TRAGEDY, THEN THE ‘DEATH KNOCK’
I’m a coward. I didn’t have the courage to go to a friend’s funeral this past week.
After another tragic death, is this a line the media shouldn’t cross?
Initially I tried to convince myself that I couldn’t organise a babysitter to look after my small girls. What nonsense… Yes, I had a sitter but I wimped out of confronting the raw, exposed grief of a family who had lost their dad, husband, son and mate.
He was a handsome, charismatic man who had blazed through high school, shone on the beach and later in the boardrooms.
A terrible illness has robbed him of his looks, his strength and then his will to live.
What do you say to his family at a funeral? Somehow, “I’m so sorry”, doesn’t seem to cut it. How can words ever, ever be enough to compensate or adequately describe the measureless pain that you feel when someone you adore has died?
My wimpy behaviour reminds me of a sentiment from a counsellor friend of mine, ‘that we don’t do dying well’. She’s spot on.
This woman has worked with families whose children have terminal cancer. She is the bravest person I know. How does she do it? Well, she says, it’s about different doses of care, compassion and humour. This woman says she has the best job in the world as she is able to share the most intimate and honest time in a family’s life.
But there are some things that you don’t need to share – and this is coming from someone who is very comfortable ‘sharing’ moments of Dr Phil proportions.
And what isn’t necessary is intruding on the grief of a parent who has lost a child and then plastering it across our media.
I’m a hypocrite as I’ve presented numerous news bulletins that have included the heartbreak of a family who have lost a child. Each time I have introduced such a story, I have watched the item, and then turned away.
My colleagues and I would say how terribly sad it was, and then we would move onto the next story. Something a family can never, ever do.
However, since becoming a mum, it’s harder to move onto the next story. I have no idea how those parents feel. I don’t allow my imagination to go there, as I’m terrified by the torrent of emotions such a catastrophe would unleash within me. That’s why I wish we could leave those parents to grieve in private.
One of the worst jobs of being a reporter on the road was being told to do a ‘death knock’.
Literally it means to knock on the door of a family who has just lost a loved one, and to ask them “how do you feel?”. Often the shell-shocked family would be told that by talking, it might prevent the tragedy happening to another family. What?
That is misleading and not necessarily true. I think it’s amoral, as it is asking someone a question at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Journalists would often get the door slammed in their face – as they should.
But occasionally, the screen door would be opened and the camera crews would be asked in to a place where no stranger should tread. And it was frequently families who were unfamiliar with the ways of the media who would open their door.
These were the very same families who should have been protected and shielded in their very darkest hour.
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