The Unfinished Business of Our Lives and Where We Finish It.

I worked with a man a few years ago who’s wife died unexpectedly and in bed with another man.  He was devastated!

Complicated grief….the loss of a spouse and discovery of her infidelity.

“How do I get through this?”

In American society, there is a false believe: “In life, you finish what you start”.  This is all a part of that “Manifest Destiny”, John Wayne, big ego, “be in control of everything including your future” teachings that the west is so noted for.  But what if you CAN’T finish what you start; what if something bad happens to you and you don’t know why it occurred, can’t find out why it occurred.  What do you do then?  Our modern society would say that if you can’t figure out why it occurred or can’t finish something, you are a failure or feel personal failure.

I want to introduce a new idea:

There are some chapters/stories/parts of our lives that take a long time to be finished; that are not finished before the next chapter starts; that NEVER get finished.

I have found people don’t want to think about this.  They don’t want to think about unresolved issues in their life, not having all the answers to all the problems.  What’s that phrase, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This comes directly out of looking for an answer/reason why something has happened; the thinking being that once I understand why something occurred, I’ll be able to put it aside, move on with my life, leave it alone. But the truth is that there are a lot of things that happen in our lives that we don’t know why they happen or how our actions will turn out, down the road.  For example, I don’t know how my divorce will effect my daughters…..and I think about that daily. I’d like to think that because we (my ex-wife and myself) were civil during the marriage, divorce and thereafter, my girls will be fine…BUT I DON’T KNOW THAT!

People don’t want to acknowledge this; I think in part this is because it causes them to doubt themselves (and the American Creed is to be self confident under ALL circumstances….which is impossible).  If I don’t know why something (bad) has happened in my life, is it possible that I may have done something to contribute to the (bad) event occurring. If I don’t know how something I may do will ultimately turn out down the road;  I may do something I think is good and it turns out bad.

My point is, “Can you/I live with the unknown?” Can you live with the fact that sometimes we don’t know why a bad thing has happened?  Can you live with the uncertainty that the (“good”/”right”) things you do now, might, in the future, prove to be bad or wrong…can you live with this?

Can this widow live with the reality that she will never know for sure why he was unfaithful? Can I live with the unknown effect of my divorce on the lives of my daughters? As I get older, I see this question being put to people in my office and I see this question presenting itself to me in my life.

The answer to this lies in my ability to TOLERATE the unknown.  All I can to is make the best decision I can at the time, do the best that I can at the time and realize, down the road, you/I may discover what we thought or did not right.  That doesn’t mean what we did/thought/decided at the time wasn’t right, it just means as things unfolded, we couldn’t see everything at the time of our actions/decision and had we been able to, we may have decided/acted differently.

Getting back to the widower, can he tolerate the unknown, his unanswered questions (and not let them overshadow the rest of his life)?

He spent ALOT of time examining and re-examining his life with her and concluded that while there were parts of her that he never fully understood, he concluded this was just part of her and felt it was best if he just accepted those parts and continue their married life.  Upon the discovery of the affair, he worked through both the anger at her betrayal and the grief of loosing her….together, at the same time!  Very difficult. He further was able to accept that this will just be an unfinished part of his life.  My theology says in the next life, he will have an opportunity to ask the questions he is not able to get answers to now.  But I don’t know if that is right.  I will just have to wait and see.


More later.