Why? That is a question I heard a lot this morning as I served as part of a team of people to bring grief counseling services to our junior high students upon the loss of a classmate in a house fire yesterday. Why? Why her? She was just nice. Why her? She had the most beautiful singing voice. Why her? She was always smiling and friendly toward everybody? Why her? She was so young and didn’t really have a chance to live yet? Why? Why? Why?
There is no good answer to that question. Really there is no answer at all to that question. It just is. There are a lot of people a lot smarter than me who have spent their lifetimes studying tragedy and trying to figure out why it happens. The best answer that anyone has come up with as far as I know is it just does. That knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to live with. So we just keeping asking, “Why?”
I think that is a good thing to ask, but we can’t stop there. Ask the question, but move on. That doesn’t mean move out of our grief. We are not Nike. We can’t just do that. Grief doesn’t have a timeline or an orthodox (right way) practice. The way grief manifests itself and the timeline on which it does so are as numerous as there are people. Each person will experience grief in their own way and on their own time. And when it appears that we have gotten through it, something will trigger us and it will rear its ugly head once again – today, tomorrow, next month, and even years down the road. Contrary to popular rhetoric, time does not heal the wounds of grief. Time only brings us the tools and the coping mechanisms to learn to live with our grief so it is not an all consuming emotion.
What I think we need to move on from is just the question, “Why?” We need to learn to accept there is no answer to that question and move on to the next. Sometimes those questions are easier than others. Sometimes we just need to ask who we can talk to, who will give us a hug, who will sit quietly beside us as we cry yet again. And sometimes after these simple questions are answered and the needs are met, we can move on to the next, and often so much more difficult questions. Questions like, “How do I go on?” or What do I need to do for my own mental and physical health right now?” or “How can I support the other person who is suffering as much or more than I am?” or “What can I do to remember and honor the person she was?” and so many, many more. I don’t think the questions will ever stop. Perhaps it is not even healthy for us if they do. What is healthy is to sit with one question for a while, then move on to the next one. That is part of our growth and our healing as people. So don’t get stuck at the why. We can’t know the answer to that question anyway. Move on. Find a friend or a loved one that you trust and who will love you no matter what. Find a pastor or a grief counselor – that’s what we are here for. Find somebody. If you try to process your grief alone, it is so easy to get stuck at why.
Today, the answers that I have are all so ineffective; and none of them will answer why tragedies happen. All I know right now is that we need to sit with our grief and shed our tears as frequently as we need to. A wise pastor friend of mine once told me, “Jesus didn’t tell the people, ‘Blessed are those who keep a stiff upper lip.’ Jesus told the people, ‘Blessed are those who mourn.'” (Matthew 5:4). We need to mourn. Jesus expects us to do so. Jesus also promises that we will be comforted when we do.
It may or may not feel like it now, but God is already at work in the middle of our grief. God is already reaching out to comfort us, unstick us, and to bring light and peace into our time of darkness. God has promised us that death is not the end. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God has shown us how seriously God takes that promise. Jesus died, but Jesus also rose again. And because He did so, death is dead. Death is not the end. Resurrection was Jesus victory over death and it is ours as well. Our hope lies squarely on those precious shoulders that hung on the cross until death, but now live as fully as ever – shoulders that belong to the One who loves us unconditionally and offers His amazing and overflowing grace. This week we will remember this hope as we observe Easter Sunday. But before we get to Easter, we all must walk through the unpleasant, and even crappy, stuff of the week before. We are in good company. Jesus went through a lot of unpleasant, crappy stuff too.
As long as we are in the middle of the unpleasant and crappy stuff, know that I am here for anyone that needs to talk, to process, or just needs a safe place to cry and mourn. Together, with Jesus, we will one day come out the other side. I love you all, and so does our LORD (and His love is perfect).