Don’t put question mark when God puts period

When my sister was killed, I was grasping to make sense of the situation. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t logical, it wasn’t right. Although it still doesn’t make sense and is still extremely emotional and senseless, I was offered advice from someone that helped me move forward without letting what had happened drag me down.

Many people offered advice and kind words of support and it all helped, but this advice stood out to me and is something I have thought about quite often since. The advice was, “Don’t ever put a question mark where God puts a period.”

I am not writing this to tell you what to believe when it comes to a God. You can relate to this with whatever God or universe you choose. I write this to remind you what I was reminded of when I was given that advice because no matter what you believe spiritually, the statement holds a powerful message.

Sometimes things happen in life that we are better off not questioning. That doesn’t just apply to death. It applies to anything outside of our control. Spending time asking “why” takes away from the energy and time we have available to work on moving past the experience or embracing the lessons the experience taught us.

If I spent my time during the grieving process looking for answers, I would end up feeling stuck and unsettled. We may never know why the driver of the other vehicle chose to drink and drive that night. We will never know how he truly feels about what he did. We will never know if things would have been different had either vehicle left earlier or later, or had they stopped for snacks or fuel. We will never know if going a few miles per house faster or slower would have changed the way things happened that night. It’s not worth spending the energy and time on thinking about those things in any detail because I will never have the answers, and because, even if I could know the answers, it wouldn’t change anything. It is a better use of my energy figuring out how to live with my new normal, be there for others who are grieving, and to honor my sister through positive thoughts and memories.

This way of thinking doesn’t only apply to death. It is a reminder not to fret or stress about things outside of our control. Like the actions of others. We cannot control how others will act or respond or treat us, but we have full control over how we act, respond, and treat ourselves and others.

I have a friend who is going through a divorce right now. She has impressed me with her skill in approaching her situation using this perspective. She knows that she cannot control the behavior and words of her husband. She also knows that she can choose how she will respond to him. Therefore, she knows her time is best spent working on herself instead of nagging at him and hoping he will change. I’m very impressed with her ability to focus her energy like she is.

Some people never learn how to do this, and others take years to understand the value in it. This is the same thought process that is taught regarding addiction. You cannot control an addict, but you can control your response to the addict and make choices that keep your best interests in mind. It’s a way to think about a health issue. You may not know why you ended up with cancer, depression, anxiety, or other issue, but does spending time trying to figure out why it happened help your situation?

The most helpful advice I was given when my sister was killed has spread into all areas of my life. It was such a powerful reminder not to stress about the things that I cannot control, or that won’t help me if I do stress about them.

We should learn how to differentiate between things that require our energy and things that don’t, things that are deserving of our stress and things that aren’t. To spend our energy trying to understand why when it comes to many of the things that the universe, or God, or whatever you believe, has handed us is to waste our precious time and energy.

Instead, sometimes, we must accept what is and move on. It is like the “Serenity Prayer,” which, although most often associated with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, is a wonderful way to try and think about life, always.

Sometimes you must accept a period instead of trying to add a question mark.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.