It’s been said a million times, but I’ll say it again: We live in an age of oversharing. There are myriad platforms through which to share your every thought, no matter how banal, constant temptations to express your joy or outrage or fatigue to your own social media world. And despite being a writer, that self-involved breed both naturally inclined and trained to share their views about the world, and to promote those views, I have always been somewhat uncomfortable about communicating certain things. I’ll happily tell you how much I liked (or hated) that episode of Scandal, when it comes to the deeply personal things, I have this feeling that sharing it with the world—writing about it, even talking about it, sometimes—cheapens it somehow.
When my sister died I refused to talk about it for a long time. At first I was too sad, too angry, too crushed to put into words how ineffably my life had changed. Then as time passed, it became a way of holding on. People say talking about it makes it easier, and I didn’t want it to be easy. I wanted to hang on to my pain and my memories, to keep them fresh and raw, because to do otherwise felt like a betrayal. I still feel that way.
I’m thinking about this now because a friend of mine recently had someone very close to him pass away. He’s young; she was young too. He wrote about it today on Facebook—about her, about what he’s going through, and about the same things I’ve struggled with: whether sharing personal memories of her would have made her happy or angry, whether his tribute to her was his selfish way of dealing with the situation or whether it was simply what she deserved. He’s also a journalist, and his note was beautifully written—but I couldn’t get through it. His pain brings back mine just as I wished, in all its raw, bleeding strength, but this time mixed with a new feeling: guilt. I feel guilty that I can’t talk to him about it for my own awful reasons, guilty that going through hell has somehow not made me any less godawful at comforting someone going through the same thing. And guilty, in some way, that I didn’t do the same thing for my sister. Maybe not talking about her more, sharing my memories of all the things I loved and admired and even sometimes hated about her and forcing her back into people’s minds is the ultimate selfish act. Maybe it was just easier for me not to talk about it. And maybe because of me, people forgot sooner.
I know I will never forget Anjali. But when I’m really honest with myself, I’m terrified that I have already forgotten some things, like the way it felt to hug her or the exact cadence of her laugh when she found something particularly hilarious. And the longer I live the further away those things get from me, until one day when I have children of my own I tell them stories of their Aunt Anjali and all that’s left are the wisps of a relationship that was once such a bedrock of my life I took it completely for granted. So maybe writing personal things about someone when they’re gone is selfish, in a way. But it could also be one of the most valuable things you can do.