I would say that of all the things most widows hate to hear, "everything happens for a reason" has to rank somewhere in the top five - somewhere in between "I know how you feel because I remember how sad I was when my dog died" and "when are you going to get over this."
In fact, I would venture to guess that most people going through a difficult time, no matter what it is, really don't like hearing it. Which makes me wonder why we say it or even why we think it.
So, I was at yoga this morning, upside down in a position I wasn't all that fond of and all of the blood was rushing to my head. And for some reason, I started thinking about this (even though I really wasn't supposed to be thinking about anything at all - baaaad little meditator) and pondering this statement. And I realized something.
We really only think "everything happens for a reason" during difficult times.
I mean, really. When was the last time you won the lottery and thought, "Well. I guess everything happens for a reason"? (That could be a bad example, but you know what I mean.) My guess is you don't. When you're on one of life's upswings, you don't question why...you just ride the wave. It's when life tries us and we're mired down in the gutter of circumstance that we wonder why in the hell it's happening.
So, as I was upside down, blood rushing, and hoping that everyone else looked as dopey as I'm sure I did in my version of downward-dog-with-a-hangover...I did some thinking.
Now, I know for me the phrase "everything happens for a reason" can sometimes be comforting. Not because I think I've deserved any of the bad things that have happened in my life (anymore than anyone else does), but sometimes it makes me wonder if there is a plan. If I really allow myself to think about that concept, it sometimes allows me to relinquish a little of the control I try so desperately to have over my life and for a moment just shrug my shoulders and say, "Eh. Shit happens."
But the next logical question, if we choose to in any way believe that phrase is, "Okay. So what's the reason?"
And that's where we almost always get stumped.
But maybe there's a reason for that, too.
I don't think we're actually meant to know the reason at all. I don't think we're supposed to have the answers as to why good or bad things happen. I think the whole damn point of that phrase is the questioning...the attempt to connect the dots in our lives so that we can move forward, knowing ourselves just a little bit better.
And just as it's not about knowing the reason, it's more about the question, sometimes it's not about the outcome. It's the process that matters.
We all go through these growing pains...moments in our lives when we've hit a certain bottom and wonder why. I know I have. I've found what usually happens is that I'm forced to go inward and ask the questions that are necessary to get me out of whatever place I've found myself in. The funny thing is that when I've climbed back out, I'm usually distracted by the fact that life has evened out again and I forget to keep questioning and looking for the reason.
Until I'm on a downward path once more.
So, I guess I do think everything happens for a reason and that reason is the human experience, the questioning, and the process of becoming the next version of yourself.
And sometimes we have to let go of why.
Catherine Tidd is the author of CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIOCRE WIDOW and the owner of theWiddahood.com. She has been published in several anthologies on grief and renewal and is a regular contributor to The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas.
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