Many of you know about the suicide of a loved one and public scrutiny our family faced in 1999. As I was preparing this month’s blog, I wanted to focus on thankfulness, and for some reason, these events came to mind. While I still struggle occasionally with what happened, now that I am many years removed, I can examine the events through fresh eyes. Even though recalling these memories is painful, I have learned and can now find thankfulness from those many lessons learned along the way.
When people are faced with public scrutiny, their social circle often drastically changes. It was quite painful at the time to see friends become distant or in some cases, cut off all contact. However, I learned empathy as people were unsure how to maintain friendships after such drastic circumstances. While I missed those people from my life, I accepted that those who withdrew are not bad people. We are all human. I hope that someday we can become friends again.
However, I was touched by the group of friends and family who came forward to support me in this difficult time. Their words, hugs, calls, jokes, offers to take the boys for an afternoon, or more aggressive friends who stopped by and demanded, “You are going for a walk, NOW!” lifted me from my sadness and helped me get through my third pregnancy safely. In hindsight, I am thankful for loyal and true friends.
In addition, after being under the media microscope, I learned to show empathy for those facing public scrutiny. Today, when I see a news story on TV, I remind myself that there is a family surrounding the headliner, and they are probably hurting and attempting to hold together. This experience also taught me the importance of first finding the facts and to use restraint before passing judgement. I am also thankful for the silence of acquaintances who really didn’t like Dad and could have easily added fuel to the “media fire.” Their restraint was comforting, knowing they cared for our family and wanted to shield us from further scrutiny.
Finally, I learned the importance of keeping my mouth shut (OK, I’m still working on that!). I thought that I had the power to help our family through honest, positive exchanges with the media. Boy, was I wrong! This experience taught me that in so many times in life, the best advice is to stay silent. While I had nothing to hide, I learned the value of discretion with the media as I lacked the power to create positive, effective change.
Why did I share this? I chose this topic because it was cathartic to view the events of 1999 with forgiveness and thankfulness. Furthermore, everyone faces painful trials in life. I hope that when these times come, people can learn from my story and discover that, with time, healing is realistic, and perhaps, with a bit of soul searching, pearls of wisdom can arise from those harsh lessons.
Something that has pulled me through is a song that my kids sang every year at concerts and graduation: “If we hold on together, I know our dreams will never die.” If you just hold on together as a family and give the storm a chance to pass and a new day to come, you can make it. Family is worth fighting for. God Bless!