Reasons Things Happen, Revisited

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

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.”