During a recent dinner with my friend Bridget, we had a chance to speak about the conditions surrounding her father's passing. She brought up a topic that had been heavily on my mind for weeks: the big, unanswerable "Why?" question. Her father had been deaf, and near the end of his life also became blind, while dealing with mobility issues. She voiced her sadness over her father's multiple health issues stating that she didn't understand why so many problems occurred for one person. It's a question she'd like answered by the big guy upstairs.
Several years ago I had a bereaved father ask on my Facebook Page "Why would God punish me this way? What did I do?" It's a sentiment I have heard before. As if the death of your child could be a fitting punishment...for anything.
As a medium, it's a question I feel I could never answer to satisfaction. The idea of telling a newly bereaved parent that the reason their child died was for the soul growth of the people who loved him or her is ridiculous. And yet, I have friends that are bereaved parents going on 10 years or longer, and they say this themselves, and it soothes the ache of not knowing a specific reason. It's an acceptance of something bigger than our human comprehension.
I decided to ask two experts for their input on this question, and how to help bereaved people move beyond what is often unanswerable. Author Mark Ireland, who is a bereaved father and co-founder of Helping Parents Heal; and Ronnie Susan Walker, who is the founder of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors both shared thoughts with me that I am posting below.
Dealing with and moving past nagging questions, after the transition of a child.
Parents who experience the passing of a child will invariably wonder why this happened to them. Further, many will dwell on questions about what they could have done to prevent it. “If I’d just done this, or just done that” the inner dialog usually goes. In the case of the latter question there is usually nothing the parent could have done to change things. So the person causes their own suffering by unnecessarily contemplating pointless “what if’s” over and over.
The “why” question is a big one and may never be answered to the satisfaction of most parents but it is possible for such a person to move forward and live a happy productive life if they are willing to shift their thinking. The first requirement is a willingness to be happy rather than believing they must suffer to honor their child. If a person inwardly asks themselves whether their child would want them to be unhappy, the answer “no” is immediately revealed. Next, the parent must be willing to accept that things will never be the same as they were before. They can be happy and even continue to have a relationship with their child in spirit, but things will be different than they were in the past.
Finally, there is the issue of context—the big picture. The reality is that this life is short and we will all physically die at some point. For me this life is but a blip in our extended existence, just one step in the evolution of our soul/spirit. From that standpoint I am able to understand that there may have been reasons why my son left this world more quickly than I would have liked. Perhaps he was an advanced soul, here to teach people how to live, love, and to embrace the most important things. I know that he behaved in this way because of his inner nature and not because of any rulebook. I have grown through the lessons he taught me and have used this wisdom to help others. And I know I will be with Brandon again, but he will most likely be different. He will be more.
What did your child teach you? Are you able to take those things forward to help yourself heal—to serve others and help them heal?
-Mark Ireland, May, 2017
His newsletter archive: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs095/1102382222447/archive/1102569202494.html
Helping Parents Heal website: www.helpingparentsheal.org
And from Ronnie Susan Walker, Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors.
Survivors inevitably search for a reason, perhaps because having a reason might restore some small sense of control in a seemingly unpredictable world. Trying to understand "why" can occupy our minds for a long time. Ultimately many realize they may never know.
When survivors talk about their loved ones, it becomes evident that there is no one path or cause for suicide. Each story is unique. Some who take their lives have struggled long and hard with previously diagnosed mental illnesses such as Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia or Borderline Personality Disorder. Others have never been diagnosed, but in hindsight, had many traits that fit these diagnoses. Some have spoken of suicide at various points in their lives. Others never spoke of suicide or gave any indication of depression. Some suicides appear to be impulsive following a significant disappointment. Others seem more-planned. Many people who take their lives have alcohol or drugs in their system. Others do not. Some leave notes. Others do not.
It appears that each person who dies by suicide has reached a point where they can no longer tolerate their pain and suffering. Most don't intend to leave behind a wake of pain and destruction. They are simply searching for a way out of an unbearable struggle.
Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC
Founder & Executive Director
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