(This video has inspired a series of articles that we will be posting as they are written.)
This is going to be a little bit of a tough conversation and I try to keep the things I say brief. This one though, I don’t know how I can keep it brief. So please bear with me. This morning someone sent me a photograph of a car wreck. Her friend was in this horrible wreck and she wanted me to see how serious this is. She was wanting comfort and sending me this photograph of the wreckage that just happened the night before, not knowing how this woman was going to be, was kind of traumatic.
I get it. She wanted me to see her pain. She wanted me to see the seriousness. She wanted me to help comfort her. For myself personally, I found it difficult because my mother died in a really horrific car wreck and definitely triggered a few things, but I can handle that. I can deal with it, but it made me think about things I’ve seen in the cancer world, where someone will share pictures of their friend as they’re dying, or they share some really intimate photos that maybe were meant to stay intimate.
That makes me wonder what is our motivation for sharing this? I think our motivations are usually very good. We want to be comforted. We want people to see what we’re going through. We want people to get what’s happening, but also, and as much as I love transparency, because I truly believe the more we talk about really significant hard issues we can come to conclusions. I think sometimes there are places that things should be private.
I remember when I was very ill, several people would come up to my young son and say, “So tell me when your mother’s going to die.” He was traumatized. I think we don’t realize how much damage we cause and I cautioned my friend who shared the photo today of the car wreck, “Please don’t share that photo. First of all, we don’t know how she’s going to do. It’s too soon and I get why you did it, but I don’t want her children to see that.” Her children are young and you might think, well, they’re never going to see it, but I can promise you, they will.
There were things about my mother’s death I didn’t need to know. There were things my son didn’t need to be asked. I think we have to find a way to share what we need to share and have a healthy transparency, but also know when to hold back a little bit and think about what our motivation is and what we’re trying to seek. Not to say our motivation is ill, but that our motivation is properly addressed. We get what we need too.
I hope we can find a way to dialogue about how we handle tragedy, how we handle grief and how we give people dignity. I’ve told my family, “If I get to a point where this cancer comes back and I’m not making it, there are certain things I’m not going to want shared.” It’s not out of vanity on my part that I want people not seeing me looking My best. I mean, I’m an old lady. I don’t look my best now, I get it. But because it’s not the sum of who I am, that was only a part of my life. That’s not what I want to be remembered for. It’s not what I want to be the memories that my children and my friends have of me of those last moments.
I really don’t know how to wrap this up. It’s a complicated conversation and again, this is not meant to criticize. I think everyone should look up an article that was ran in the Los Angeles Times called the circles of support or the rings of support where it talks about the person who is suffering is in the middle and everyone’s in a ring out from that and then the rings expand. So I told my friend who sent me the picture, her friend is in the middle. She’s close, she’s in that second ring. I’m further out. So when she needs support, she can come to me and that support will flow inward. Then eventually it all accumulates into support for the person suffering.
Like I said, I don’t know how to wrap it up. This is not to be critical. I just think we need to think about what is the good in transparency? How can we use it well and when is there a time to hold some things back to maybe not cause collateral damage to people that are either too young, or it’s too soon, or maybe really some things need to be private to allow dignity? I wish I was smarter to have all the answers. I hope that you engaged in this conversation. Again, God bless and hope always.
Terry Arnold, Founder
The IBC Network Foundation