The Aching Question

I woke up a couple of nights ago to an intensely vivid dream or memory of the first miscarriage. The darkened ultrasound room. The still screen. The ultrasound tech: “I don’t see a heartbeat either.”

It’s not a memory I generally choose to examine closely, except in specific circumstances. It was also not the only one that had crept up on me unbidden recently. I don’t mind, most of the time, living with my ghosts. My ghosts are sad, wistful longings of what could have, should have been, but they’re not scary. They occasionally startle me, but I typically accept their presence and don’t find it overly obtrusive.

Lately, though, my difficult memories have tied themselves into one nightmarish knot of terrors that visit me with no warning at all. They’re impossible to separate and one slides into another and another. I finally went to a doctor, a mental health professional to start the process of untangling.

When I related to him my most recent loss, after a full minute of pausing before I could get it out, his first question to me was “why?”

Oh, f*ck.

It’s a horrible question, those three letters: why? Such a seemingly natural thing to ask in the face of the incomprehensible, it rolls off the tongue in its variants when people suffer. To the woman who cannot conceive a child: why? To the woman miscarrying: do they know why? To the woman getting her blood drawn: why would you have an ectopic, you had IVF. To the woman bleeding through a pregnancy: why? What caused this? To the woman who gave birth prematurely: why was she so early? To the woman who has lost her only sibling to suicide: why did he do this?

It is the question that pulls all of the memories together, a deep and open wound.

Sometimes, I know it’s people just trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Sometimes it is an effort to help, to find a solution. Sometimes it is fear. Sometimes it is genuine curiosity, other times prurient curiosity. Sometimes it is an attempt to assign blame.

I stumbled through trying to explain the entirely inexplicable. No, he wasn’t depressed as far as we could tell. No, none of us can identify any specific warning signs, even in hindsight. I wish I had told this doctor, this mental health professional, that “why” my brother took his own life was irrelevant to the situation at hand and none of his business. I cannot recall one time during the interview that I was asked how I was feeling about the situation.

Better, perhaps, to simply sit down with one who suffers. Even when there are answers, there are all too often no real answers. And in the end, even if I could adequately answer “why”, I would still be left with all the loss.

Thank you so much to all who have offered their support and condolences.  It means the world to me.


13 thoughts on “The Aching Question

  1. So glad to hear from you! You have been on my mind. Finding a therapist is a bit like buying a great pair of jeans…sometimes you have to try a few on.

    • Thanks for the reminder about therapists – that is SO true. I keep forgetting that mental health professionals are like any other doctor…experiences may vary. I’m planning to keep looking. How are you doing?

      • Meh. I’m trying to navigate impossible decisions without any clear criteria and keeping a death-grip on my sanity? Still not the kind of grief you’re dealing with tho. Love to you ❤

      • And, incidentally, I think you’ve got more than enough grief to be dealing with…no matter the differences, the similarities are that no one should have to go through any of these things. It’s hard no matter what. Hoping for peace and healing for both of us.

  2. Oh, no. It seems to me that that particular “why” was a huge misstep on the part of this therapist, and like A. said, you need to try a new one on for size, one who will be more sensitive to your feelings around your loss and not the curious “why” that may not have a clear answer. Definitely not an answer that was appropriate in that context. I’m sorry that you’re hurting and reliving all of your losses at this sad time, and I hope that you can find a therapist who will support you and help you to work through and untangle, not ask unanswerable questions without considering your feelings or needs.

  3. Oh, that just sucks. To have someone who is suppose to be helping you ask for an explanation? Like somehow if makes grief more manageable to be able to justify a reason. The reality is, you lost your brother. Just as you’ve lost children and been taken to the very edge. That requires support and guidance as you grief, not some explanation.

    I’m so sorry. And I agree with A: time to find someone else.

  4. Sounds like you might need a better counsellor. I’ve done counselling in the past when I was having a hard time, and it’s crucial you can relate to and really trust the person. This guy sounds like he’s lost your trust already. It’s a shame, because it can really help if you can find the right person. Of course it won’t change the tragedies but it can help you make some sense of them. It’s great that you are writing again. That’s healing too. Xo

  5. You’re right — it’s the question that is always asked. And sometimes it’s an important question that gets to the root of healing. And sometimes it’s just salt in the wound. Sending a hug.

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