Have you ever felt that gnawing sense of What if... ? or maybe If only?
When facing the grief of your loss, one of the things that may eventually happen is that your mind will go over the events of the day and time of the loss again and again. In this line of processing, it is very natural and easy to wonder what if such and such had happened or hadn’t happened? Would he still be here?
Would we have our lives the way we want them to be? Could we have saved him?
This is a very normal part of the grieving process and it’s part of the bargaining stage of the grief journey.
Teresa’s What If’s? : I viscerally remember the circular what if’s and if onlys. Many nights I would lie awake thinking. What if he hadn’t ridden his motorcycle? What if he’d taken the truck the boys left him? What if he’d left earlier or later? If only he had worked from home that day. If only she had seen him or his bike? If only I had listened to my intuition and put my foot down on that dumb motorcycle. If only, I had put it up for sale like I had threatened? What if he suffered? What if he’s not really dead and faked his death? What if I can’t keep the house? Those sleepless nights and musings stayed with me for a very long time. They slowly morphed into an intellectual I know there’s nothing I could do but it still hurts.
After a year or so there was a different flavor of what if’s that kept cropping up.What if I don’t execute the will? What if I don’t pay off that debt? What if I go crazy? If only he had checked the double indemnity box we’d have so much more life insurance payout - then I could stop working and know we were taken care of. If only he had kept better records, if only he had filed the papers correctly, what if I had helped keep our paperwork more organized, what if I just throw away all these shopping bags of mail I haven’t sorted? What if he didn’t die and was on life support? What if? What if? It can make a person feel insane with the what if’s. I later learned all of that was 100% normal.
I remember trying to bargain away the grief and my own pain with the what ifs - here’s my story on what that looked like. I found peace when I let go and let God and stopped trying to understand the overall plan of God and knew he was working all things out for the good. Even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Jeni’s What If’s? : At the time of Bob’s death, I was riddled with “Why hadn’t I been there with him?” I had found him by the shed after work and he had, unfortunately, been there for quite awhile before I got to him. I arrived home around 5:30 and, according to the events of the day, he had most likely been there since shortly after we had talked around 11 am. I often thought....what if I had been there when he fell? Could I have saved him? Even hearing the doctor’s words that it had been a sudden heart attack and nothing could have stopped his death did not seem to comfort me. I thought I should have been there…I could have done something had I been there.
What if this is all a dream and he walks back through the door? What would we do then?
A few months after his death, the what ifs returned BIG TIME. I was going through some of Bob’s papers and found a note from his work physical indicating that he might have a heart issue and that he should follow up with his regular doctor. WHAT THE *******!!!!!!! He had never told me about this. What if I had known? Could I have gotten him to change his lifestyle and extend his life? Would our kids have had their dad more than the year that they had known him (we had just adopted 3 teens the year he passed)? Why hadn’t he told me? Would we have finally addressed insurance needs? Would we have what we needed if the inevitable couldn’t be avoided? What if we had had more time? What if …..what if?
Why did God give us the kids and then take him? What was the purpose in that? Eventually, I realized that the kids were part of God’s way of preparing me. Without them, I do not know how I would have made it through the journey. God really does have a plan...I just had to learn to trust it.
You can drown in the what ifs.
Over time your what if’s and if onlys may change. You may intellectually and logically know there is nothing you could do. Your heart may not agree. It may take time to get past the what ifs and accept what has happened in your life. Eventually and unfortunately, you reach the stage of “This is what happened and I can’t change it.” We can’t turn back time.There are no words or actions that will bring back our loved one.
We hope that over time you find yourself in a place of letting God comfort you and letting go of the pain. We may never know the what if’s and if onlys. We believe as Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Whatever what ifs appear in your journey, please know that they are a normal part of the process. May peace and blessings travel with you on this journey and may you find solace in your travels.
Peace & Blessings,
Teresa & Jeni