Why Does My Loved One Have to Suffer?

Lyle Ellerbee

Not long ago, I visited a man whose wife was dying of cancer. He retired early in life, so he and his wife could travel the country on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was a big man, and his wife was tiny. But, their love for one another was deep and knew no size and shape after 45 years of being married to one another. He shared with me many stories of there life together. He was deep in grief.

Over the years, I have heard surviving loved ones of dying patients wonder “why does my loved one have to suffer?” I will often hear that my spouse, uncle, aunt, mother, or father has been a good person. It doesn’t make sense to have to watch my loved one go through this people say. After having many years to ponder these reflections, I have come to believe there is “NOT” an easy answer to this question and the mind wanderings that go with it. These expressions come from such a deep place within us that to give an easy answer would pull people from this place they are asking us to meet them in.

The place I am referring to is a dying loved one’s soul. Caregivers are being ask to meet them in a place where suffering no longer exists. Thomas Moore, in “The Care of the Soul,” refers to the soul as a place where one’s imagination and heart join on a journey the physical body cannot move into. This is the place whereby one’s thoughts, feelings, and spirit come to embrace what is beyond us.

When a loved one asks us, “why does my loved one have to suffer?” “Why did this happen to my spouse, daughter, son, sister, brother, or others.” We are being invited to listen to their soul and offer unconditional love. This act of non-judgmental care is a spatial quality of existence enabling us to care for another’s soul. Why? Because at the deepest level of our being we know there is not a human understanding to this question, but it does lead us deep within our psyche and opens us up to our soul. It is a place where souls can meet and find healing.

Thoughts give rise to the ability comprehend an idea. We go through a series of wanderings to make sense of the world around us. This path into the grief process eventually leads us to the realization that the intellect will not give us what we are looking for. Although our thoughts are a form of expressing our grief, they simply lead us to more and more questions there are no answers to.

Feelings give expression to our thoughts on a given situation which may give rise to more emotional pain knowing we cannot understand what is happening. This is felt in the body and moves in and through us. We tire and eventually give up on using our mind and body this way. Eventually, we move into exhaustion and have no energy to feel anything.

Spirit gives us hope in life hereafter, but it does not take away our grief. The expression of prayer and hope in life hereafter does allow us to bring into our grief a sense of consolation. Funeral services include various songs and scriptures allowing us to have words to comfort us. The ability to cope through faith allows us to place some of our grief in a power greater than ourselves.

When you combine the mind, body, and spirit’s capacity to deal with grief in an integrated way, we often find a sense of peace. This is what is known in many sacred texts as “a peace beyond understanding.” To know “The Unknowable” or “Creator of All Things” is to trust in the wisdom that has created us all. This is perhaps the journey into letting go on the highest level of our being possible. Here, we are able to trust that there will be a tomorrow and grief will not and cannot kill the relationship we had with our loved one. Instead, we begin to relate to each other on the level of soul. This is the place where our soul can create channels of expression with our dying loved one no other way is possible.

As you can see, the answer to the question of “why” is my loved one going through this is not as important as where this internal process leads us inside our being. This place can be nurtured and cared for by those willing to listen attentively to another’s desire and need to be heard from such depths. This act of going into such sacred space where one’s soul is healing simply by sharing one’s pain with those who care allows us to heal in places our hands cannot touch.

Here are three final points to consider when you find yourself with someone who asks the question “why does my loved one have to suffer?” First, listen “fully” to one’s grief and their questions on suffering. Make sure you have listened to another’s grief as outlined earlier in this article.

Second, since you have no control over a person’s journey into dying or the timing of his/her passing from this life to the next, try to get the surviving loved one voice what their loved one will be released of in their dying and themselves as a caregiver. This step requires a great deal of honesty, and you will not probably get this unless you have fully listened to someone tell you about their grief of losing their loved one.

Finally, your ability to help someone through this phase of grief will help the dying loved one and loved one’s who survive build incredible trust in you as the caregiver, volunteer, minister, social worker, nurse, and doctor.

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