Why? The Unanswerable Question That Lingers by Deborah Greene

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Today’s post was written by Deborah Greene. Deborah writes about life and suicide over at Reflecting Out Loud. Check out her site for great insight and truth about life after suicide.


Dear Dad,

Noa asked me today if I felt that I was any closer to making peace with how you died? Ten months later, I answered her as honestly as I could.

I told her that I didn’t think that I will ever make peace with your suicide. How can someone make peace with something that feels so utterly wrong, violent and senseless? No, peace is too much to ask for. But, I do believe that I am learning simply to live with it. My head understands that it was an illness that took you. Depression and anxiety took hold, and caused you unimaginable pain. They distorted and diminished your sense of self, of value and of hope.  And, like a cancer, they ate away at you, coursing through your blood day and night. My head has come, as best as is possible, to understand that. That is the truest answer to the question of why, and yet it is so very unsatisfying. It doesn’t rest comfortably on my tongue, it doesn’t offer me any solace. But it is the only truth that I know for certain.

But my heart has yet to let go of the unanswerable questions. I am haunted by the why of it all. The what if’s find their way in as well, and the wonder at what we missed, and what we might have done, if only we’d known. But in the immediate days, weeks and months after you died, those questions reverberated daily, seemingly set on the highest volume. Daily they intruded upon my world, rocking the shaky foundation beneath my feet. They woke me up at night, they kept me from falling asleep, they played like a broken record of a song I didn’t want to hear, but couldn’t turn off.

me and dad


Today, those questions still linger, but they are softer, less palpable day in and day out. They whisper to me quietly. Sometimes they come at the most predictable of moments, and other times they sneak up on me, when least expected. But I have learned to answer them with the only other thing I know to be true; I do not know. I will never know; the final catalyst, the last straw, the reason that you turned to death, when so much love still surrounded you. I will never know how it became so dark and why you didn’t ask for help. I do not know. It is the only answer to the unimaginable, unfathomable question of suicide.It is how I answer my heart, when what my head believes simply offers no comfort.

Why was once a question full of wonder. The favorite word of young children learning to understand the world around them. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do cows moo? Why do dogs bark? They asked, and we answered with what we knew. And when we had no answer, we simply answered with because.  Sometimes that satisfied them, and sometimes it didn’t.

And so here I stand, ten months later. I am the child still trying to comprehend the act of a parent. The truest answer to the question, thebecause, is that you had an illness. That is the answer my head knows, and it is the answer that leaves my heart and my soul unsoothed, unsatisfied and eternally uncomfortable.  But it is all that I will ever know. The only answer that I will ever have.  And all I can truly ask of myself now is to continue to learn to live with that. What my head knows to be true and the answers my heart still seeks now must find a way to live within me, to coexist. And I must continue finding ways to live with them.

Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question.  (Tennessee Williams)


This post was first written for Reflecting Out Loud and was shared with The Gift of Second with permission by Deborah.

4 Responses

  1. Julie
    | Reply

    Beautiful writing on the toughest question of suidice.

  2. Hedy
    | Reply

    You poor darling. You will learn to separate yourself, and live with part of your brain and remember sadly with the other part of your brain. Your words brought tears to my eyes, but I had to remember now is not the time. Maybe tomorrow while I am alone in the shower.
    Good luck to you and your family. Sadness is a way of life, but it doesn’t have to BE your entire life.

  3. Tracie
    | Reply

    These are exactly my thoughts, my feelings, all of it. My dad committed suicide on June 11th, 2015. It has been 9 months of these continued questions, roller coaster of emotions, ups and downs. Thank you so very much for sharing this. It hits home for me. I am so very sorry for your loss. I can honestly say i know how you are feeling. God bless you.

  4. Deborah Greene
    | Reply

    Thank you for your beautiful words Julie, Hedy and Tracie. Today is eleven months since I lost my dad, and the struggle to live with the questions continues. Tracie, I am so deeply sorry for our shared loss. May we have the strength and courage to continue facing these questions and learning to live with the unanswerable piece of it all. One day I truly hope that I will think of my father and the first thing that will come to mind is how he lived, rather than how he died.

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