We’ve all heard it before. We’ve probably all even said it before. “Everything happens for a reason.” I want to take a moment and call this what it is. It’s bullshit. What can possibly be the reason for a horrible accident, the death of a loved one, being passed over for a promotion, or even a breakup?
For a moment, let’s reframe this thought. There can be no reason for a friend or loved one being killed by a drunk driver. There is absolutely no reason for a mass shooting in which many innocent lives are lost. There is no reason to a cancer diagnosis. However, hopefully, life is going to continue for those of us in the aftermath of such tragedy. The only reason behind tragedy is what we as individuals do as a result of that tragedy.
The easy way to deal with horrible circumstances for many is to curl up and give in to the overwhelming grief and simply give up. However there is another way, and in that way, we just might find the reason. It requires perspective shift. It requires hard, unbelievably hard work. It requires connection with others. It requires dedication.
The reason is the strength we gain that can shift us from giving up to looking up. That discovered strength can literally change the world. Candace Lightner found strength after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver in 1980. She started an organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD. The mission of MADD is to end drunk driving, drugged driving, and offer resources to victims. MADD is an international organization. It is just one example of strength gained from tragedy that can change the world.
We don’t all have to set out on a world changing mission when tragedy strikes in our lives. However, the only reason behind tragedy is what we do with ourselves in the aftermath. Shifting our perspective requires us to face the tragedy and figure out who we are and what we have become as a result. If we are not liking the person we see looking back in the mirror, then we must shift within to change and live our lives in spite of the tragedy, or in some rare circumstances, propelled by tragedy.
A more recent tragedy, on February 14, 2018 another mass shooting took place in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This event spurred a group of young people who took this tragedy, the grief and passion from losing friends senselessly, and decided to do something that adults haven’t been able to accomplish.
For some background on this event, 17 students and staff members were killed and 17 others were injured by a gunman who entered the school and opened fire. Just in the last few weeks, two more students from this school died from suicide. Surviving such an attack is one thing, and that one thing isn’t easy. After a tragedy people often experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Those of us in support roles must realize this and treat survivors gently. Getting professional help and loving support is critical. It isn’t easy to live with a person suffering from any mental illness. Mental illness can be managed, just like other chronic illnesses. Please, be an advocate.
Then, there are other students who were able to do something different with the anger and passion as a result of this horrific event. A determined group of young adults lead by David Hogg, Cameron Kaskey, Emma Gonzales, and others who formed Never Again MSD, a political action committee. They continue to work, along with a very large following, for reforming gun legislation. Strength from tragedy.
We all experience tragedy or seemingly senseless events in our lives. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t grieve. Grief is healing and necessary. But, we are faced with a choice. Will we become mired in the grief, or will we shift our perspective and work for better? Every person has influence. Even a tiny pebble thrown into water creates ripples that can go on for eternity.