Wednesday, February 11, 2015

not everything happens for a reason

"Everything happens for a reason."

Do you believe it?

Most of us have said this at some point or another.  I know I have, many times.  It's usually said at a time when comfort is needed.  When something not-so-awesome has happened, and we want to encourage someone (or ourselves) that things will get better.

We say it as reminder to stay positive.  We believe it because we are hopeful.

"Everything happens for a reason."

It means, don't worry.  This didn't work out, but that's because something bigger and better is around the corner waiting for you. One day, you'll look back at this and be GLAD it happened.  One day you'll be GRATEFUL.  One day, the mystical "reason" at the end of that sentence will reveal itself and you will be standing there, stunned in your moment of clarity, as it becomes ABUNDANTLY clear...."THIS is why THAT happened!"

There will be an aha moment.

Because surely this hardship has happened to get you where you are destined to go.

"Everything happens for a reason."

We say it when our best friend didn't get into their first choice college.  Or we didn't get the job we really really wanted.  Or when a friend is crying on our shoulder, sad that their relationship just ended.

Don't worry, best friend, you'll get into another school, and you'll probably love it even more.  You may meet a life changing professor and completely change your major and future career path and make tons of money in your newfound career passion! REASON!

Don't worry about that job, just be patient and steadfast and you'll get another offer.  And then six months down the line you'll get a sudden promotion you weren't expecting, and it'll be wonderful! SEE? REASON!

Don't worry about that guy, he was an asshole and didn't appreciate you.  When you least expect it, you'll meet someone even better who will sweep you off your feet and fall head over heels in love with you.  THERE'S THAT REASON!

"Everything happens for a reason."

We believe this SO WHOLE HEARTEDLY, because usually when enough time has passed we find it to be true.  In the best of scenarios, we did get a better outcome in the long run.  Or we can at least convince ourselves that we did.  "The contract fell through on the house I really wanted, but this one that I did buy has turned out to be better than I expected and it's in a great neighborhood, so yeah...maybe I didn't want that dream house in the first place."  Regardless, we receive our emotional validation that we were correct.  In the worst of scenarios, we just forget.  Forget that we used this line as a coping mechanism.  Maybe the predicted reason happens, maybe it doesn't...but the line gave us comfort at a time that we needed it and we've since moved on and have forgotten that we were so upset in the first place.

"Everything happens for a reason."

It was shortly after Reece died, and I was on the phone with the short term disability company.  Yet another time I had to explain this awful story to a complete stranger.  The call was concluding, and I could tell that the woman on the other line was struggling with what to say and how to end our call...and that's when she said it.

"Again, I'm just so sorry about your loss, Ms. Mirjafary, but you know what they say...everything happens for a reason."

Say wha?

I'm not sure how I responded.  I'm pretty sure I didn't.  Or if I did it was an "okay, goodbye." Because in the past this phrase provided me comfort...but this time, it provided me...confusion.  I wasn't offended in the traditional sense, but I was just moreso confused as to how there could be any good reason that could validate my baby dying.  I probably sat there stumped for a good hour trying to think of it.

Maybe it was to say that something must've been wrong with Reece for him to be born prematurely.  (There wasn't, it was just a fluke thing that he was born early) but maybe that's what she was getting at...and if so....REALLY?  It happened for a reason?  What, maybe down the line he was predisposed to be a serial killer?  I'm not really sure how that hypothetical is comforting.

Now let's consider the case was that there WAS something "wrong" with my baby (and I say that very tongue in cheek). Let's presume that maybe he had a genetic disease, or one of the trisomys.  I dare you to ask any parent who's lost their child to a genetic issue like that if they were relieved that their child died.  It's basically saying, "eh, you didn't want that kid anyway...there was something wrong with him." which I say, REALLY?  I've connected with many babyloss parents through this journey, and a number of them had children with genetic disorders. And I assure you not a single one of them is glad or "relieved" that their baby died.

Let's take this a different route. Let's say someone experienced babyloss and then goes on to get pregnant again and have a healthy baby.  One could make the argument that since the parent NOW has a healthy baby (which of course, they love), then they must be GLAD that previous pregnancy didn't work out because if it had, they wouldn't have their current child.

Now I haven't experienced this myself, but I have a dear friend who had a baby around the same time I was due with Reece.  And this baby boy was her "rainbow baby," a baby born after a loss.  And the reality of it is, if either of her previous pregnancies had resulted in a healthy baby, her current baby would not be here. That is a fact.  And the conflicted guilt is something she continues to struggle with.  Her most recent words to me were, "I am having hard time.  I feel so much guilt, as if continuing to grieve for this loss is somehow wishing my healthy son away, since he never would have arrived if either of his siblings had lived.  I don't know what to do with makes me feels like such a bad mom.  Like I don't deserve him."

Would you feel comfortable saying to her, "Everything happens for a reason! Your other children died so you could have this one!"  Would you really believe that?  Would you expect her to?

I can't believe that.

I spent months and months and MONTHS trying to figure out what "reason" I was supposed to glean from this experience.  And the answer is....there is none.

There is no reason.

"NOT everything happens for a reason."

It's easier to understand this when you've undergone a personal tragedy.  Because in our society we rely on this concept that things happen for a reason so much to help us get through difficult times.  But when giant life changing tragedies come our way, it becomes really difficult to see what kind of lessons we're supposed to be learning.  When real hardcore earth shattering situations come along and rock our foundation, it feels cruel to think there is some sort of greater lesson that we are being taught. It feels horrible to think that God would find it necessary to make my child die in order to reveal to me some reason later down the line.

"NOT everything happens for a reason."

There was a local story not too long ago of an enormous home that caught fire in Annapolis and killed all six people inside.  Two grandparents and four grandchildren were all killed when a Christmas tree caught fire.  Would you be able to say that this happened to teach us all about how Christmas trees can spread fire and cause tragedies?  We know that already.  Why would we need a lesson at the expense of six lives?  That is too trivial a lesson to be taught at such a cost. I don't buy it.

There is no reason.

While there may be an explanation as to how or why something happened, that cannot be depicted as some cosmically linked reason.

Sometimes it's simply systematic thing which happened to cause another and then another.  An unfortunate chain of events.  Not necessarily that there is some great lesson that must be learned, or force ourselves to try to find amidst a cloud of grief.

There are tragic and horrible things that occur all over the world.  There are wars going on right this moment. Innocent people who just happened to have been born in war torn areas can wake up one morning and have a bomb dropped on their head.  Are they supposed to generate some deeper meaning from this? Of course not, they can't. They're dead.  Could you walk around their war ravaged town, full of death and desolation and in good conscience say, "well...I guess this happened for a reason?"

"NOT everything happens for a reason."

There are children starving right this moment.  Would you look a starving child and say, "don't worry, everything happens for a day you'll get food to eat and you'll be really grateful for it!"  Of course not.  It's a ridiculous sentiment.

Obviously in these extreme examples it's easy to see evidence of the fact that not everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes people have shitty things happen to them, or they are born into shitty situations, or they have a shitty cross to bear, and it's no doing of their just IS.  Sometimes bad things just happen.  And sometimes really bad things just happen to good people who don't deserve them.  But there is no greater lesson to be learned from that.  It simply IS.

"NOT everything happens for a reason."

It took me a really long time to accept this and get over the concept that there needed to be a reason for my son's death.  I struggled for months to figure out what I was supposed to learn from it and why God would do this to me. It's pretty useless to say things like, "Why did this happen to me, God?" but I will admit that I asked a few times.  I needed to know...what reason was I to take from this?  What lesson was I to learn?  What penance was I being asked to pay by giving up my son?  I struggled and struggled and struggled until I decided I wasn't going to waste my time trying to work through my grief and burden myself with the task of determining the greater lesson I was supposed to be learning.

Because there is none.

"NOT everything happens for a reason."

There is no reason my son died.  It's something that happened.

There is no life long lesson I'm supposed to be taught by bearing this grief.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

God is not punishing me.

God still loves me and is walking this journey with me.  I know it because I have this thing called hope.

This is simply a horrible thing that happened.

I can stop searching for a reason.

That is so FREEING.


  1. Amen to this! I have been on the receiving end of "everything happens for a reason" at two distinct points. The first, when we learned Mabel had Down Syndrome. SO many responses I wanted to come up with- I felt like people were trying to "look on the bright side" but their words got me thinking they thought I was being punished. That I deserved a baby that needed extra care- that I deserved a pregnancy with a high risk of stillbirth. ugh ugh ugh. and like you said, I had a baby "that something was wrong with" and I wanted her. I made the choice that 90% of people in my situation dont. I KNEW there was something wrong with my baby and I chose to keep her, to hope for her, to want her. And then when she was diagnosed with low fluid and/later died I got more off the "everything happens for a reason." Oh the things I could come up with- so the reason is to teach me NOT to continue a pregnancy with DS? Is that it? That I should be thankful I didnt have to give up my job? that I should be thankful my babydidnt live longer just so she could have died later? I am SO with you on this dumb dumb (but admittedly well intentioned) platitude.

    I've even tried my best to confront it when said to me- in a way that doesnt reprimand the sayer btu also informs them how unhelpful it is. Last person who said it had been so so good up until those words came out of her mouth. So i actually sai d"well, I'm not sure there's a reason she died...." in a gentle, soft tone. But she became even more adamant, speaking vaguely of some bad things that happened to her, but put her where she was now. In some cases the platitude might help people, but I have trouble finding anyone who is truly helped by it in babyloss.

    I know, like you, I've said it to people in the "before" and now in the "after" knowing how much the platitude hurts, I wish someone clued me in- I would have felt awful at the time, but I would have learned and never used it inappropriately again. I'm just still trying to figure out how to help teach that lesson now.

    forgive my take over inthe comments- you clearly struck a chord here :)

    1. Meghan, I'm really glad I did strike a chord, because I always appreciate your perspective. I, too, have been in the awkward situation of trying to drop a hint that what was said wasn't really helpful...but the person just kept continuing. For me, it was the "God just wanted him more" statement. It really rubbed me the wrong way on a day I was really missing my baby. So I responded with, "I'm not really sure how anyone, even God, could've wanted him more than I did.." and then person just kept going.. Sometimes (as you know) we have to remind ourselves of the person's good intent, and focus less on what's actually being said. But that can be so so difficult.

      This part, where you wrote: "I had a baby "that something was wrong with" and I wanted her. I made the choice that 90% of people in my situation dont. I KNEW there was something wrong with my baby and I chose to keep her, to hope for her, to want her." Sigh. Oh my heart just aches for you. We all just want out children back, don't we? We just want them back. I remember once (before C and I broke up) someone said, "it's okay, you were only halfway through the pregnancy, you guys can try again..." and I just wanted to scream, "I don't want ANOTHER baby right now, I want THAT baby! The one I grew and loved for almost 6 months!" It's just so hard to explain unless you've been in these shoes.

      Please feel free to take over my comments anytime you want! :)