Why Ask Questions About Your Grief Journey?

I recently had the honor of being the opening keynote speaker for this year’s national gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA.  I spoke about the evolution of my grief and observations and lessons learned during the past eight-plus years that have helped me adjust to the reality of life without the physical presence of my daughter Jeannine.

One of the things that I addressed was my need to ask “what if,” “could have,” “should have,” and “why” questions throughout my early grief, which was for me about two and one-half years. I say “for me” because everyone’s grief journey is unique. And since our journeys are life long, the time it takes to navigate early, middle and later grief is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we consistently do our grief work with the help and support of others who understand our pain.

Asking questions is an expected part of our journeys as bereaved parents.  The rules I lived by changed after Jeannine died, so questioning what happened was required to try to make sense out of what happened to me and my family.

Here are some of the should have, would have and why questions I consistently asked:

§  What if I had convinced Jeannine to do one more clinical trial?

§  Should I have done more to protect her from her disease (cancer)?

§  If I wasn’t so oblivious to the condition of her foot (her right foot was the primary site of her cancer), could I have gotten her evaluated sooner?

§  Why was my family forced to bear this terrible pain and suffering?

§  Why did she have to die?

I asked and I asked and I asked, but no answer I came up with seemed to satisfy me or change the reality of my situation. I was like a cat chasing its tail.  The only satisfactory resolution to my questions would have been to have God himself come down from heaven and inform me and my family that he was going to reverse his decision, give Jeannine back to us and return things to the way they were. Because I knew this wasn’t possible, I eventually stopped asking those questions. And when I stopped asking those questions, I got the answers that I needed.

The reality is that Jeannine had an aggressive type of cancer for which there was no cure. Jeannine fought a noble battle, but in the end, the aggressiveness of her disease won out over nobility and the unconditional love and support of her family.  We all did the best we could given the hand of cards we were forced to play, and today I am at peace with that.

Dave Roberts 2011

David Roberts

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David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC (www.aspireplace.com) He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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