The only fairness we can find in death is that, without exception, death will eventually come to each and every one of us. Death is never fair. it has no ability to be fair.
The Universe is unemotional, a massively chaotic place ruled by rigid mechanical laws. There is no fundamental capacity in those mechanical laws for what we humans call emotion. Actions and reactions are rigidly defined.
Without emotion, there can be no concept of intent of if or when a death happens. I don’t believe that the Universe ever intends to do anything specific, so it doesn’t specifically choose who will die today and who will live another day.
The journey of grief will usually bring a discussion of fairness, and even in the death of a very old person we will express that this death just wasn’t fair. The person who died would perhaps have been treated more fairly if they had lived another day, another week, another year. Declaring the death unfair helps us to define targets for the negative energy and anger that we need to deflect and re-direct in grief.
Timeliness is a concept and discussion of fairness in death is further skewed by the decedent’s age, the young they died the more unfair it seems. The death of a child or young person seems more unfair than any other death. We mourn the loss of the life, but we also mourn the loss of our hoped and dreams for that life.
When our son James died eighteen years ago at age twenty in a firefighter training accident, he was a perfect child on a path to what we believed would be greatness. The world lost that potential, the compassion, the sense of morals and ethics we had helped him develop. We especially miss him when his friends make each logical step of life, a graduation, a wedding, the birth of a child. We express anger at the Universe because the random Universe that brought his death stole those joyous steps in our son’s life from us.
The perceived fairness is further skewed and magnified by causes of death. A tragic accident, a tragic disease, a horrible crime, suicide and every known cause of death are basically the intersection of a random emotionless Universe and our human beliefs and interpretations of the value of our lives and the uniquely human concept of fairness.
These discussions of fairness in death are not a waste of time. These discussions are important human emotions in the evolved process of grief.
Our analysis of the fairness of a loss may shape our grief, and likely reshape the rest of our lives. In the unfairness of losses of life to accidents involving drinking and driving, the unfairness of the loss of innocent lives brought organizations lobbying and shaping new initiatives and laws to reduce those difficult losses for others. The people who have been saved the grief of such losses will never specifically know that their lives have been spared by the efforts rooted in the loss of a loved one. But, the efforts and memories of how unfairly someone died has shifted society ever so slightly, reducing the number of drunk drivers reduces the number of opportunities for completely random intersections with those who might have become innocent victims.
Cancer is a disease of randomness. Our own bodies randomly create the cancer that might kill us, that cancer slips under the fence of our immune system and a silent killer quietly develops. We know that environmental and lifestyle factors can shift the odds towards or away from some cancers, but cancer is just a random event brought to us by the incredible complexity and statistically minute imperfections of basic human life.
In grief, I found some small comfort in the randomness of the Universe. The Universe has broad shoulders and no capacity to care what we think, so it’s an ideal dumping ground for any anger we find in a death. What you can’t explain can just be blamed on the Universe. Keeping the anger within yourself will destroy your soul over time, dumping it on another person will destroy them, but the Universe has unlimited capacity to absorb your anger.
The most difficult death for me to clear of residual anger remains my brother’s suicide in 2000 at age 43. It will always come back to me that while the randomness of the Universe contributed to the creation of his well hidden pain, Mike was complicit, and he chose to bring death to himself one day. As I age and ponder death and grief more calmly, it is still suicide that brings the most anger back to me.
You are grieving a death. That death is unfair, because all death lacks any sense of fairness. My simple question is will you allow that unfair death to diminish you? Will grief injure you, rob you of life’s enjoyment, rob you of love of others, and rob you of love of life? If you accept or allow those negative things to happen, then you are complicit in damaging yourself beyond the inherent damage of the loss itself.
I suggest that it’s far better to be taught by grief. Come to better understandings of the purpose of life by exploring the feelings of the loss of a loved one. These explorations will add positive value to your daily life as you will love more deeply, more urgently and with more gratitude for the love you build in your own life.
How would your lost loved one wish you to grieve them?
By diminishing or by growing?
Be well, seek peace and build and rebuild love each and every day.