Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Who’s to Blame When Your Friend Dies?
I’ve been doing a lot of research on how the military – active duty and veterans – cope with the grief of losing their comrades. Often survivor guilt complicates their grief.

One of the interesting things I found was a checklist the US Navy uses to help someone whose grief is compounded by guilt. It attempts to determine who or what was responsible for their comrade’s death. That’s not the same thing as blame or guilt, but bear with me.

The list identifies every person or situation or organization that could have any hand in the death of a service member: enemy action, the surviving unit members, the unit’s officers, etc. Then it branches out: unarmed civilians, the chain of command, US government and international policies – even the possibility that it was chance.

The person filling out the list must assign a percentage of responsibility to each one. It must add up to 100%. That becomes a springboard for conversation.

I wonder if this isn’t a productive tool for all of us.

Think about when you first heard a friend died. It’s only natural to ask “why?” and “how?” As time goes on, and more information becomes available, you probably started assigning blame. Maybe you blamed the friend, their doctors, or their family. Maybe you blamed God.

But by considering various people and scenarios, maybe then we can acknowledge where our anger or guilt is directed – and why.

A friend of mine died Saturday morning. I think I might make a list.