Trigger – Car Accidents

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.



As a junior and senior in high school, Jason participated in a program called Running Start. Running Start is a program in Washington State offered through the public school system where a student, as a junior or senior in high school, can attend a local community college or university and receive both high school and college credits at the same time. Jason had about topped out of what I could teach him and what the homeschool community had to offer as far as classes, and so we decided it would be the next logical step in his education.

The classes Jason took the first quarter were not offered at consecutive times – he had a couple of classes certain mornings of the week and one class a couple of evenings during the week. We lived 20-30 minutes away by car (nearly an hour on the bus) from the school with no good public transportation close by, so one of the things we had to work out was a way for Jason to get to school.

At the time, we had a Volkswagen Eurovan. Jason had had his permit to learn to drive since he was 15 and a half, but didn’t have his driver’s license yet at 16 years old. I had taken him out several times for lessons on the VW, but it had a manual transmission with tricky clutch. That first semester of college, he had a lot on his plate. He was beginning a new level of higher education going to college at 16 years old, working part-time in a local hardware store and tutoring math students through the homeschool co-op. For some reason, on top of everything else, dealing with the tricky clutch while learning to drive was just a bit too much for Jason at the time. He took everything he did with great responsibility, including the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle. After a couple of lessons of clutch frustration, he decided to put off getting his license for a little while until he felt he was ready to learn to drive.

The closest bus stop for public transportation was several miles away, so, on the mornings he had classes, I drove Jason to the bus stop and then picked him up again when he was done. He would hop in the car and immediately turn on the radio or pop one of his compilation CD’s in the van’s CD player, and off we would drive to the bus stop, both of us humming or singing or rocking away to some song or another. Jason liked a wide range of music from classical (his favorite piece was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata) to a band named Collective Soul to contemporary music to Christian music to Christmas music. Whether or not it was anywhere near Christmas, we would blast Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” over the van’s speakers, bobbing our heads in time with the beat of “Sarajevo” or “Mad Russian’s Christmas.”

I decided to sign up for a continuing education evening class at the same college that first quarter of Jason’s Running Start. That way, I could drive Jason to his class so he wouldn’t have to ride the bus at night for nearly an hour each way, and I could learning something new at the same time. Quite often, he and I would leave early enough so that we could stop and eat at Arby’s on the way. We would order their 5/$5 special, and then sit and munch on curly fries and roast beef sandwiches, talking about whatever was on our minds. He loved Arby’s and I loved spending time with him.

I don’t go to Arby’s any more hardly at all, just because it’s too hard. But, I found myself craving an Arby’s sandwich yesterday, so I stopped by for lunch. I ordered a roast beef sandwich and curly fries. As I started to eat, my eyes filled with tears and I had a hard time actually eating what I’d ordered.

The food didn’t taste as good as I remembered, but the memories of my time with Jason eating at Arby’s are clear, strong, wonderful and so very bittersweet.

Oh, how I miss you, my boy.


© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

I know they’re just “things”

From my journal dated January 21, 2003:

Calculus homework awaits

I need a graphing calculator for my math class. We had bought a new one for Jason not too long before the accident; it’s still sitting beside his calculus or physics homework on his desk in his room. I’ve debated and debated what to do. It doesn’t seem practical to go out and buy another expensive calculator when there’s a perfectly good one just sitting in the other room.

It’s just so hard to think about actually going through Jason’s things or using something that was his. It just seems so wrong. I guess it still seems like he should be back soon, and that I would be invading his privacy to just take something that belonged to him. I know it’s just earthly “stuff” from an eternal point of view, and he certainly doesn’t need it any more; but it’s so hard to reconcile. It’s another step to admitting he’s really gone.

Working on homework

It’s been hard just to take math this quarter. Math is so closely related to Jason in my mind. He loved math – since he was a little kid all the way through college. He topped out of the math classes at the community college. He tutored other students in math.

I know it may seem silly. It’s just a calculator. But I remember so vividly the day we got it. So clearly, I picture Jason sitting at his desk, working on homework and using that calculator.

So many memories are tied into all this “stuff.” Things – like this calculator – trigger memories and such intense emotions. They’re just things, but they were Jason’s things.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney