A very good friend of mine just had an accident. He was driving down a country road and struck a pedestrian. That’s not in question.
The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. That’s also not in question.
More than that I can only speculate. Its unlikely that this event was anything other than an accident; i.e. no one is suspecting foul play, just an unfortunate (!) mistake by one or both parties.
How would you approach the friend? I’m reluctant to call or see him; I don’t know what to say, and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I certainly don’t want to ask him about the circumstances unless he wishes to reveal them to me and I’m not likely to be subpoenaed by anyone as I wasn’t anywhere near the accident.
What can I say that doesn’t make me an asshole? Say nothing?
I believe that saying nothing would qualify you as an… what you said. I can’t begin to imagine how bad your friend must feel. He will have to live with this for the rest of his life. He must feel like a pariah and like no decent human being will ever want anything to do with him ever again. So you must disabuse him of this notion.
I would definitely reach out in some way-- phone, written note, or email-- and say something like (any or all of the following), “I just heard. I am so very very sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. If you want to talk, I’m here. I’ll check back in with you and see how you’re doing.”
I wouldn’t ask any specific questions about the incident, but let him know you won’t be repulsed, disgusted, or inclined to run screaming from the room, if he does want to talk to you. Unconditional acceptance seems the best course at this point. In fact, this kind of thing could happen to anyone. “There but for the grace of God,” etc.
“Are you okay? Do you need to talk? You know I’m here to listen if you have something to say.”
“Though, fair warning, I’ve never experienced anything like that, so I can’t properly sympathize or understand what you’re going through and won’t be able to do anything for you but make vague noises and empty platitudes.”
“If you want to just hang out, watch a movie or something, that’s fine too. That I can do. Anyway, let me know. Or don’t, your call.”
My friend has a wife, who I’m sure is supportive, and some in-laws, likewise. I’m reluctant to step in on what might be, so far, a family matter. It’s inevitable that he may be facing legal matters soon; the deceased has local family and all have local roots; my friend, not so much.
We have produced videos together in the past, and I was about to call him for a new project that normally, I’m sure he would enjoy doing. Now, I’m less sure if I should even call him at all.
I have a good friend who was driving when a drunk driver hit her. Her 2 passengers, a Mother and daughter were killed. My friend and the drunk driver were injured. She recovered quickly from her injuries. It has been pure hell for her. She feels guilty although she did nothing wrong. She knows the family of the deceased is ruined. The woman’s husband has went off the deep end. His 2 other kids are living with Grandparents because he can’t care for them. It’s just been excruciating trying to help her. I just tell her repeatedly she’s worthy of trying to be happy. It’s not your fault. It couldn’t be helped. The DD was the bad guy. I repeat it over and over. Someday she is particularly haunted. Other days she seems ok. Her accident happened 10+ years ago. Be prepared for a long drawn out thing. But do try to help your friend. Ask “How are you feeling?” Hug, nod your head and tell him you’re sorry. Good luck.
Please call him. As ThelmaLou said, some people will probably abandon him. If you don’t call, he’ll have no way of knowing that you haven’t just turned your back on him. He already has no local roots - don’t take away one of his sources of support at a time when he needs it most.
Call. Do things as you would usually do, unless he doesn’t want to. I think not calling him does make him a pariah. If you don’t want to talk about things, you don’t need to. I would guess that just having something be normal would be nice.
Musicat, it sounds to me like you would like permission NOT to call him, as in, “Do I HAVE to?”
Yes, you do.
This is a grown-up thing and you have to do it. As Sunny Daze said (and I did, too), he likely feels like a pariah. He has family, good. Show him that he has friends, too. This is tough. But however tough your position feels to you, his is beyond anything any of us can imagine. Compassion, empathy, and kindness, my friend. That’s what this guy needs.
First off, my sympathies to everyone involved. I agree with ThelmaLou, reaching out is the right thing to do without pressing for the details. If you’re hesitant to talk directly at first, then a simple e-mail, just stating that you are sorry and hope he is ok would be appropriate including that if he needs or wants someone to talk to you are available. As I think was stated, ignoring him may make him feel that much worse.
I have my suspicions as to contributing factors, but not enough detail to squarely place any blame on any party.
I also know my friend well enough that if I trip up, and accidentally say something in the wrong way, his tolerance for humor gets cut very short. Under the circumstances, that tolerance could get cut even shorter and I don’t like my chances. He might misinterpret my overture.
You have the perfect solution right in front of you. Call him and let him know you heard about the accident and hope he is OK. Tell him about the upcoming project and see if he’s interested. After that, just let him lead the conversation. If he elaborates, listen and be supportive. If he declines on the project and doesn’t want to talk much, tell him you understand and if he needs anything that you are there.
One last thing. Follow-up. If you tell him to call him if he needs anything, and he calls in a week, or even a few days, and says that he needs someone to talk to and wants to meet for drinks or something, do it. If the time just doesn’t work for you because of prior commitments, propose a new time. If going out for drinks isn’t appropriate, offer to meet for coffee or lunch.
Decades ago, my sibling’s spouse died unexpectedly. They lived 800 miles away or so. Although I find death a difficult subject to deal with, I force myself to call at least once a week and talk for as long as was wanted (this was back in the day when long distance charges were astronomically high compared to today). For months after, I kept calling. I just figured it was the least I could do and after a couple of weeks, it wasn’t even uncomfortable. Years later, our father told me that I was the only person who cared, since I was the only one who called in the time of need (others had called, of course, but only once or twice during the troubling times). While I liked hearing that (it is nice to be appreciated), it really changed my attitude about doing things I found uncomfortable when I realized how much a difference I had made.
So, call him. Even if he doesn’t want to talk about it, or anything else, now he will appreciate the effort and it may change his life.
A woman with whom I used to work was in a very similar situation – she was the driver in an accident in which a teenager was killed (there was a cross-country team running along the side of the road, training, and she struck one of them).
I concur with ThelmaLou’s advice above – your friend may not want to talk about it (now, or ever), but letting him know that you’re willing to be there if he wants to talk, or for any other reason, is, to me, the definition of being a decent human being.
And certainly nothing you’d care to post on a message board for at least a few more years.
As a claims adjuster I’ve had to talk to your friend a few dozen times in the past decade, uncomfortably recent to the event and in excruciating detail, sometimes they’ve killed a family member, other times a kid, sometimes quickly, sometimes not (and I am no shit tearing up right now thinking of one case in particular) sometimes it’s their fault and sometimes not. Be mindful not to start the conversation with something like, “Hey! How’s it going!?” Addressing the elephant in the room with “Are you okay?” is generally enough. If he wants to talk, he will. If not, he’ll let you know. Clearly, what use you’ll be or how offensive will depend entirely on your relationship with him. Everyone reacts to this sort of thing in their own way, but I have yet to talk to someone who’d rather pretend it didn’t happen. Understand, no matter whose fault this was, it really fucks with the survivor that they were the instrument of someone’s, someone’s kid, spouse, or parent’s death.