As I watched the horrific shooting deaths of two young journalists captured live on video, my heart went out immediately to their family and friends. I cannot imagine how difficult this must be to have their very personal tragic losses played out over and over again in newscasts and social media across the United States and the world. I understand as a former broadcast journalist myself that this story is “news” but as the victim of a very public tragedy I also know that the public broadcast of your loved one’s death is going to complicate your grief journey. Each replay of the last minutes of those two journalists’ lives is another knife driven into the hearts of their friends and loved ones.
Twenty-four hours after the May 1993 multi-car accident that eventually took the lives of my two year old adopted daughter Katie and my thirty-five year old wife Cindy reporters were calling to talk with me in my hospital room about my reactions to my public, but very personal tragedy. To this day the anger I felt at a news reporter trying to make a sensational headline and story out of my family’s trauma and losses returns. How could they try to make a living off my personal, private grief? Why does their audience crave the gory details of someone else’s tragedy? Despite the journalistic mantra of “The people have a right to know,” the truth is that the details of my daughter’s and wife’s last minutes on earth are none of their business.
What good comes from the public or any prying person finding out the full details of your loved one’s death? It’s one thing if you as part of the grieving family and friends want to tell the story. It just might be therapeutic and part of your healing process. But curious bystanders outside of the loved one’s circle of family and friends need to curb that curiosity and be present only to support and encourage you or any other mourner.
Mourners, beware the emotional vultures that circle your tragedy and feed off your loss and pain. Although they pretend to care and be there for you, they are there with you only for their own voyeuristic needs. And what is sadder, is that they may not even be aware that they are using you and your crisis to benefit themselves emotionally. Also they are not aware how their questions and prying into your private life can cause additional trauma and emotional wounding for you.
Mourn and share your story only in places and with people who make you feel safe, supported and care for. Just because somebody wants to know more doesn’t mean you are obligated to share all the details of how your loved one died or the situation surrounding the death, before or after. Just because someone asks a question about your loss and grief, doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer.
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.
Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.
FOR INFORMATION ON SCHEDULING COUNSELING SERVICES WITH LARRY BARBER Click here.