I think the worst part of facing the unexpected death of a loved one is the silence of the dead person. When something as traumatic as death happens, a supernatural aura is placed on the event that magnifies the pain. The silence of the dead person–and perhaps the circumstances as well–combine to create a feeling of agony. It’s as if the person who died becomes a gaged, helpless victim–regardless of how it happened.
But I think there’s a solution. It’s not a solution to feeling pain when someone you love dies–that’s ridiculous. But it’s a way to remove the supernatural magnification of the pain.
Imagine two worlds–one in which (like our reality) death is absolute and final. Anyone who passes is barred from communicating with the world ever again. Think of a guy in this world dying in a car wreck on the way to visit his girl after picking up some takeout.
When the phone rings, and she’s told that he’s dead, there is much to cry about. There’s the fact that she’ll never eat with him again, or hold hands, or watch movies on the couch. And there’s the fact that they’ll never be married or have children.
But that’s not the worst of the pain. The worst is that he was there a minute ago, and now he’s gone; he’s silent. She doesn’t know what he was thinking when he died. Was he in pain? Did he think of her? This silence somehow thrusts doubt into a relationship that was previously so sure.
Now imagine another world where he could communicate from beyond–about how he died and about death itself. Imagine him saying, after she learned he was t-boned at an intersection by someone who ran a red light, “Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming.” Think of him saying, “Well, I wanted to live longer, but I was going to die anyway. Death is kind of like not being born yet; very uneventful.”
It’s not the humor. It’s removing the evil magic of death. The fear, the dread, the…negative connotations. It reduces death to “a most unfortunate matter of timing”, since it was going to happen anyway…just a bit later.
How to Benefit
So I propose post-death notes–perhaps customized to various terrible types of dying. Kidnap. Car crash. Plane crash. Etc. Talking about these things–or death in general might help, but that verbal conversation will seem very unreal (and hence not very helpful) when the person is gone. Hence the notes.
“Meh, lots of people get killed; it’s not really that bad. My only regret is not being able to be with you anymore. But don’t sweat it. Go to the bookstore and read a book for me.”
This will perhaps make the missing of the person more acute–since you’re experiencing them again–but it removes the mystical power of death. It changes death from evil and supernatural to mundane, natural, and sad.
I’ll work on the idea more, but I wanted to get it down in some form.