I walked into the house of a teenager who had taken his own life. Everyone was asking WHY? His mum and dad totally shattered and smashed to pieces, the elderly grandparents, his brothers, aunties and uncles, all in a daze. How could this boisterous animated teenager do this?Why seemed to be the most common word spoken throughout that day – Shaking their heads in disbelief – Why?
Why is the universal question when it comes to tragedy,
sorrow and suffering.
In this context, I interpret that word “why” as, “give me an explanation that will satisfy me”. This, of course, is only the beginning, we want to place blame, that is the foundation of the word why as a question – we need to have an answer to make the story complete, one that will give a satisfactory ending, but there is another angle to this “why” also.
There were horrible, startling and devastating facts that I had in my hands, 20 pieces of “factual information” that would have helped if people were looking for facts. The Police, the Coroner and family members all had facts that could answer a string of why’s (as a question), what lead to this happening, the series of events that had taken place and the clinical aspects and investigation of the case. To some degree we could answer the why, but even if I were to provide each of these facts truly, frankly and honestly, no matter how factual and truthful, honest and correct, these facts will never be an acceptable answer - at that time.
Were they really looking for an answer to the why?
This “why” is an interjection that is spoken at this point, is usually the gut-wrenching why! as a statement that screams out from the innermost part of us -
“this should not have happened, this is not OK”.
Of course, a part of this is disbelief, hoping to wake up from a nightmare, and none of it being real. At this point in time, we are not wanting to accept the facts no matter how true and correct they will be – facts are not what we are screaming for.
There is no way that anyone will ever accept that a teenager taking their own life is ok – in fact that question is asked and repeated whether the person is young or old, more often in tragic circumstances of people of all ages, but I have heard it over and over again, even from the loved one of someone who has died in their 90’s.
Why, in these circumstances, is an interjection of the cry of – “this is not right”, “I can’t comprehend this” – and they can never be answered or satisfied with why, it becomes a subjective cyclic question that is never ending.
I find when someone is asking the question why under these circumstances, there will never be an answer that is acceptable.
I read a quote a little while ago that says
“The essence of intelligence is extracting the meaning from our everyday experiences,”
What does this really mean to us?
I believe the following statement to be true. "There are things in our lives that we never want to happen, but sometimes they do - and somehow we have to work towards accepting it – we may never understand it, we may never fully accept whatever has happened as being ok, we certainly don’t ever “get over it”, we just somehow have to navigate our lives through it."
In our lives, there are things we don’t want to do or want to learn, but we have to – we have to do this to be able to mature, be stable and to grow and not get stuck.
There are people that we feel like we can’t live without, but somehow we have to because there are things we must accept and learn.
Every day we are confronted with things, if we are wise, we analyse and weigh up the situation objectively, and point ourselves in the right direction to resolve the issues at hand.
Why might give us the motivation to do something but it never provides the strategy.
Being stuck in why is not good. Why has the potential, in these circumstances to unravel us and not help us at all.
Asking ourselves “What is the best thing that I can do that will make things better and not worse?” makes us break out of the cyclic thinking of why, and gives us an option to think and feel differently, somehow, this little one liner seems to set us in the right direction and allow us to extract the meaning in our every day lives.
Notice I have replaced the “why” with a “what”.
Gently and lovingly I tell families - you will only torture yourselves if you keep on asking why – at the moment. There will most likely be a time when they need to analyse that facts, but that is when they are in a different mindset – and those answers still won’t be good enough.
So if you are stuck in cyclic thinking, don’t ask why, ask what.
What can I do that will make things better not worse? This little thing is called an injunction, it stops us in the middle of what we are doing, it challenges us and gives us a different option to process the mountains of information that our mind is trying come to terms with. We acknowledge and recognize that our world has been turned upside down and that life will never quite be the same ever again. Hopefully this WHAT, will help in pointing us in the right direction.
By Aaron Hille