Everything happens for a reason.
Meant to be comforting, right?
I know newly grieving parents in my support group are often looking for that reason. I looked for it as well. But now reflecting, I knew that I wasn’t looking for a reason as much as a cause: a medical conclusion as to why Nelle had died. Being told that it was random made it hurt more. She was growth restricted, so something was medically wrong – right? Something caused her to die.
Then Iris just… died. Without warning.
In the immediate days that followed, I wrestled with horrible thoughts in my head – why did this happen again? Why us? Why did this happen TO us? I came to the only conclusion that I could live with: there was no reason. Sometimes bad things just… happen.
I believe that not everything happens for a reason. That’s my belief. I know that other people believe that everything does happen for a reason, and those are their beliefs. It isn’t written anywhere. I make room for the possibility that there is some kind of pre-planned order to the universe, just as much as I would hope someone on the other side of that belief system makes room for the possibility that the universe is chaos. It isn’t a fact like watching the sun rise in the morning, or knowing that rushing water makes a certain sound. Beliefs are what our minds and hearts can live with.
Then there is another subset of people: those who spout phrases like “everything happens for a reason” without actually believing it, but because they think that it is somehow comforting. Watching grief, pain, or chaos – it makes them uncomfortable. So they are trying to paint over the ugly parts with platitudes. They are only repeating what they have heard, like a story that has already been told so they are confident that they know the ending.
I work from home and one relief that provided me was the ability to not talk about my pregnancy with certain co-workers, at all. It wasn’t until her delivery date was within weeks that I finally had to announce my extended medical leave. One person, upon hearing the “good news” said to me “Well everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?”
In that moment, I couldn’t respond. In my head, I said, rather forcefully, “Really? And what is the reason that my two daughters died?” Nope.
People have told me that I have become so strong. That now I have this beautiful baby I was waiting for. That my writing is inspiring, and I wouldn’t have reached so many people otherwise. Nope. Those are not “reasons.” Those are byproducts.
I think back to that comment that made me recoil so much: “Everything happens for a reason.” Now, rather than let it go – what would my response be? Something pointed, that doesn’t let the moment slip away, the way that I let it go before, while then later being tortured by the words in my head.
I might say “I’m glad that phrase works for you. If your child ever dies, I hope that belief is able to carry you through wondering why your child died and why it happened to you and your family. For me, personally, I don’t believe that. Some things just happen, and there is no reason.”