It Starts With No

tears_of_sadnessSeveral years ago, I asked a seasoned hospital chaplain how he responds when a person asks why a tragic thing has happened.

He said, “In my experience, when a person suffers and asks ‘Why?’, what they’re really saying is ‘No!’  It’s fundamentally a protest, not an inquiry.”

That’s not to say people don’t truly want to find reasons why terrible things happen, or that we don’t earnestly seek to make sense of the hell we’re going through.  Of course people want answers and explanations.

But the Why questions we ask during our darkest days come first of all from a fundamental opposition to the facts.  Not a denial, mind you, an opposition – this reality should not be reality.  No, we say.  No!

My loved one is supposed to be okay.  The world is supposed to be safe.  My life is supposed to be longer.  The way things are turning out is all wrong, and we say No.

The facts don’t bend to our protest, of course.  And we ask, ‘Why?’

I’ve talked to a lot of people whose lives are being taken apart, who have had tremendous pain and difficulty thrust upon them, and I don’t think I’ve ever helped anyone perceive the reasons for their hardship.  If there’s a reason available, like a smoker getting lung cancer, they don’t need anyone to explain it to them.  People only ask why something terrible is happening if they don’t know the answer.

When they ask me, 100% of the time, I don’t either.

When the Why is hidden, or when there is no Why at all, it’s good and right to stick with No.   To hold the tragic as tragic, to embrace the pain as justified, because its cause is not.  If the hardship and heartache belong to your loved one, let your heart be broken, too, and share the pain, since there is no chasing it away.  And if the tragedy is your own, maybe, just maybe, there is someone who will stand by you, holding the burden with you, until the healing comes.



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