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Joanne

Good post on NOT saying "everything happens for a reason"

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I agree with what the author is saying - thanks for posting this, Joanne.

 

I find this to be so true: "I think people tell others to take responsibility when they don't want to understand."

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Although I would not say it to someone else, I have to believe that things happen for a reason  or I could not stay on the planet.  My therapist recommended this book and I have found it very, very helpful:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Works-Things-Together-Good/dp/0805446834/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1449062857&sr=8-8&keywords=The+Promise+romans

 

 

As I said, it isn't helpful to say to someone else.  I don't say it in times of grief.  But FOR ME, I need to know that things happen for a reason.

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Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I absolutely HATE that phrase with all my being!  I hate the blame on God and the individual. I know people don't really think of it that way; but they are simply wrong and it is hurtful. 

 

 

I’ve heard it a million times before, but it never stops shocking me: He tells her that he thinks the tragedy had led to positive changes in her life. He utters the words that are nothing less than emotional, spiritual, and psychological violence:

 

"Everything happens for a reason."

He tells her that this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow. But that’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it’s categorically untrue.

 

I could go on and on and on but I'll spare you (this time).  Please quit saying that awful phrase!

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Seeking,  Obviously I haven't read the book other than the Title. 

 

God COULD cause everything that happens here, but that isn't what scripture says DOES happen. There is a HUGE difference between God being able to work with what life throws at us and Him and Him making bad things happen to people.  I really don't understand how it could be comforting to believe that God is making cancer ravage bodies, is making people abuse children, is making women be raped, etc.  And I can't understand why that would be comforting. 

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Seeking,  Obviously I haven't read the book other than the Title. 

 

God COULD cause everything that happens here, but that isn't what scripture says DOES happen. There is a HUGE difference between God being able to work with what life throws at us and Him and Him making bad things happen to people.  I really don't understand how it could be comforting to believe that God is making cancer ravage bodies, is making people abuse children, is making women be raped, etc.  And I can't understand why that would be comforting. 

 

Ok, we agree and that is what the book says that God uses all things not that he made bad things happen.   Yet, there still has to be a reason for it because he didn't stop it and he could have. 

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Ok, we agree and that is what the book says that God uses all things not that he made bad things happen. Yet, there still has to be a reason for it because he didn't stop it and he could have.

Seeking, I did not intend for this post to be a theological discussion. Since the topic naturally "goes there" let me say that God preventing/causing suffering is one of the pivotal and epiphonal (yes, I am aware that is not a word but I wanted to use epiphany) points on which I deconverted.

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Thank you for posting. I truly hate the phrase, and I've heard it over, and over, and over again in the past three months. Sorry, there is no 'reason", nothing good, nothing positive that comes from a man having lung cancer metastasize to his brain causing hallucinations and delusions which prompt him to decide to attempt to murder his wife.

 

Nope.

 

Don't go there. It is cruel, really cruel to say, and I'm tired of people expecting the wounded and suffering to be the ones that "rise above" the wicked comments and suck it up. I'm done sucking it up. Done.

 

 

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Seeking, I did not intend for this post to be a theological discussion. Since the topic naturally "goes there" let me say that God preventing/causing suffering is one of the pivotal and epiphonal (yes, I am aware that is not a word but I wanted to use epiphany) points on which I deconverted.

 

Being involved in grief support groups, I know that it is the reason lots of people leave their religion.

 

I agree that that platitude does not help at all.  Having just gone through the anniversary of dd's death, I've definitely heard it lots through the years.

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I suspect many people are not really sure what they intend when they say this.

 

But, I think the basic impulse behind it is that it is about meaning. It is clearly not about chin of events or physics - we all know that in that sense there is always a reason, it isn't controversial.

 

It responds I think to an idea or feeling common and horrible for those who experience tragedy -  the possibility that the event has no meaning.  That is a feeling that leads many to despair.  So - we say - yes, there is meaning here, even though it my be hard to see it, or it may even seem like a harsh meaning.

 

I agree that often it is not  good thing to say, especially if the person is saying it reflexively.  I think though that people who are grieving in some way will all struggle with this question in one way or another, and most who recover seem to come to the conclusion that yes, there is meaning.  My sense is that people have perhaps better understood this comment in the past - we don't today have much common language to talk bout meaning.

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I believe God mourns with us and hurts with us when we are in pain.

 

In our church we had a sermon about a theological position (I don't know the name) saying that there are 3 claims about God, and only 2 can seem to be true.

 

One is that God is good and loves us.

 

One is that God is all-powerful.

 

I can't remember the 3rd one.

 

Basically ----- we see a disconnect between believing that God is all-powerful and that God is good.

 

So, we believe that God is good, but we don't believe that God is a puppet-master who is making every little thing happen just to see it happen.

 

So we believe that it is up to us to do good in the world.

 

It is not that we don't believe that God is all-powerful, exactly. It is like ---- we still believe that, but when put to the point of saying "then how do you explain THIS" and it is something unexplainable and unfathomable, this is how I would respond.

 

This is my understanding of this sermon, anyway. It is apparently a theological position but I can't remember the name. It is not part of our church doctrine so it was presented with some points as "if this helps you, good, if it doesn't help you, then please ignore it."

 

I also believe that we can learn things from tragedies and hard times. That is just not the same as saying God is doing it to us so that we can learn a lesson.

 

I think also -- this is where we can compare God to a loving Father. As a parent, can I prevent all suffering of my kids? I can't. Am I always on their side? Yes. Would I ever wish suffering upon them? No, I wouldn't.

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I didn't think anyone still said this phrase. It's incredibly insensitive. How can people not know that?

It is a very present and still used part of American Judeo-Christian culture. It continues to be offered through the dynamic of tenacity and authority. I think, too, people can't comprehend and be with ambivalence, ambiguity, and lack of cosmic justice so the phrase serves to give meaning and comfort for events that otherwise create discomfort.

 

It functions similarly to "god won't give you more than you can handle."

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I didn't think anyone still said this phrase. It's incredibly insensitive. How can people not know that? 

I guess misery loves company? Makes them feel better to dump on someone else? I don't know. It is so bizarrely inappropriate to say to someone who is in pain that it kind of staggers the imagination, yet it keeps getting trotted out.

 

And it keeps being defended. Sigh....any person's right to believe it only extends so far as his or her own skin and he/she doesn't have the right to lay that burden all over everyone else. Play nice. Say something like, "I'm sorry for your loss or I'm sorry you are having to go through this" and move along. It doesn't seem like that hard of a concept, but wow, there are some people out there that I just cringe when I see them approach, and have to find some way to hide.

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I think, too, people can't comprehend and be with ambivalence, ambiguity, and lack of cosmic justice so the phrase serves to give meaning and comfort for events that otherwise create discomfort.

 

So it serves to distract one from dealing with the problem when reality fails to conform to the claims of the faith, while simultaneously comforting them in that same faith. That's interesting, and makes perfect sense. It's part of that process of theological correctness - making a faith-based belief system appear to work even it does not. In this case, it is both for the person suffering, and (perhaps more importantly?) the person in the awkward position of supposedly being able to do something (offer hope, intercede for divine favor), but clearly unable to.

 

It functions similarly to "god won't give you more than you can handle."

 

I snicker whenever I hear that phrase because I can't help but think of this:

 

 

noah_ark_people_drowing.jpg?w=600

 

 

 

 

I guess misery loves company? Makes them feel better to dump on someone else? I don't know. It is so bizarrely inappropriate to say to someone who is in pain that it kind of staggers the imagination, yet it keeps getting trotted out.

 

I don't think that's it. I think most people do and say what they do and say because they think it's appropriate, that is, good and rightful at the time. I don't think it should get a pass because I think in reality, it is an insensitive and hurtful thing to say, even if no one means it that way.

 

And it keeps being defended. Sigh....any person's right to believe it only extends so far as his or her own skin and he/she doesn't have the right to lay that burden all over everyone else. Play nice. Say something like, "I'm sorry for your loss or I'm sorry you are having to go through this" and move along. It doesn't seem like that hard of a concept, but wow, there are some people out there that I just cringe when I see them approach, and have to find some way to hide.

 

Perhaps it keeps getting defended because brain has to find some way to avoid the cognitive dissonance of watching one's strongly held belief get torn apart by another strongly held belief.

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It is a very present and still used part of American Judeo-Christian culture. It continues to be offered through the dynamic of tenacity and authority. I think, too, people can't comprehend and be with ambivalence, ambiguity, and lack of cosmic justice so the phrase serves to give meaning and comfort for events that otherwise create discomfort.

 

It functions similarly to "god won't give you more than you can handle."

 

It happens in other thought systems as well. I had a friend who lost a baby in a stillbirth who believed the baby had chosen not to be born  into this life with her. It was an incredibly painful "explanation" in line with "everything happens for a reason."  Human beings are, I think, quite given to "Why?" questions when we are in pain. 

 

Anyway, I think the author actually didn't go far enough. It's not just that people don't want to understand (intellectually); it's that they don't want to feel the pain along with the person in pain. Platitudes are for the comfort of the speaker, not the hearer. 

 

However, I think that it is fair game for the person who is suffering to discover silver linings---to see something good emerge from the ashes. But it is that person's prerogative to notice and interpret. It's not for others to do so that they can feel less bad about another's suffering.

 

The author is quite right though: some things can't be fixed, only carried. 

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I believe God mourns with us and hurts with us when we are in pain.

 

In our church we had a sermon about a theological position (I don't know the name) saying that there are 3 claims about God, and only 2 can seem to be true.

 

One is that God is good and loves us.

 

One is that God is all-powerful.

 

I can't remember the 3rd one.

 

Basically ----- we see a disconnect between believing that God is all-powerful and that God is good.

 

So, we believe that God is good, but we don't believe that God is a puppet-master who is making every little thing happen just to see it happen.

 

So we believe that it is up to us to do good in the world.

 

It is not that we don't believe that God is all-powerful, exactly. It is like ---- we still believe that, but when put to the point of saying "then how do you explain THIS" and it is something unexplainable and unfathomable, this is how I would respond.

 

This is my understanding of this sermon, anyway. It is apparently a theological position but I can't remember the name. It is not part of our church doctrine so it was presented with some points as "if this helps you, good, if it doesn't help you, then please ignore it."

 

I also believe that we can learn things from tragedies and hard times. That is just not the same as saying God is doing it to us so that we can learn a lesson.

 

I think also -- this is where we can compare God to a loving Father. As a parent, can I prevent all suffering of my kids? I can't. Am I always on their side? Yes. Would I ever wish suffering upon them? No, I wouldn't.

 

God created evil, how could God be good?

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Justifying the apparent non-intervention of a good God in the face of suffering is a huge (and

IMO, ultimately futile) task. While I try and be sympathetic to the efforts, I often find them more harmful than not trying to justify it.

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It happens in other thought systems as well. I had a friend who lost a baby in a stillbirth who believed the baby had chosen not to be born  into this life with her. It was an incredibly painful "explanation" in line with "everything happens for a reason."  Human beings are, I think, quite given to "Why?" questions when we are in pain. 

 

Anyway, I think the author actually didn't go far enough. It's not just that people don't want to understand (intellectually); it's that they don't want to feel the pain along with the person in pain. Platitudes are for the comfort of the speaker, not the hearer. 

 

However, I think that it is fair game for the person who is suffering to discover silver linings---to see something good emerge from the ashes. But it is that person's prerogative to notice and interpret. It's not for others to do so that they can feel less bad about another's suffering.

 

The author is quite right though: some things can't be fixed, only carried. 

 

There are some people like that, however I think that most people are just trying to share how they have understood the nature of loss in an attempt to be helpful.

 

I don't think the the idea is so much to find a silver linings it is seeing where we fit it into the cosmic order.  Typically I think societies scaffold this for people in various ways - spiritual, natural, ritualistic, social, emotional.  We have lost a fair bit of that common language and ritual though, and I think it tends to leave people floundering.  It's not going to be healthy for most people to work through these questions and experiences alone and privately.  So people have an instinct to reach out to others in that position.

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As a Calvinistic Christian, I do believe everything happens for a reason. What I don't believe is that we can know what that reason is. And we absolutely should not be spouting out our opinions in such situations. 

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I think many people use that phrase when they want to be supportive but don't know what else to say, and that the vast majority of them mean well and are trying to help make sense of a terrible situation.

 

My personal feeling is that, "I'm sorry" is far more effective, and that the only person who should really be saying "everything happens for a reason" is the person to whom the horrible thing happened, but I do try to be understanding if someone inadvertently says something unintentionally hurtful or insensitive when I know they are trying to be nice.

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I think many people use that phrase when they want to be supportive but don't know what else to say, and that the vast majority of them mean well and are trying to help make sense of a terrible situation.

 

My personal feeling is that, "I'm sorry" is far more effective, and that the only person who should really be saying "everything happens for a reason" is the person to whom the horrible thing happened, but I do try to be understanding if someone inadvertently says something unintentionally hurtful or insensitive when I know they are trying to be nice.

I think so too. I sometimes caught myself saying stuff like that (not that, but other things) that I would not think would come out of my mouth during times that I just don't know what to say, but I want to say something. It seems so awkward not to say anything, and I come up with good things to say after the fact, but my first words are probably stupid ones.

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I think so too. I sometimes caught myself saying stuff like that (not that, but other things) that I would not think would come out of my mouth during times that I just don't know what to say, but I want to say something. It seems so awkward not to say anything, and I come up with good things to say after the fact, but my first words are probably stupid ones.

Same here. That's why I try to extend some grace to others when they do the same thing. :)

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Yes, a very powerful article.

 

Maybe in the broader scheme of things there's a reason, but I certainly appreciate it when people just sympathize without preaching.

 

I've gotten the point that sometimes I don't even share the dark waters we're in because of the platitudes. It just brings me further down because I'm not emotionally there. Certain individuals have really hurt us that way.

 

Let me sulk and feel sad, and tell me that you love me!

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Oh there is a reason. The reason is life is in large part random, unfair, and at times very cruel.

 

The whole line about everyone being created equally.  Another lie.

 

 

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Same here. That's why I try to extend some grace to others when they do the same thing. :)

 

Same here too, but there are limits.  Sometimes it just would be a very terrible thing to say.

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Seeking, Obviously I haven't read the book other than the Title.

 

God COULD cause everything that happens here, but that isn't what scripture says DOES happen. There is a HUGE difference between God being able to work with what life throws at us and Him and Him making bad things happen to people. I really don't understand how it could be comforting to believe that God is making cancer ravage bodies, is making people abuse children, is making women be raped, etc. And I can't understand why that would be comforting.

Speaking for myself, I find it much more terrifying that things would happen that are outside of God's control and beyond his knowledge and wisdom than to accept that I just don't understand the reasons and may never this side of heaven, but that he is sovereign anyway.

 

I still don't say that to pretty much anyone else but it comforts me.

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It's interesting how many say they believe that but would never say it to a grieving person... and yet, there are clearly plenty of people out there saying it.  Do the people saying it think, "I would *usually* never say that, but *this* time it applies..."

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Oh there is a reason. The reason is life is in large part random, unfair, and at times very cruel.

 

 

 

:iagree:

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Apparently, I am insensitive jerk because I do use this phrase. It has no religious connotation for me. It isn't about trying to make sense of death or significant tragedy (I wouldn't use it in that way. I do think that is insensitive.) I use the phrase when events don't go the way I (or others) had hoped. Because I believe there is meaning and a reason and that it will work out for the best in the long run. It has positive meaning for ME but I can understand how someone might not get that.

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Same here too, but there are limits. Sometimes it just would be a very terrible thing to say.

I agree. And I also think there is a big difference between someone trying to think fast and say something comforting and ending up saying something stupid, and someone who says something like that as part of a big preachy speech.

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Apparently, I am insensitive jerk because I do use this phrase. It has no religious connotation for me. It isn't about trying to make sense of death or significant tragedy (I wouldn't use it in that way. I do think that is insensitive.) I use the phrase when events don't go the way I (or others) had hoped. Because I believe there is meaning and a reason and that it will work out for the best in the long run. It has positive meaning for ME but I can understand how someone might not get that.

I think your good intentions are probably appreciated, particularly when the person knows you well and realizes that you are trying to help.

 

I wouldn't be offended if you said it to me because I would assume your heart was in the right place (even though I only "know" you on this forum.)

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Speaking for myself, I find it much more terrifying that things would happen that are outside of God's control and beyond his knowledge and wisdom than to accept that I just don't understand the reasons and may never this side of heaven, but that he is sovereign anyway.

 

I still don't say that to pretty much anyone else but it comforts me.

I think many of us try to make sense of tragic situations by hoping there is some greater reason for it that we don't understand yet. I think you have to know your audience before you say it to someone else, though, because some people will be upset rather than comforted by the sentiment.

 

It's always hard to know what to say when someone you care about is going through a rough time.

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It seems obvious that in fact, it works the other way round. 

 

Things happen. And we create reasons and meaning from the thing that happened. 

 

 

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I think many of us try to make sense of tragic situations by hoping there is some greater reason for it that we don't understand yet. I think you have to know your audience before you say it to someone else, though, because some people will be upset rather than comforted by the sentiment.

 

It's always hard to know what to say when someone you care about is going through a rough time.

That's why I stick with some variation of "I'm so sorry" and follow their lead on commiserating or venting or anything else. Sometimes they need to hear things just suck, and sometimes a little encouragement may be needed, but it really depends on the individual. Without any other cues "I'm so sorry!" is the least damaging opening salvo.

 

But if someone said that to me (the everything happens for a reason trope) I'd agree with them. And then probably launch into a theological discussion. I'm also not a typical griever though.

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Speaking for myself, I find it much more terrifying that things would happen that are outside of God's control and beyond his knowledge and wisdom than to accept that I just don't understand the reasons and may never this side of heaven, but that he is sovereign anyway.

 

I still don't say that to pretty much anyone else but it comforts me.

I have been on both sides. At one time, I believed God orchestrated it all. It was comforting in a way, because then I didn't have to feel the complete vulnerability that comes from the opposite view. When I came to reject the idea of God orchestrating everything, there was a comfort in this view, because I no longer had to rationalize that God had a good, yet mysterious reason for

letting my baby die.

 

So, the comfort in believing that God works everything for good is that you don't have to think, "Oh, crap! Literally *any* horror could befall me and it has NO inherant meaning!" But the comforting aspect of believing God does not do anything is, "Well, that sucked, but at least it was just random suckiness that exists as a condition of reality." You don't have to wonder why you were personally chosen to bear this cross; don't have to wonder why an omnipotent God would sit there and change nothing.

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Speaking for myself, I find it much more terrifying that things would happen that are outside of God's control and beyond his knowledge and wisdom than to accept that I just don't understand the reasons and may never this side of heaven, but that he is sovereign anyway.

 

I still don't say that to pretty much anyone else but it comforts me.

 

Even though I don't believe in a deity, I have similar thoughts.  Meaning when something is beyond my ability to understand it or make sense of it, it is probably one of the hardest things to deal with.  When those around me don't get it either, that makes it even more difficult.  I find comfort in trying to understand something or learn about why it is the way it is. But there are some things I can't figure out.  It all feels very out of control when that happens.  I don't know which direction to go. 

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It seems obvious that in fact, it works the other way round. 

 

Things happen. And we create reasons and meaning from the thing that happened. 

 

Definitely.  If I can't imagine some reason or explanation I don't know what to do with that. 

 

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Yes, Christians say this stuff too often and it shoots our wounded. Not being theologically sound and feeling uncomfortable = stupid and hurtful.

 

What happened to mourn with those who mourn?

 

Don't say to a rape victim that God will use this for your good. No. Don't. Just shut up.

Say, God hates that someone hurt you and grieves with you, as I will.

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Apparently, I am insensitive jerk because I do use this phrase. It has no religious connotation for me. It isn't about trying to make sense of death or significant tragedy (I wouldn't use it in that way. I do think that is insensitive.) I use the phrase when events don't go the way I (or others) had hoped. Because I believe there is meaning and a reason and that it will work out for the best in the long run. It has positive meaning for ME but I can understand how someone might not get that.

 

What does the bolded even mean? How do the death of a child or a terminal illness "work out for the best in the long run"?

 

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What does the bolded even mean? How do the death of a child or a terminal illness "work out for the best in the long run"?

 

I hate to say, some people did even try to imagine what "best" it might have been that my baby died. *rolling eyes* one person said, "Well, you never know, maybe she would have grown up to be a bad person and this was God's way of taking her to heaven so that would never happen..." Where is my puking icon? Also, maybe she would have been handicapped. Because, you know, dead is so much better than handicapped.

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I hate to say, some people did even try to imagine what "best" it might have been that my baby died. *rolling eyes* one person said, "Well, you never know, maybe she would have grown up to be a bad person and this was God's way of taking her to heaven so that would never happen..." Where is my puking icon? Also, maybe she would have been handicapped. Because, you know, dead is so much better than handicapped.

 

People actually said that to you??? Unbelievable. I am sorry.

 

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I hate to say, some people did even try to imagine what "best" it might have been that my baby died. *rolling eyes* one person said, "Well, you never know, maybe she would have grown up to be a bad person and this was God's way of taking her to heaven so that would never happen..." Where is my puking icon? Also, maybe she would have been handicapped. Because, you know, dead is so much better than handicapped.

Wow. Those comments are beyond horrible. :(

 

I'm so sorry. :grouphug:

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I think your good intentions are probably appreciated, particularly when the person knows you well and realizes that you are trying to help.

 

I wouldn't be offended if you said it to me because I would assume your heart was in the right place (even though I only "know" you on this forum.)

 

Thank you. I appreciate that. I was thinking about this more. I couldn't imagine saying it to someone who had suffered a loss or something equally tragic. I only use it in what I consider minor situations. Say, you were buying a house and put in an offer and missed out. I would say something like, "Oh, house hunting is so frustrating! I believe everything happens for a reason, though, and I know you're going to find an even better house." Is that insensitive, I really don't know?

 

Even though I don't believe in a deity, I have similar thoughts.  Meaning when something is beyond my ability to understand it or make sense of it, it is probably one of the hardest things to deal with.  When those around me don't get it either, that makes it even more difficult.  I find comfort in trying to understand something or learn about why it is the way it is. But there are some things I can't figure out.  It all feels very out of control when that happens.  I don't know which direction to go. 

 

I feel the same way even with a deity. I think its part of the human condition. We want meaning and reason. I've been through a lot of crappy stuff in the past ten years. Sometimes telling myself that everything happens for a reason helps me to let it go and stop turning it over and over in my brain. It gives me space until I can deal with it or accept it.

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What does the bolded even mean? How do the death of a child or a terminal illness "work out for the best in the long run"?

 

 

I was trying to say earlier in the paragraph that I would NOT use it in a time of death or tragedy. I think I explained how I would use it better in my response to Catwoman. I am sorry if I came across as saying something like that. I couldn't imagine someone using it that instance. That would be horrible.

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Thank you. I appreciate that. I was thinking about this more. I couldn't imagine saying it to someone who had suffered a loss or something equally tragic. I only use it in what I consider minor situations. Say, you were buying a house and put in an offer and missed out. I would say something like, "Oh, house hunting is so frustrating! I believe everything happens for a reason, though, and I know you're going to find an even better house." Is that insensitive, I really don't know?.

:iagree:

 

In the case of a non-tragic thing your house example, I would view the phrase as being encouraging and motivational.

 

We just had an offer accepted on a house we really liked, only to have the inspection come back with some serious issues so we backed out of the deal, and both my dh and I keep telling each other that it happened for a reason and a better house will come along. :)

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