My daughter, Margareta, died in a sudden, tragic accident in the fall of 2009. Her death happened so quickly, there was no time to prepare or say our goodbyes. One moment she was with us and then next she was gone, and life as we knew it was forever shattered.
The pain that came with the weeks and months after my daughter’s death was overwhelming; it almost felt like I couldn’t keep on living. But somehow, I found the will to face each day, if for no other reason than to take care of my surviving children.
In the early hours and days, the “what ifs” clouded my mind. I kept thinking there were thousands of things I could have done differently on the day she died. Would just one different choice or action – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – have made any difference to the outcome? I played these scenarios in my head continuously, but the reality was that none of them were bringing my sweet girl back. I finally decided I couldn’t ask “what if” any more, or I might go crazy.
But the question of “what if?” was simply replaced by “why?”. Why did she have to die? Why did it have to happen to our family? Was there a purpose that I couldn’t possibly comprehend? Was there some life lesson I was supposed to learn? As humans, we want to find meaning for why the unimaginable or unexplainable happened, as if that will somehow take the devastating pain away.
Never having been religious, no amount of “It’s God’s will,” “God needed an angel,” or “She’s in heaven now” were going to bring me any answers, much less any ounce of comfort. I sought support in books, counseling, and grief support communities like The Compassionate Friends. The books offered ideas of what happens after we die and what our purpose on this earth is, but to me they were just opinions and nothing more. They required a leap of faith I didn’t have.
The counseling and support groups helped me see that a pain this deep and profound not only can be survived, but that joy and personal growth can and will still come in time. Support groups taught me that despite feeling so alone and isolated in my grief, I belonged to this secret society of grieving parents – many of whom had been on this grief journey much longer than me and were there to support me whenever I needed it.
Eventually, I found myself reaching out to some newly bereaved mothers and offering my support. I even began volunteering for my local Compassionate Friends chapter, which I continue to do. These groups and communities have helped me more than words can express.
This fall will be four years since my daughter’s death. She will have been gone as many years as she lived. I still have no answer to why she died, but I’ve stopped asking. The longer we ask why, the longer we hold onto the feeling of despair and the magical thought that we can somehow go back and fix it so that it never happened to begin with.
The truth is we can never know why our child died – and accepting that truth can even be liberating, and in my case, has provided me with some amount of solace. Rather than focusing my energy on trying to find the answer to “Why?”, I can instead focus on healing and finding ways to honor my daughter’s life.