The weekend before last, our area experienced a widespread power outage. Our power came back on fairly quickly, so it didn’t affect us too much.
When I went to work on the following Monday, my boss** came in and immediately proceeded to tell me in great detail how he and his wife had witnessed a car accident during the power outage. It was like it was this sensational event they had witnessed that he just had to share with me. At least that what it seemed like to me at the time.
They were stopped at a large intersection where the stoplights were out, waiting while everyone worked their way through the intersection. When the stoplights go out, the intersection is supposed to be treated as a four way stop with everyone stopping and then taking their turn. As they sat there about three cars back, waiting their turn, a large pickup truck charged through the intersection without even slowing down and broadsided a smaller car trying to get through from the other direction. My boss proceeded to tell me in detail how the car nearly flipped over, looking like it was going to land on its top, before settling back on all four wheels. He said the car was hit on the passenger side, but there were no other passengers in the car. A police officer was also stopped at the intersection and appeared to assist the people fairly quickly, so he turned around and went the other way.
But he had to make sure he told me about it – in detail.
The thing about car accidents is that they are a huge trigger for me. I cringe at the sound of sirens. I cringe when I see wrecks on the freeway. And I can’t stand for car accidents to be explained in detail to me.
Each of these events take me right back to the time when Jason died. The phone call. The sirens. Driving to the accident site. All the flashing lights from the police and fire trucks. My pleading with God to spare my precious boy. Standing at the intersection beside my car, shivering and waiting for the policeman to come and tell me what was going on. Jason’s car shielded by a big fire truck so I couldn’t see how bad it really was. It couldn’t be my precious boy. He couldn’t be gone. But he was.
Jason was driving a car that was broadsided – right on the driver’s door – by a drunk driver going more than twice the posted speed limit. I don’t really need to hear about car accidents.
My boss tends at times to describe to me maladies or illnesses of people he knows or his clients. Most of them are people I don’t know or barely know (he visits most clients out of the office). I just find myself shutting down. I don’t want to hear it. I can’t listen to it. I know he wants me to sympathize or empathize, perhaps because he has heard people who have had a child die have more empathy for tragedy, but I just don’t have it in me.
Recently, he told me about a client whose spouse has developed Alzheimers very quickly. After telling all about it, he made the comment, “This was not how they imagined things happening.” I responded, “I have discovered that things rarely go the way we imagine they will.” He then looked at me in an almost irritated way and sternly admonished me, “Becky, you need to learn to be thankful for what you have.” And then he walked away.
It’s not like I don’t care. I just don’t have many reserves or resources left any more, not enough energy to go around. I don’t really have any friends. I don’t have a support system. We don’t have any family very close by. Whatever energy and caring I have goes into my family. That’s all I can do for now. That’s what’s most important to me – my family.
I need to come up with some response when things like that happen. I think I’ve decided what to say, especially if the car wreck thing comes up again. I’m going to say something along the line of, “Because of Jason’s death, hearing about car accidents are a trigger and cause anxiety for me. I’m sorry to hear about this, but I need to pass on hearing the details at this time.”
I realize this happens because of a lack of understanding or misinformation or just plain not thinking. Nevertheless, it is a huge trigger for me. It really affects me and I need to figure out how to deal with it.
If you are a person who feels the need to talk about tragedies in detail to a person whose child has died, I would suggest you stop to think what you are saying and to look at your motivation for trying to “share” more tragedy with someone who has already gone through such horrendous loss. Turn up the tuner on own sympathy/empathy. Engage your brain. Pay attention to how people react when you talk. Some people may not mind; some may mind a whole lot. Maybe it would be best to find someone else to talk to about these tragedies.
Just my two cents.
© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney
**EDIT: Clarification – The boss I talk about in this post is NOT the one I wrote about quite a few years ago (here). I work two jobs – one for the one mentioned in an earlier post, and the one mentioned here.