I've grown to dread the "why" question. In the past few weeks, a close family member has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, a few friends of mine made inaccurate assumptions that caused permanent damage in a relationship while another friend's son threatened suicide with a knife and was put into a 72 hour psych hold. In all cases, I hear the question...why?
While discussing the suicide threat, attention was turned to me asking why Sean chose the option of ending his life. The truth is...I don't know. I will never know what was going on inside his mind at that specific time. My friend cannot know what was going on inside her son's mind either. That's why the why question is a tricky one, especially when directed at a survivor of suicide, as if we somehow have inside information and veils the subtle suggestion that we didn't care enough to stop it.
As a society, we like to assign blame. I was Sean's wife so why don't I know "the why" of it all? My friend is her son's mother so why doesn't she know "the why"? As a wife...or a mother...aren't we responsible for our loved one's every thought and action? No. Still people ask the why question...and wait with expectation for an answer that we don't have.
When my very close family member is diagnosed with a brain tumor and asks why--why her when she's energetic, cares about her health and tries to live life by the rules? Why a brain tumor? Why now when life is unfolding in exciting ways?---there is no answer that will give solace.
When people make assumptions that are wrong but have already acted on those assumptions creating a permanent rift...it's easy to ask why...why were they quick to act rather than ask...why were they quick to assume rather than give the benefit of the doubt? Why?
Here's the trick with the why question: when it comes to human behavior, it's impossible to answer why people do what they do. Psychiatrists have theories based on research, sure, but even they can only make an educated guess. We layman--normal people--can't and shouldn't make those same assertions (although gossip mongers enjoy trying, I know). We as human beings have free will. No matter the dynamic of our outside relationships, it all comes down to individual choice. Or, in the case of the brain tumor, a situation outside of our control. All we can ever control is our own reactions to and thoughts about the situation. Asking why is pointless and only fuels an already troubling situation with emotion.
I will never know why Sean committed suicide. The why question used to bring about waves of regret (for not knowing), guilt (for not knowing) and anger (for not knowing). Now, seven years later, I shrug it off because I will never know that answer and, quite frankly, am sick of being asked the question. Only Sean knows. Just like with my friend's son, I heard people asking her right away, before she could even fully process what had happened, WHY...why would he do that, people asked her, why is he unhappy. Believe me, if she knew, she'd do something about it...but we don't know why someone else makes an individual choice or what thoughts are spinning in their minds behind the facade of a smile.
In all situations, all we can do is take full responsibility for own reactions and actions. Oh, how I detest the why question. As a journalist, I'm guilty of asking why a lot. Now I make sure I only use it when I know there's an answer. You see, there's not always an answer. Sometimes we simply need to roll with the uncertainty, the not knowing, the acceptance that there are things in life beyond our control and stop torturing ourselves with "the why" of it all.
Instead ask...what can I do to help? That's a good place to start anyway. Or say nothing and simply be there to listen. Even better.
About Moxie Girl Musings
Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com