On June 15th, long after I got home from celebrating my birthday and Father's Day with my family, I was laying in bed thinking about what time I needed to be up in the morning. My boyfriend walked in with his phone clutched in his hands and it was one of those moments you just knew something wasn't right. I asked what was wrong and he just handed me his phone and laid down next to me wrapping an arm around me. I read the words on the screen but I couldn't make sense of them. So I read them again. And then a third time. Then I read the names three more times because I was in shock. My friend and her ex had been found dead in what had been the home they shared together up until a few weeks ago when she had begun moving out.
I sat there staring at the words on the screen trying to make sense of it. It was Sunday night. She had been fine Friday. We were having a party on the 21st that she was coming to and was excited about. Instead, my Saturday started by going to her memorial service. That wasn't the way I was supposed to see her that day but that's how it worked out.
Her death made the local news. I went into work the morning after I found out and told my boss what happened so he would understand the mood I was in. He offered to let me go back home and have the morning off. I declined. I needed the distraction and needed to keep focused on something else. Anything else. My co-workers there that day found out from my boss and were supportive and respectful.
As the days passed and a few more details emerged, some of my co-workers and acquaintances decided to start speculating about what may have happened. The death was a murder-suicide so there are so many things left unanswered and unknown. I know people like to talk and speculate about things like this so I avoided news stories and tons of things posted on Facebook and Twitter. I asked my co-workers not to talk about it in front of me.
I learned a new lesson about death. One of the worst things about a friend's death getting media coverage is so many people want to talk to you about it. They'll give you space at first but then they'll get curious and they'll want to talk to you. Because you knew them and maybe you know something that's not mentioned. They'll offer their opinion on what they think happened, an opinion that's based on nothing. Or worse they'll try to pry details out of you like you're just a vault of secrets. Most don't even care that you're hurting, that you're grieving. Their own curiosity is more important than how you're feeling. Some will even get annoyed when you refuse to discuss it. How dare you put your pain ahead of their curiosity! The story was on the news and in the paper so how could I not want to discuss every tantalizing detail?
To them, it's a news story and they're emotionally detached from it. It's something to solve and try to figure out. It's interesting despite the circumstances being unpleasant. So they ask questions and offer scenarios and opinions and want to discuss the whole ordeal with you because you have a better grasp of things and more knowledge of what's going on. It's not because they care, it's just human nature to be curious. Discussing the details and listening to speculation is really the last thing I want to do. To me, I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm confused. I feel lost. I'm aching to understand, to make some form of sense of why this happened not because I'm curious but because if I could just understand, I could cope better. I'll never know more than I know now. I'll never know how things played out and I'll never know why this happened. It's crushing in a way that sudden deaths usually are. I don't find the mystery of all the unknowns interesting; I find them heartbreaking and feel them like heavy rocks weighing me down.
I've had countless people attempt to pry for more details after I've said I don't want to discuss what was on the news. I've had many more offer opinions that I didn't ask for despite me saying I didn't want to discuss it. I've had people try to tell me how I'm supposed to feel and think about my friend because they saw the story.
I understand curiosity, I really do. I'm a very curious person myself. However, I also understand being a decent, respectful human being and understand putting a person's feelings ahead of my own. I've been on the other side of a situation similar to this. Prying and offering speculation to a person directly affected never even crossed my mind. Support was all that I offered because I wanted to help, not do something to make things worse or make them feel worse than they already did. Explaining that concept to people has been exhausting. And it's mostly co-workers, acquaintances and friends of friends. It baffles me that someone would be annoyed or angered by a grieving person not wanting to discuss or speculate about the death of someone they cared about. It's confusing and enraging that a few have even acted like I owe it to them to discuss it.
Unexpected death is hard enough to deal with without having to deal with people you know and others you hardly know pushing you for details and/or offering their opinions on the situation because they saw this here and read that there and that lead them to this conclusion because. I appreciate everyone that's offered their support and respected my wishes to not discuss things. I appreciate that so much more now than I did a week ago because so many people just don't understand or don't care enough not to pry and push.
It's not hard to be decent and respectful. It's not hard to think of how someone else is feeling in a situation where they've lost someone they cared for unexpectedly. Especially when they're telling you how they're feeling and telling you that you're overstepping. It's not difficult to be kind and put their pain ahead of your own desire to feed your curiosity, your desire to know. At least it shouldn't be.