If you had asked me after my brother took his own life if I held revenge or a need for justice in my heart, I would have told you no. I was too broken, my emotional core was in too many pieces, and most of my feelings surrounded sadness. I would have said such deep sadness cannot hold the anger necessary for revenge or to seek justice.
But it was tucked deep inside me and it aimed at my own heart. What I was blind to was this: Just before he died I was really, sincerely beginning to push diligently in the direction of becoming a writer, which was my life’s dream. I was sitting at a desk working on it when I received the news of his death. Unconsciously a connection was made between my pleasure in the goal of writing and his death.
I immediately stopped pursuing my dream to mourn and then grieve for years. Only over a very long time did I see the connection and slowly start to break it.
Recently I heard a slightly different look at revenge and justice when a widow said, “But why did my Robert have to die? It’s not fair, he was such a good man.”
Robert was a good man, and she knew it was unfair that he died when others had lived through a heart attack. I remember my step-mother saying something very similar when my father died, and I didn’t disagree. The death of a loved one very often puts a griever in the surprising situation of sorting through feelings of justice. As children we have an innate sense of what is fair as we squabble over a toy. Throughout life we almost unconsciously notice who got the biggest piece of cake, and we for sure notice who gets paid more for the same amount of work.
It isn’t a surprise that traumatic and deep grief makes us so often want something “done” about a death. The target can be a person such as the driver in a car accident, or a murderer. The target can also be a disease or a corporation that made a product that failed while being used by the loved one.
There are many people who have changed their lives after a death by seeking justice or revenge through the court system, by setting up non-profits to fight for a cause, or volunteering time to work and money to change the way things are to “even things out.”
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing justice. In fact, it improves society, but it should not be at the expense of a griever’s personal happiness and life goals. Sorting through the emotions and issues that surround revenge and justice are a natural and very difficult part of grief.
My message to people who are grieving the loss of someone, even if it was many years ago, is look around and look deep within. Are there any areas where you have been holding yourself back because of sorrow? How and when is it time to run toward happiness and pleasure at being yourself instead of trying to enforce revenge and justice on another or yourself? If you have wanted happiness and new life for others who loved the person you did, you should want it for yourself as well.Tags: fairness, grief, justice, recovery, revenge, self-blame