The Tough Stuff

Sometimes this job gets to me.

I can handle a lot. There’s been scandals, murders, homeless, starvation, beach devastation. It always saddens me, but when I am forced to talk to a mother who lost her 16-year-old daughter the day before it hurts me.

I feel their pain, I hear their hurt and I ache for them.

A lot of people ask why anyone would talk to the media in situations like losing a loved one. I don’t know. To be perfectly honest, I would be very hesitant to talk to the media if I lost someone dear to me.

I think, though, that it can be somewhat therapeutic to talk about the life they lead and it can act as something of a memorial to scrapbook, I suppose.

Today, I spoke with a woman who not only lost her husband three days ago but her daughter died from complications from the same car accident. I don’t know why I feel like it should get easier in time, but I think it should.

Honestly, from my first story of having to talk to a family who had just lost someone to now, I have gotten better.

I put on my meager, calm voice. I show my sympathy and I know that when they say they’re done I don’t push any further.

But it will never be easy.

I pray that I never get used to hearing that a teenager full of possibilities died. That I never stop being angry when a drunk driver gets off on a 15-year sentence and that I always remember to show love and grace to families willing to let me in their lives during the most difficult times they’ve ever been through.

I think one of the worst times for me was interviewing a woman whose husband had been killed two months earlier. He was a military man and his plane went down in Afghanistan.

I was the first media person she talked to since his death.

We met at the paper under the guise of writing about a fundraiser for her to allow her friends and family to travel with her to a memorial service being held for her husband in Texas.

But we talked about everything.

You could see how much she loved her husband, how the reality of his death was still hard to grasp. She never shed a tear. Sitting on the other side of the table, my composure was a challenge to hold on to.

Tears continued to well up and I continued to try to suppress them. It was a challenge, and the story was even more of a challenge.

What a responsibility to write the last story of their loved one. To make sure you don’t upset them further and to try to summarize the life of a person in one 15 inch story.

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One response to “The Tough Stuff

  1. Thanks for the personal perspective. I think your personal reaction (visible as it likely was to those you interviewed) probably helped you in your interviews. It’s never easy though, and it shouldn’t be.
    I once had an editor tell me to ask family members how they felt knowing that their husband/father passed away the evening before. It was part of an extended obituary I had to write on a guy who was elderly and had served the community for decades.
    I thought her suggestion was rude and simply, albeit quietly, I refused to ask such an insensitive question and instead asked one of the sons to recount stories about his father. The story worked well in spite of such a dumb question.
    Showing my human side at times worked well for me and made for some better stories.

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