Someone, somewhere just entered a tragic moment. A moment when you drop to your knees. A moment when your life changes forever. If you've ever lived thru one, you know exactly what I'm speaking of. It's a moment you never quite forget. You don't walk out of these moments the same. These moments change everything.
I have a friend in the aftermath of one of these moments right now. Her husband unexpectedly passed away. There was no time for goodbyes and now his family, friends and our community are all reeling from this tragic loss. He was a good, good man. He loved Jesus. He was kind, generous, compassionate and helpful. He walked the walk, which seems rare nowadays. He loved his family. He lightened a room. He made you feel better just by his mere presence, and now he's gone. He leaves behind 6 children, his beloved wife and a lot of questions.
When I first learned of the news, my first question was "What happened?" Our mind needs to make sense of this. Help me understand. Sometimes the answer is clear, even simple. It's like investigating an accident. For example, they ran a red light. Why? Their brakes failed. Not much more to question now, but what if they ran a red light because they were distracted? Questions resume. Distracted by what? Their phone (judgement pours in). We may immediately assume they were texting or watching a video, or something careless, and that may be true, or they could have just received some bad news themselves, glanced down, went into shock and missed the light. See where this gets gray and murky? We don't know the whole story, and may never know it, so we fill in the gaps, which is dangerous.
When my mother took her life at the young age of 50, I got stuck in the gaps. I would spend the next 25 years really trying to understand, "what happened." This is like looking at a blade of grass and trying to see the whole Earth in it. I was too close. My perspective was too narrow, but as time progressed, as the pain healed, as I grew thru the grief, I started to answer the "what happened" question differently. I can see it now from a much wider lens and perspective. I needed time, processing and healing to open my eyes in order to see the bigger picture, and it did, though I still won't fully know all the answers until I get to the other side myself.
It's natural to want to know what happened, and you may or may not get the answers you seek. Sometimes we simply need to let the answers go and "lean not on our own understanding." Sometimes it's not ours to understand, and it's especially important to remember this when you make contact with the family. At my mother's funeral, it was the main question each of us faced. I understand, especially under the circumstances, but we didn't have the answers either. Asking us over and over again, thru each well-meaning person, only increased our own confusion and helplessness. That first week of grief is tremendously emotional and exhausting, so keep that in mind as you comfort the family. Though the "what happened" question is natural, it also can be intrusive and painful for them. Funerals are meant for everyone to gain closure, but more importantly it's a time to embrace the family with loving kindness about their lost loved one and simply offer them support and encouragement.
Another common question that comes up is "Why?" This question is even harder to answer than the previous. It's likely you won't get this answered, at least not in this lifetime. Our human minds simply aren't capable of seeing the full picture. Just like with "what happened" our perspective is too close. Look at this picture below. What do you see? Take some guesses.
Now, let's zoom out.
Did you see a tea bag in the first image? Probably not. It wasn't until you saw the complete picture where you were able to make sense of what it was, and what you can do with it. Getting stuck in "why" is even easier than getting stuck in "what happened." When I say stuck, I mean it stops your healing process. "Until I can understand what happened, or why, I'm not letting this go." You basically put yourself in a resistance mode. I will not accept this until my questions are answered. Believe me, I know you want answers, and there's nothing wrong with going on a quest to understand, just don't let that quest put you in a quicksand quagmire that slowly takes you under.
Acceptance is the final stage of our grief process, so if you get stuck in any of the stages prior to that (denial, anger, bargaining or depression), you won't get there. Getting stuck on the why, leaves you bargaining with God. When you tell me why, I will accept this. Again, we go back to scripture "lean not on your own understanding." Sometimes we simply weren't meant to understand. You have to let go, trust and have faith that right now, you can't see the whole picture.
Behind the scenes of both of these questions is often blame. Who can I blame for this? A person, an institution, a disease, myself, God? We love finding a scape goat. How could you let this happen? How could you take him and leave his family in this position? Why didn't you do something to stop it? I could go on and on and I know, because I did this. I blamed the doctors for my mother's death. I blamed her. I blamed the medical system. I blamed her father for abusing her as a child. I blamed the gun. I blamed myself, and oh yea, I really went after God. For one year, I cursed him and denied his existence. I had no intention of following a God who would take my mother from me. Now, first off, he's a big God. I didn't hurt his feelings. He can take it. I can imagine him standing there while I acted like a toddler, slightly smirking at my tantrum, all while waiting for me to come to my senses and run back into his arms. And I did, after a very dark year. Grief is already hard, and I decided to do it without faith also. Not my best decision. I took a dark time and I made it even darker.
Believe me, I understand the need to blame. I understand the need to hold someone responsible or accountable and sometimes in tragedies there is someone who will have to face the consequences, but not always. Sometimes we aren't going to get the answers we seek. Sometimes we will never know what happened. We will never know why, there is no one to blame and we have to let go of the idea of ever making sense out of the loss. If you find yourself stuck in any of these places, looping the questions and blame over and over again, it's best to seek help via a therapist or grief coach. They can help you start to dismantle it all and hop off the hamster wheel. Grief is hard enough. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
There is one question that can help in your quest to make sense of it all. "What?" What can I do that would be of service to this family? What can I say that would encourage them? What can I offer? What is needed of me in this moment? What would make the spirit of this person continue to live on? What would love do and how can we continue to shine their light? In addition to helping the family, it can also help you. What is this bringing up for me? What haven't I healed? What can I do to grow thru this loss?
No one gives us an owner's manual when it comes to grief, and honestly, if they had one, it wouldn't work for everyone anyways. Grief is a very individual and personal process. It's a painful place, but on the other side of it is great meaning and purpose. Our culture tends to force us thru it too quickly. It wants us to get back to doing, when in reality, grief is a time to stop doing and start being. Be with the pain. Feel it. It's the only way to heal. Grief is the price we pay for love.
If you need help, from someone who has been there, who understands and who stands in the light now to help you find yours again, please schedule a free consultation. You aren't alone. You never have been. You never will be and I promise, you will get thru this.
Angela Miller is an RN and Transformation Coach. She is passionately pursuing her calling to help people transform pain into purpose. To schedule a free consult, or for more information, visit www.soaringforward.com.
If you would like to help my beautiful friend and their children, please donate at the below gofundme link: