The Dangerous Game of If

The only thing I know about death is it comes when it does. We’re not in control and only in the rarest of cases responsible for it.

Recently, two women I know lost their sisters. I ache for them, knowing they’ve just been thrown down a cliff.

One saw it coming; one didn’t. Does it make a difference?

We can’t really prepare for the pain of loss when we’re busy begging death to keep its distance.

We can’t save people, even from themselves.

When my mother was diagnosed with…well actually, the doctors didn’t know what the hell they were diagnosing her with, but the soon-to-be-ditched doctor who delivered her first diagnosis said, “You just want to take her to a better doctor or a better hospital, but you need to face it. She’ll be dead in two weeks.”

Yes, we took her to a better doctor and a better hospital. Still, she only lived four more months.

Can you imagine what I thought while my mom sat silently as that doctor’s words seeped into her soul? Surprisingly, I didn’t slap him.

Now, with decades of hindsight, I imagine the doctor’s crassness was him trying to prepare me for what I couldn’t control. I was in my late 20s.

I had to learn through experience. Death came and there’s no one to blame.

Yet, people do. Not too long ago, I learned my brother’s friend blames himself for Bill’s death. Oh, that breaks my heart!

He wasn’t the person who was driving the car or bought the beer or sold it. It’s someone who wasn’t even there.

Yet, he’s concluded it’s his fault because maybe if…if…if.

That’s a dangerous game to play. If I’d convinced my now deceased boyfriend Kevin not to take the medication that I believe killed him… If I’d been more panicked over what may have been warning signs, but at the time seemed simple symptoms of life… If I would’ve been with him…

Anyone can jump in on the guilt game—even someone completely removed from the situation at the time of death. Or, we can play the blame game.

For me, I wanted to blame the doctor who prescribed the medicine and the pharmaceutical company that put it on the market.

In fact, I indulged in that for a bit—maybe so I could feel the anger of my grief. Guilt is anger turned inward.

But, I’m not guilty. I’m not angry.

I’m sad. I’m sad that people, especially the ones I love, die.

Yet, it’s the inevitable part of life we like to pretend away.

Isn’t thinking it’s our fault or we could’ve controlled death a way of denying it?

Maybe the what-ifs are a part of grief, but I choose to let them go, knowing they don’t serve, but only harm.

What-ifs invite guilt and anger. Both could kill me—slowly, but surely.

So, I let go in honor of love—for myself and those who died.

For now, it’s my job to live and love the one my beloved loved with a fire that refuses to die. No what-ifs about it.

5 thoughts on “The Dangerous Game of If

  1. H Alice! A very good article here. Important thoughts we all go through when we lose someone dear to us–all those “what ifs”–especially, I would imagine, when someone commits suicide. What if I’d been friendlier, reached out, showed some understanding, given them some resource to consider, hadn’t snapped at them in self-defense on that occasion, and on and on. Not only useless, but deadly, as you say. Of course there is so much we don’t have any control over, and the death of someone is probably the most important lesson about how little control we really have–even over our own death. It’s a very tough subject but you handle it with grace and style. I think writing is one of the major ways we deal with our difficulties, and arriving at some sort of insight, sense, healing, and/or peace makes it such a worthwhile endeavour, not only for our own sanity, but possibly for others’ as well. Keep writing! 🙂
    Shelagh

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    1. Thank you, Shelagh. All true. I appreciate you reading. Yes, I imagine losing someone to suicide brings up the what-ifs big time. However, I recently read a book called Between Heaven and Earth, written by a medium. Even the suicidal souls seem to say there was nothing anyone could’ve done, besides them. Shelagh, I know you’ve been through your share of challenges and losses. That makes your opinion of my words strike me even more. Thank you.

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      1. Thanks Alice! I look forward to seeing more of your work and ideas! Keep it coming! 🙂 You are an inspiration for a lot of people.
        Shelagh

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  2. YOU: Isn’t thinking it’s our fault or we could’ve controlled death a way of denying it? Yes!!

    ME: Another often played question that I’ve seen on television and now, my life “If you could bring back Judy for a moment, what would you say?” That is a tease and makes for sappy television stories, but I tend to believe what Lady’s Diana’s brother The Earl of York said, “…that’s a bit of tease …” Sure, I want Judy back, but to spend too much time wondering what I’d say to her is a distraction on my present journey. I want to cultivate from the inside. Love Judy, see Judy, hear Judy …. endless.

    YOU So, I let go in honor of love—for myself and those who died.
    For now, it’s my job to live and love the one my beloved loved with a fire that refuses to die. No what-ifs about it.

    ME: Your words inspire and lift my spirit. That is where I am headed… thank you.

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