The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently published an article I wrote: “We Let Our Father Die”.
It was the most viewed piece on CBC that day. Early in the morning it was being read by over a thousand readers, more than twice the next most. Later it was even higher and still more than twice as many readers as the latest from the Ukraine. By evening it had dropped to a little over 400 but that was still ahead of the next most read article at 275.
Apparently the story was trending so hard that if you started Google on your cell phone in Vancouver the article would be within the top few suggestions.
Comments were open. I logged in and liked all the pleasant ones; the ones wishing me well or thanking me for writing about the topic but I did not reply or do more as they continued. There were over 200 when comments were closed.
This was much more than I expected. I am pleased for the CBC and for my producer that it did so well for them. I am pleased that it touched something that many people had an interest in and a desire to talk to and talk about. I am pleased that something that I wrote (with much assistance from my editor since I have no journalism and little non-fiction writing experience) was read by thousands of people.
I am also pleased that my contact information *was not included*.
I am not an activist. I don’t want to participate in discussions about grief or MAID or about similar stories or situations. I don’t want be considered an expert. Neither do I need to be healed, especially by strangers by long distance.
I am happy the story resonated with readers but I’m also happy I am not required to reply to their comments. That would be not only exhausting but triggering.
During a discussion I nearly snapped when someone attempted to help. They explained why I shouldn’t feel bad, that I “had done the right thing so I shouldn’t feel xxx or yyy.” I was furious and about to leave the meeting to stop myself from saying how angry they were making me, but they stopped.
They were trying make me feel better. But they were doing so by trying to convince me that my reactions were wrong, that I shouldn’t feel what I felt because … and I don’t even remember which of the arguments they used: my father was 94, people didn’t used to live this long, he had a DNR, his quality of life had diminished so much, he wasn’t likely to improve, or their parent had been in a similar situation and they had told them … I don’t remember. I was too angry.
I was surprised by my reaction. I thought I was past the emotional parts. When I worked on the last revision of the article I noticed I was trying to edit in past tense: “I felt…”, “I was…” instead of I feel guilty, I am angry, because those emotions weren’t active any longer. I kept the revision in present tense though because those feelings were active when I wrote them down.
Evidently it is a wound that can still be opened.
There is a difference between a few comments among many posted in a setting where I don’t have to respond, versus listening to them from someone I know. And a difference between suggestions or considerations being offered, versus being told a story with the implication that it is the same thing that you experienced with a different reaction or that your emotions are wrong because you’re not seeing your story the way someone else sees it.
What soothed me was to skim through the article comments later, probably paying more attention to the reassuring and supportive ones: the “thank you for sharing”, the “I felt the same way” ones.
Apparently the salve for being told your feelings are wrong, is feeling heard.