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I remember the first time. A blonde girl who sat behind me in Spanish sent a text meant with good intentions. We were friends, but not great. Most of the time I was jealous that her boobs were so big and her waist so impossibly small. That and the fact that my crush, Dan, looked at her more than he ever looked at me. You know, stupid shit an adolescent brain zeroes in on.
The text read, “Just remember, everything happens for a reason.”
The incident she was referring to was the death of my father. I was 16.
This idiom is something we toss to our friends after hellish breakups. It’s something written into religious scriptures, a way to find closure within the worst moments. There’s a plan! There’s a reason things are so bad! Don’t worry! You’re gonna come out on top, babe! This too shall pass!
In some ways, I don’t mind the worrying. I don’t mind understanding (and not understanding) the nuances of life and that not every step is actually in the right direction. I’m okay thinking I might not come out on top. It’s okay if I fall flat. Despite my sensitive nature, I’m not that fragile. I know how to survive even when it’s hard to.
It’s strange what we assign positivity to. It’s weird the people we decide to call inspirations. Is it so bad that I walk around with a level of grief and realism? Is it wrong that I think depression memes are a form of self-soothing? My outlook is just not as appealing for a TEDtalk, I suppose.
The blonde girl who sat behind me in Spanish class told me to smile. To smile because my dad was looking down on me. I curbed the impulse to tell her I don’t know that I believe in an afterlife and assuming my thoughts on what happens after death was inappropriate, at best. I stuffed down the desire to yell at her, to tell her how insensitive this was, to ask if she’s ever experienced even an ounce of the pain I was swimming in. Because, bless, I know this sprang from a place she thought was good. I know she thought I needed a boost and maybe someone to just say, “THERE’S A WORLD BEYOND THIS GRIEF!” But then, at that moment, I didn’t.
You know what grieving people often need? Someone else to understand their black hole of grief. A gentle hand on their shoulder. Silence. The act of just being there.
I didn’t want condolence cards or sayings that had been uttered millions of times. I just needed my grief understood. Desperately, I wanted to be understood. And when everything around you is shrouded in black, hearing, “Everything happens for a reason!” is so, so far from being understood.
For some, this sentence is a beacon of light. I’d never deny that or try to take away what it means to others. If it is what you need to get out of bed in the morning, more power to ya.
But personally, I can’t believe in a world where everything fits neatly into a puzzle. I can’t look at my father’s urn, at my mother’s face as she stood in the doorway when the coroner came, and feel at peace knowing there was a reason for our immense pain.
I have seen too much to believe everything happens for a reason. So please stop telling me to.