Things I never wanted to know

What are some of the things you never wanted to know? How did you learn them? How would you write about them for loved ones?

We all have lessons that we want to pass on. However, we have also learned things that we never wanted to know. In the midst of a family tragedy, a friend texted me today with details on why some autopsies are done in the state capital rather than in her city. It’s a fact she never wanted to know. A heart-rending reminder of the surreal quality of shock and grief.

How poignant a method of storytelling to let loved ones and future generations know the things you hope they’ll never have to know.


If you search for “Things I never wanted to know,” Google will give you tons of listicle articles. Warning: Some of the results are eww. Others spark some great ideas.

Fertility for example: Those of us who never encountered fertility problems will never have to know a myriad of facts. What a woman’s body has to go through. What fertility testing entails. The expense of treatment, compounded with the pain of Mother’s day.

Many of those “Things I never wanted to know” moments come as we realize we’re the adult now. There’s no one ahead of us that are going to help “take care” of things. To advise.

Things I Never Wanted to Know

For instance, with the death of my parents, I never wanted to know:

  • The state of Alaska takes six weeks to issue a death certificate in the case of accidental death. A certain credit card’s rental car insurance says they won’t pay a claim unless they receive a death certificate inside of 30 days.
  • Funeral homes have a sort of casket showroom, with quite a selection of caskets.
  • Even death won’t stop those “you’re prequalified for our new credit card” mailings, even if the bank closed out an account two-weeks prior due to the account-holder’s passing.
  • “I’m sorry, he can’t come to the phone; he’s dead,” generally stops telemarketers in their tracks.
  • The names of all the nice people at the Coroner’s office.
  • Women over 65 can’t donate bone tissue. OK, while we’re on that topic, include all things related to the actual procedures of organ and tissue collection.
  • If you’re plight is sympathetic enough, someone will know someone who will know someone to call a state senator to help you out. (File that one away. It might help you out one day.)
  • Contrary to what CSI shows would lead you to believe, even with great pathologists and accident reconstructionist, a lot is unknowable.
  • The routes and timing of oil tankers going up to the town of Hope, Alaska.
  • Dying simultaneously with your spouse screws up a great deal of clever estate planning, particularly 401K secondary and tertiary beneficiaries.

Feelings You Never Wanted to Know

Your creativity is just as good as mine. Heartbreak, that call in the middle of night, persecution…. The list goes on. Writing about these things not only gives you an opportunity to right about your life journey, but also about your hopes and dreams for others.

Take care that you’re not writing an invitation to a pity party. Think as you edit (I recommend writing your first draft without self-censoring, even if it’s total crap):  what message does your journey have for future generations? Has society made a baby-step forward?  Are things dramatically different today? Did you make mistakes that could have been avoided? Is there a family history or dysfunction that needs to be addressed?  How did you develop resilience? How did you resign yourself to a new normal?

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