Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Living Without the Why

Each of us will die. We know this, even if we run from thinking about it. Our death isn’t the problem. How we grieve when those we love die is.

Most of us are aware that people die young, although we may not know the staggering numbers. More people die young than I can reconcile with my previous view of the world as an abundantly happy place to hang out.

Something Caitlin Doughty said changed my focus: ‘If we’re unburdened by the existential questions of why someone died, then we are free to focus on grief.’

I agree, because after 15 years of searching, writing, and talking to others, I am no closer to understanding the why of Evelyn’s death. To me it’s still senseless. There was no reason that Ev needed to die. There was no meaning to her death. No purpose fulfilled by her dying. She just died, and it still doesn’t seem right. There are some questions that will never be answered.

In addition to the Why, there is also the Where that we like to speculate about late into the night. I am also no closer to understanding where Evelyn resides post-death, even though I’ve considered a warehouse of beliefs and notions about heaven, the afterlife, and the next world that people, philosophers, and theologians have spoken, written and pontificated about over the centuries. I have my wishes, but I doubt that the Eternal is swayed by them. (I have written about these possibilities elsewhere.)

Letting go of the Why, the Where, and the Ever Forever After, allows me to focus on getting through grief and piecing life back together in a way that enables me to continue living, even if my heart isn’t in it in the beginning. Besides lighting candles to guide Ev to her destination, and saying prayers of intercession, dealing with grief is the only situation I can change.

What the early deaths, the young deaths, the out-of-sequence deaths make clear is that any of us can die at any time. It also says that precious few of us will die peacefully in bed, drifting off into the nether sphere with a bemused smile on our face. Most of us also won’t die a noble death in the course of saving someone else or for a just cause. We will probably be in a car accident, or develop a horrible and debilitating disease, or simply slip on a rug, hit our heads, and its night night for all time, sweet prince.

What this says is that I have today to deal with today’s grief and care for others. Tomorrow will have its own grief, and if today’s grief hasn’t been dealt with, then I will have two days’ worth. Grief doesn’t go away until we deal with it, but it does compound.

Tomorrow needs to be its own creation, not filled with the residue of today.

Tomorrow there will be surprises, and if we are finished with today, then we will be open to those surprises. If we are lucky, we will have days upon days to love people and explore brave new worlds.


Compassion for people is real. Everything else is speculation, and speculation doesn’t help me deal with grief. People do.

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