
- It was inaccurate. It involved pieces of my own story that were not true. It involved pieces of Ron’s story that were not true. It even contained inaccurate or downright untrue pieces of stories from the people who contacted journalist in the first place.
- It did not honor Ron. There was no beautiful, vivid picture of the man that he was. There was not a single detail that conveyed the depth of the loss that we all shared in; that the world itself shares in, because he is gone.
- My name, my neighborhood, erroneous depictions of our relationship, our choices, my choices following Ron’s death, etc. were included. I was put at risk of identification by people I didn’t want to be identified by, exposure of details that I didn’t want to know, and exposure of details about Ron that didn’t need to be shared or could be misconstrued.
Call me selfish but I want to stick with number four for a minute here. Did you know that “widow chasers” are a thing? That there are people in the world who see vulnerability in tragic situations and use them as their own comeuppance? Can you stop for a moment to think about the implications of having your full name and neighborhood (not city, but neighborhood–and a tiny one at that) exposed to any one who reads an article? Did you remember that as a widow, I am newly single in a household that was once composed of two adults and is now just one? I’ve heard the horror stories. The last thing that I need is another horror story of my own.
Having everything ripped away from you in one fell swoop is agonizingly humbling.
I don’t feel like I have very much control or choice in my life these days. There have been some hard truths that I’ve had to face: the best laid plans don’t matter, taking every last precaution isn’t a guarantee, and being a good person and putting positive energy into your environment doesn’t stop tragedy from derailing every last hope and dream in your world.
I cling to the small things that I can control. Sometimes, I am downright obsessive about those things. I can’t control my story, but I wanted to believe that I could control how my story is told and who it is told by. Having my story told for me by someone who didn’t know me had catastrophic impact on my healing. It was just another harrowing loss of control.
I do not need attention. I do need control.
I wanted to put my head under water and scream until drowned, but I am nothing if I am not persevering. I quietly, and then loudly, took the action necessary to make that article go away. And then, I contacted a different reporter on my own. This wasn’t spiteful. I did not have the intention of taking away from anyone’s healing process–I actually did it because it seemed like it was so critical to the healing of some that I wanted to respect that in a way in which everyone could “win,” so to speak.
The journalist that I contacted has a rather large following. He is a man with a great deal of integrity who cares deeply about the stories that he shares with his followers. I knew that I would be treated with respect, my story would be treated with respect, and my invaluable common elements would remain intact. I also knew that a broad audience would be affected–another way to address my causes.
But grief is egocentric.
I get it. I don’t always immediately think of what other people may feel or need when I barely know how I feel or what I need. It took months to consider the fact that perhaps I wasn’t being personally attacked when things happened behind my back and my control was pried away from me. And now, there are other people feeling like they’ve lost that same sense of control that I felt that I lost months ago. I ache for them…and yet, I refuse to accept fault for their pain.
My healing is important. No one but me understands the way that the desolation that I feel on a daily basis impacts me. Everyone suffering loss feels similar things–but the impact of those things is absolutely different from person to person, and I don’t claim to know how anyone else is affected either. We all need to find ways to heal. If telling a story is your way, please do not stop telling that story. I only ask for respect. I will not tell your story. You should not tell mine. My privacy is crucial to my healing, and I will not apologize for that.