It Was An Accident

The guilt we carry for things we couldn't prevent

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I once sat at the deathbed of a woman in her 70s to take her final confession. And the thing that broke my heart wasn’t her admitting that she’d had a secret affair early in her marriage, it was that a few years later she and her husband had a still born child, and she blamed her earlier infidelity for it. For 45 years she carried the moral burden of something that she actually had no control over. 

But it’s this thing we do as humans, we assign blame to ourselves when the chaos and randomness of life is too existentially uncomfortable for us to handle. It’s better to fill in the blank than to face the void.

It’s terrifying to think that horrible things can happen for no reason whatsoever.  But sometimes life is unfairly random. And it can be unfairly random in both beautiful and terrible ways.  Causal fallacies are how we make sense of life, blaming ourselves or others or God for things that are too painful to think of as happening merely by chance.

But really, there is almost never a reason for tragedy. We can easily answer the who, the what, the when, and the where of it. It’s the why that’s impossible to get right without painful self-incrimination or theological hogwash. 

But we are human beings, which means that while we might never find a satisfying reason for the awful shit that happens in life, sometimes we can still find meaning in it. But that’s different. 

On the latest episode of The Confessional, I’m speaking with someone who touched tragedy at a young age and has been carrying the burden of it for most of his life.

This episode is about the emotional fallout from causing an accidental death. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience, here are some resources:

This article - The Sorrow and The Shame of The Accidental Killer from The New Yorker is excellent.

Here is a beautiful support group for those who have caused accidental death or injury:

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