Sunday, December 18, 2016

When There's No Answer At All

You may or may not believe this, but I hate writing about grief.

I know that sounds weird because I write about it a lot. But I don't write about things I'm not feeling so in order for me to write about grief, it's got to be something I'm experiencing in the moment.

And nobody likes that.

I don't know if more people die around the holidays or if it just seems that way because we're all trying hard to be so damn joyful. But after a losing a cousin and a friend in the last week, it just seems like Fate waits until we least expect it and then lets loose with a stream of cruelty.

I've been weepy today and I hate that. I've gotten pretty good at keeping that stuff in, but like my son (who is cool as a cucumber for weeks and then has a complete mental breakdown for 12 hours straight) I think I've hit my limit.

Now, I do feel as though I need to say that while I did know both this cousin and this friend, I do not claim to know them well. I can't stand it when the second someone dies it seems like people jump on the "I don't know how I can live without them" train when they haven't seen or talked to the person in years.

I'm not like that.

In fact, I feel like I go in the opposite direction. I see and hear so many things from loved ones who were close to the person who has passed and I feel as though I don't have a right to grieve for them because they might not have been a part of my everyday life.

But for right now...I'm going to forget that stupid notion. I'm sad and I have every right to be sad.

What I grieve the most is what's left behind. In my cousin's case, it's a young son, a husband, a huge network of family and friends and so many connections she had made through her organization Coming to the Table.

With my friend, who had endured so much grief in the last few years when both of her parents passed, I cry thinking of her family and the sisterhood of friendship that stood by her and comforted her.

I think about what's ahead on this road for them. Sadness. A new appreciation for those they have around them. Maybe life changes as they question their own path in the wake of what's happened. Days that will speed by and nights that seem endless. Laughter that feels amazing because it doesn't come as easily as it used to. And moments.


As we all know, it is an utterly helpless feeling watching those you care about grieve. In fact, I would say that if the answer of what to do immediately comes to's probably wrong. I know that sounds strange, but grief is so complicated for each person that there is just no right answer. It has to be carefully considered and completely thought through.

And sometimes there is no answer at all.


I don’t know why I went to her. I didn’t really know her. I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about. But the second we walked into one of the Sunday school rooms, I’m very much afraid that I exploded on this woman who, up until that point, had been almost a complete stranger to me.

“Why? Why?” I screamed. “Why did this happen? We did everything right! I don’t know a better person than Brad. Why did this happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to live? Why would God do this to us? You have to tell me! Why?

Teri led me to one of the hard plastic chairs that surrounded the school tables. She sat down with me as the tears flowed down my face and took my hand in hers. Her face was so full of concern, watching someone suffer…someone who was desperate to find an answer that she knew may never come.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I couldn’t explain it when my husband died of cancer when my daughter was ten, and I can’t explain it to you now. All I can do is pray with you now. And if you’re not ready to do that, I’ll pray for you.”

For the first time, I really started to digest how I was not in control of anything in life. None of us are. I looked at this woman who seemed to be so disciplined and who appeared to have all of the answers every Sunday at church and realized that none of us are running the show here. 

It was as I was looking at Teri’s face, filled with pain and sympathy, that I began to discover that the question of “why” may be vitally important…but it would never be answered. Men and women have been going through what I was about to face since the beginning of time and have never been able to answer the question, “How could this have happened?” 

And even if they could, it wouldn’t ease the pain.

I could ask, “Why was my husband taken away from his children when they were just babies?” and even if I got an answer, it would still be incomprehensible.

I could ask, “Why did my husband have to leave me to deal with this all on my own?” and even if I got an answer, I would still be angry.

I could ask, “How could this happen to a man who was just so damn good?” 

And even if I got an answer, it wouldn’t stop what I was about to feel. 

He would still be gone.

Death makes no sense. Brad had survived his dangerous teenage years, driving too fast and constantly testing fate, only to die on his commute to work. I’ve had family friends who have spent years with someone who was the picture of health, only to be shocked by their sudden heart attack. I know people whose husbands have been diagnosed with very “curable” forms of cancer and have followed the doctor’s instructions down to the letter…only to lose them two years later after countless rounds of treatment and false hope.

Our husbands are dead and Keith Richards is still alive?

Um…hello? Is this thing on? 

Everything that I thought was a “sure thing” in my life had suddenly been ripped out from under me. I’d always thought that if Brad and I worked hard, loved each other, and were just generally good people, we would be rewarded by a long, happy, boring life together. Bad things were what happened to other people. Bad things lived in the abstract in my life and were never within reaching distance. And even if bad things were to happen to us, the one thing, THE ONE THING I was sure of in life was that Brad and I would get through it together.

But then “together” was the one thing that had been taken away.

And although I didn’t completely understand it as I was sitting in the Sunday school room of my church, tears streaming down my face, looking at a woman who was a virtual stranger, but one I was sure up until that moment had all of the answers…the question of “why” would become something that I would struggle with for years.

And then it would become something that I would eventually have to let go of.

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