Why?


This brief but powerful question has crossed our minds or been voiced out loud in this journey we have come to know as grief. Whether your loss came without warning or resulted from a long and protracted illness, why is a question that has or continues to cross our minds? Asking this all too familiar question is both natural and normal. It is a question that can, in many ways, be expected in one way or another.

As someone who has experienced a loss of many different levels, my experience with why has taken many turns. When my wife Robyn died five years ago, why was not a question I recall answering? We had gone through a protracted battle of health issues over the last nine years of Robyn’s life. Though I feel that I lost the fight to keep her alive, I understood the outcome once the decision had been made. Though this sounds very clinical, this is my version of “anticipatory grief.” For those who may not be familiar with this term, it is the coping mechanism we build up to deal with the fact that we could or may lose our loved one. I refer to it as my benevolent gift.

However, when my daughter Shanta died just over a year ago, why was a question I presented to God directly and angrily? For you see, once I lost my wife, my daughter was an anchor that I felt I would always have to help to fill the very significant void in my life. I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family around me, but losing my “two girls” was a severe blow.

Since then, I have found a few answers to my personal why. Some may view these as rationalizations, but I have come to accept that one man’s thoughts are another man’s rationalizations.

The first answer was that I was in better shape to handle the loss of my wife than she would have been able to deal with me dying first. When we marry our spouse or partner, unless we experience the rare case of dying simultaneously, one of us will die first. Our role in each other’s lives differs, no matter how harmonious our relationships are. My wife grieved deeply. The loss of a close friend impacted all aspects of her life. As a person of faith, I believe caring for my wife was a spiritual assignment. Her comfort, protection, and attention were among the essential things in my life. To be given the privilege of providing those things to the end will be among the things that give me personal comfort for the rest of my life.

Secondly, Robyn’s and Shanta’s deaths have given me a passion for serving and sharing with others. Whether it be sharing articles with members of this group, writing my book “The First 365”, or my speaking engagements, I can try to help others navigate these difficult times.

Lastly, discovering the why in my life has increased the depth of my character. It is almost a cruel irony that I believe I would be a better husband today than I was to my wife. As a person with no prospects and remarrying, the fact that I could be a better husband is almost amusing and cruelly ironic. Maybe those who have discovered love again can share your thoughts on the matter.

Uncovering the why. There you have my thoughts on this small but powerful word. I shared just a few of the answers that I have discovered. I hope this helps someone with the uncovering of their why. As always, I welcome any feedback and encourage those of you who have yet to pick up a copy of The First 365 as a companion during this journey to do so.

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at his newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com; there, you will find all of his social media contacts or c/o [email protected]


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