I’ve found that life after tragedy is, among many things, one big study in human nature which I never asked to lead. And I feel like, as the one who experienced this particular tragedy, I’m indeed leading it, or at least my own version of it, because I could compile all of my observations related to the ways in which different types of people react/don’t react to Matthew’s death (and to others’ experiences similar to mine, or dissimilar, yet also tragic) and put them into a research paper or a book, even. And I’m sure it would be so entertaining that it would drive a helluva lot of people into a comatose state.
But one of my biggest observations thus far has been that nearly everyone tries to look for the reason that this very bad thing happened, as well as the reasons behind all sorts of other bad things happening in the world.
And at first I expected the “everything happens for a reasons” to possibly come only from religious zealot types, particularly those lucky enough to have been relatively sheltered from tragedy. Or maybe I’d envisioned telling my story to Tim Tebow and he being all like, “Christine, my football carrier disintegrated for a reason just as Matthew died for a reason – everything happens for a reason,” but in the sweetest way possible, which, by the way, isn’t a knock to Tim Tebow, because despite his uncanny ability to generate eye rolls, I kind of like him and continue to maintain that he never got a fair shake with the Denver Broncos. (Screw John Elway and his new Super Bowl ring.)
But anyway, I’ve decided that I totally wrongly stereotyped these people, or I guess, more accurately, I’ve discovered the error of my ways that was assuming the need to “find the reason” is unique to only one very specific group of people.
Because nearly everyone I encounter has looked for, and/or is still looking for, the reason behind Matthew’s death. Sometimes it comes in the form of, “Everything happens for a reason.” And other times, it’s more like, after seeing some perceived glimmer of good/hope in our lives, “Oh, *this* (insert comparatively trivial or otherwise nonsensical thing) must be the reason why Matthew died.”
And when I say nearly everyone, I truly mean it – I’ve found those searching for (or who think they’ve found) “the reason” could be those religious or not particularly religious; highly educated or poorly educated; family members or friends or acquaintances or strangers; sweet ones or jerks; doctors or nurses or executives or accountants or teachers; people I (correctly or incorrectly) perceive as having had experienced comparatively little tragedy in life or, surprisingly, even, wait for it… Other bereaved parents.
I’ll admit this phenomenon is so strange to me. Because I’ll never, ever be one who concedes that Matthew’s death (or many other tragedies in this world) happened for a reason, because a) I don’t think this is true, and b) no reason will ever be good enough for me to justify why he was taken from us so soon, or why many of life’s tragedies occur.
I just don’t believe that Matthew died to teach us a lesson or to make us better people. He didn’t die because we, or others, prayed too little. He didn’t die to make people more thankful for their living children or to bring people closer to Jesus. He didn’t die so I could start my blog and share his story. He didn’t die so we could advocate for improved standard of care in American obstetrics. He didn’t die so he could be spared from future struggles (medical or otherwise), or because he might have done something bad someday had he survived. And he didn’t die so his little brother Jay could come here instead. (Though we’re certainly hopeful Jay will indeed live.)
I don’t believe Matthew’s some sacrificial lamb whose life was shazamed by a high power who’s supposed to be good (but who’s also arguably evil if he/she is indeed shazaming the lives of innocent babies) whose intent is to use him as a pawn in some mission, the purpose of which is for us to try to guess for the rest of our lives. I don’t think Matthew’s our guardian angel who’ll guarantee his loved ones immunity from all future hardships from this day forward. (Like, if so, where the hell were our freaking deceased grandparents when Matthew needed protection?!?! Gawwwd, I feel so let down by those lazy ass mo-fos!)
All of the above reasons have been presented to us, and, often times, I’ve kind of forced a smile and reluctantly nodded in response. Though, other times, if I’m in the mood, I’ll politely disagree, highlighting any flawed logic I see. (Which I’ll point out is so damn easy – it’s like low-hanging fruit.) Because I’ll always maintain Matthew’s our innocent, precious, beautiful, healthy, perfect baby boy, our son whose life was cut tragically short by this random act of nature. And I don’t think there’s any reason for it beyond this.
And while I can certainly appreciate that everyone is different, and that some find comfort in searching for the reason, based on my observations, I would also argue that this tendency is a human defense mechanism which protects so many from thinking too hard about some “inconvenient truths” about life. (And I’m not referring to climate change here, my friends.)
So here’s where I’m going to start speaking about said “inconvenient truths” and start making some people so uncomfortable they shift hard enough in their seats to create the friction necessary to start a fire, therefore burning a hole right through their office chair, pants, underwear, and maybe even the skin on their ass cheeks…
But here’s what I think…
I think life can be cruel and unfair and tragic, which is actually a gross understatement if you think about this statement for longer than like eight seconds. The world is a scary place where really awful, heinous things happen to some amazing people deserving of all things good. And, conversely, some glorious things happen to the shittiest, most undeserving of people.
I think our world is broken and imperfect and full of evil, which can be explained either biblically or otherwise, and no one is immune from experiencing it – no one knows when that life changing phone call will come or when that earth shattering event will occur.
I think no amount of faith and prayer and being a good person protects anyone from any of it. Because there’s no reason for any of it.
There’s no reason for the death of an innocent baby from something so effing ridiculous as an “umbilical cord accident.” There’s no reason for things such as child abuse and neglect. There’s no reason people get cancer and fight it for years, only to die in the end. There’s no reason for the sex trafficking of children and teenagers. There’s no reason for the cold-blooded murder of women and children (or anyone) in Syria (or anywhere else in the world). There’s no reason that people are captured, and then beheaded, by ISIS. The list is miles and miles long – it’s infinite – the list of things for which there is no explanation, no reason, at least not one which wraps any of these terrible things up into some kind of pretty bow.
And I think redemption (at least earthside) post-tragedy isn’t guaranteed either. It can certainly occur, though only if the opportunity is presented, and with the help of some positive, free-will choices mixed with a whole lot of luck. But nothing is promised. Not always does something wonderful emerge from the aftermath, the carnage, or the ashes.
But all this said, so much good and beauty exists in this world too. Natural wonders and new life and seemingly “miraculous” things are all around us. There are astonishing acts of kindness and opportunities to live purpose-filled lives and inspiring stories of redemption. Who knows? Maybe there’s enough good to match the evil. Maybe there’s even more.
By pointing all of this out, I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should concentrate on the bad, living in perpetual fear of the next tragedy. If we constantly focused on all that’s scary and wrong in this world, we’d each surely become crippled by terror, eventually dying from the stress, most likely.
But, after experiencing such a life-changing event, I certainly spend more time in dark places these days. And I’ve yet to fully figure out why the desire to find the reason seems to be so prevalent. Because, to my knowledge, this isn’t actually an official part of any religious or spiritual teaching. (Though it’s difficult to deny pressures may exist within some religious institutions for members to find the reason, come to a place of acceptance, and move forward as quickly as possible. Though I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that maintaining a faith and rejecting the notion that “everything happens for a reason” aren’t mutually exclusive.) Or perhaps it’s just that when it comes to tragedies that hit close to home, so many have an innate desire to assign logic to said tragedies at all costs, sometimes even at the cost of logic itself. This human defense mechanism (that some are, seemingly, born without) is far more powerful than I ever would have imagined.
But, at least with me, people can stop searching for the reason Matthew died. There isn’t one I’ll ever accept anyway. And, if I’m in the mood, I might even point out the fallacies of the argument presented to me therefore making the presenter all shifty and uncomfortable, setting his/her ass on fire as I remind him/her of these aforementioned inconvenient truths.
I believe that NOT everything happens for a reason. Sometimes life just sucks. And then you try to deal with the aftermath as best you can. And maybe you do a really great job and also get really lucky and some good and redemption come from it – but this doesn’t mean it’s why the tragic event occurred in the first place.
I’ve found no reason for Matthew’s death, and I’m confident I never will. And I hope there comes a time when others stop trying to find the reason for me.
I wanted to write about my recent cord pathology scan for baby Jay and my vacation to South Carolina, and I had all these grandiose plans to do so while on the beach, but it didn’t go as planned between tears from missing Matthew and naps and there being a wicked glare on my computer screen and my concern with getting sand in my keyboard. So I’ll post on each of these things by the end of this week/early next – stay tuned. In the meantime, this post I’d already written seemed fitting as the guy sitting next to us on our flight home saw I was pregnant and asked if this was our first child and upon hearing our first child died proceeded to tell us his older sister died and thank God she did because he might not have been born otherwise – everything happens for a reason. Maybe. Or not.
19 thoughts on “Some inconvenient truths”
Fantastic post Christine, I completely agree. I can’t bear the everything happens for a reason comments and I’m pretty forthright when it comes to letting them know! I need a little more patience at times x
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks ❤ I try to be forthright with letting most people know, unless it's a fellow bereaved parent, and then I usually tell myself they're entitled to believe whatever it is they want to in order to get them through this horrible tragedy. Otherwise, I'm aiming to educate the world. I'm glad to know you stand up to people too! Hugs to you.
Great food for thought. Compeltly and utterly agree. I think people have a *need* to find a reason for their own sake. It’s a way of distancing themselves, confirming that they haven’t fallen fowl of said reason, and thus the tragedy is ours and ours alone, and will never be there’s. I’m finding a lot of people commenting that “I’ve found my vocation” and “this is what you’ll do now” – as if, I was looking for my chosen career path all along and Leo dying was by job interview (blog writing stillbirth hardly pays bills either!). I’d rather has f-all to write about and have Leo here. There are no reasons.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for your kind words. There are absolutely no reasons. I agree it’s a defense mechanism as well as a way for others to distance themselves. And I’m sooooo tired of it. I too have had people suggest similar reasons to me to explain why Matthew died… I can’t stand it!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
No reason will ever satisfy me. I hate when people try to package what happened in their minds, into something that fits. A baby’s death never fits. Into anything. How is this so difficult to comprehend?
Why can’t they let it be what it actually is? Horrific. Unfair. Illogical. Possible.
Love this post, as always!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Exactly – “A baby’s death never fits. Into anything.” It’s not so difficult to comprehend…
In the span of a week and half, I lost two friends to heart attacks. Two guys in the prime of their lives. Everyone asked, “Did they smoke? Cholesterol? Blood Pressure?” All the questions that would make sense of a senseless situation. I found it odd in a way that assigning reason to it would somehow make it more palatable, but the fact remains they are gone and have left a void, I don’t care why they are gone. They are gone. And you are right, no pretty bow is going to change it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am so sorry for the losses of your two friends. It is so sad and unfair and tragic. And so ridiculous that people asked those questions, though I’m not a bit surprised. And you’re right – at the end of the day, they’re gone, and there’s a huge hole there, and it doesn’t really matter why – it just freaking sucks. Hugs to you.
Lol to the Guy on the plane 😂 most hilarious comment ever!
I’ve also tried to find a ‘silver lining’ I am grateful for the 9 months I had with Max, but it will never ever be enough.
I hope you’ve managed to have some respite from your grief.
I did hypnotherapy for my PTSD today for the 1st time. Managed to see a baby after and not feel anything, so far so good! (It was a girl though lol!)
Much love to you, Your beautiful Matthew and Jay, thinking of you as always xxxx
LikeLiked by 1 person
OMG – the guy on the plane… Despite losing his sister he was sooooo uncomfortable to hear about Matthew. He meant well, but… his comments weren’t making me feel better! But yes, sometimes I choose to laugh at these situations – seems preferable to crying!
I’m hanging in there – we did have a good time in SC, though vacations feel different now. I’m hoping in time some of this softens.
I’ve never tried hypnotherapy… I’m so glad it was positive for you. I may have to consider it. (I’ve not been able to see many babies at all!)
Sending love to you too, thinking of you and sweet Max. xoxo
What a guy to say that about his sister, so I dread to think just how insensitive he was to you about Matthew. It’s hard to respond in a way that’s true to yourself when you know these people are ‘well meaning’ but at the same time you want them to STFU immediately before they inflict you any more pain.
This week I got a ‘oh you named him? Even though he died?’ Course I did ffs !!!!!!!
Yeah the hypnosis definitely helped with the PTSD I no longer feel like I’m ‘under attack’ when I see a baby. Although I now just feel majorly pissed off at how unfair it is that my baby is not here too!!!!!
Totally feel the same about vacations- everything has changed 😦
Love to you, Matthew and Jay, look after yourself xxxxxx
(Lol just realised I replied in the wrong section oops!!!)
LikeLiked by 1 person
But if there is a “reason” then everyone can be assured that 1. they can avoid this tragedy themselves and 2. that you are just fine because your baby’s death has given you purpose/taught you some lesson/etc. A loose acquaintance recently told me I seem much more empathetic since my son’s death as if I should be grateful for whatever depth of character his passing has provided me. Gah! No! I would rather be that ordinary person I was before and have my freaking baby here.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes – totally. A reason will give them reassurance that surely nothing this terrible will ever happen to them… And OMG @ your loose acquaintance. I’m pretty offended by the notion that Matthew’s death will “make me a better, more empathetic person,” like if it did that it would even justify his death… It wouldn’t. I was a pretty damn good person before he died. I’m sure you were too. I’m pretty sure everyone I’ve met with a similar loss was – I’ve yet to meet anyone deserving of this cruel fate. Gahhhhhh! People don’t think before they say this shit!
Omg- yes. I’m sick of people trying to make sense of Freddie’s death for me.. There is no sense to be found! He was perfect and at 38 weeks he should have been here but for the stupid ‘cord accident’. It’s without purpose. The fact that it was avoidable in our case adds a dimension of difficulty when it comes to accepting what’s happened; but even when there is a clear reason behind a baby’s death it is still without purpose. Freddie would have been 6 months old on Friday and people keep telling me I need to find a career or ‘something to interest me’.. I gave up my career to have him and I don’t want to be anything other than what I was supposed to be now- a stay at home mum! People also say things like “you have to live your life for him now”,”make sure his existence wasn’t for nothing, give it meaning”… Geez… Not only do I have bear the weight of this grief but now I have to carry the burden of living his life for him too?! I would much rather my perfect, innocent baby was here to grow in his own right..
Thank you for another thought-provoking post Christine! x
LikeLiked by 1 person
Absolutely without purpose. I’m so sorry people keep telling you this dumb shit about “finding a career” or “something to interest you.” For freak sake, it’s only been six months… Which is NO time… (Not that it would ever be okay for anyone to say this to you no matter how long it’s been.) But geez… At six months, I consider it a small miracle every day that you get up and do anything. I consider it a small miracle for myself at 10 months. And yeah… No pressure with “make sure you give his existence meaning.” I think we all want to do that for our babies, but it has to be in our own time and in our own way, which is very personal for each person and will take so much time to even figure out… You’re doing great, sweet mama – one foot in front of the other, one day at a time (trite, I know, but true)… Thinking of you and your sweet Freddie, sending huge hugs. xoxo
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your words are so incredibly true. One day when I was particularly tired of hearing everything happens for a reason, I shot back well then what is it? The person seemed surprised but kept going, well you never know what suffering she was saved from. Thank you for insinuating my child was or would have suffered, that’s excellent.
Chris’ family, as I have said before, are particularly religious people. When good things happen all their prayers are answered! Great!! God is good! When bad things happen, silence. Or they use the other cringe-worthy statement I hate, it’s all part of God’s plan.
There’s also the folks who tell me Quinn died to save me. From what you may ask? Well right now it looks like nothing, so there’s that.
I hope you enjoyed your trip and that all went well with your cord scan!! Thinking of you!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I like your idea of saying, “then what is the reason?” Or maybe saying, “how do you know everything happens for a reason?” Then, seeming to be enthralled and curious by the person’s keen insight, calmly and matter-of-factly go on to ask the reason for specific atrocities happening in the world. Would be very interesting to see what kinds of responses you’d get.
LikeLiked by 2 people
So completely true. Platitudes come from all mouths regardless of background because we often find ourselves at a loss for words in the face of grief and tragedy. It’s hard to comprehend that sometimes things just are without reason and that sometimes the best response may just to hold someone’s hand and be there quietly. We want to do. We want to “help” in some tangible way. Unfortunately, most people just don’t get that some “helping” can be more harmful.
“I believe that NOT everything happens for a reason. Sometimes life just sucks. And then you try to deal with the aftermath as best you can.”
Yes to that and everything else you wrote.
In my belief life is pretty random in many ways; both in handing out pain as in beauty and joy.
And it seems to be this that frightens people more than anything; if it’s all just random, coincidence, bad luck that basicaly means it can happen to ALL of us.
It can happen to all of us, at any given moment and without warning.
And this knowledge, ironically, might be the one thing that will get me through somehow; my partner DIDN’T die for a reason, i DON’T have to be glad i get to learn some amazing lessons through this pain and I CAN’T control what happens in life.
There are days these thoughts paralyze me and there are days it gives me a true sense of freedom.
If I can’t control things I might just as well not even try, I might just as well enjoy what I have and cry when I lose it.
And the bullshit of ‘this will make you a stronger/better person’?
I didn’t need to become a better person, I didn’t deserve this ‘chance to grow’ and whatever will become of me will be in spite of my loss, not because of it.