Friday, September 12, 2008

Everything Can be Reasoned

"Everything happens for a reason."

Here's a broad belief about life that I simply can no longer hang my hat on. The hooks have been removed and the pole has dissolved into a puddle on the floor. But, I can look at the puddle and reason as to how it happened to transform from wood to water. And I might also discover as I ruminate that the water when mopped produces an amazing shine on my floor. I might even see my reflection in this new shiny space and think, "Well, that's better than a coat rack, anyway."

I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. This worked to some degree for the other me, when I wasn't happy about an event or was met with a new challenge. This belief gave me some hope that whatever happened is part of "the plan." The statement so easily dripped from my lips for a myriad of life events, the big ones and the small ones. Once it was uttered, I was released from it. I no longer had to think about it or struggle with "why." I could let it go because I had placed the challenge in the Plan basket. I don't know what it is, but I will someday. So, I am released from trying and can get on about it.

This doesn't work for a life with a dead child. Caitlin did not die for a reason. Let me make that more clear--There is no reason for Caitlin's death. She died. She is loved and missed every moment. And that loving and missing is forever. I'm am left here without her. I grieve. I mourn her departure and I rejoice in the little earthly parenting I was fortunate have. The Plan basket is not available for me in this event.

My religion offers me a Christian version of this belief. That all is in God's plan. The plan gets muddied with free will and that apple story, but still it seems like the same belief to me. My loving God did not plan for Caitlin to die. God weeps with me as the earthly rules set in motion have no "do-overs."

And as I am left to grieve, with God's tears falling with mine, I begin to find meaning in this new life of mine. I discover wisdom in this wound and my eyes are open to new ways of loving and living without her. I learn different lessons in her death than I was learning in her life. I am inspired to amazing selfless actions, and I am surprised by those actions. I recognize that these are also different than those selfless actions she would have inspired in me in her life. So I learn lessons and I become a better person than before, but, let me be clear again--none of these are reasons for her death. Though, I can use my reason to identify those actions and lessons that are a result of her death. And so, I stumble onto a truth, that everything can be reasoned.

We humans are meant to make sense of the world, it's hardwired into our brains. And this grief work is perhaps the most difficult reason task to perform. Here's the thing, I think we humans got the Plan wrong. Everything does not happen for a reason, but rather no matter what happens, we are equipped to make sense of it. When a child dies, all of the pieces that made up our lives must be brought back within our self. We are compelled to make sense of our emotions, our actions, our physical reactions, our relationships, our belief system, and the list goes on. Those pieces often don't fit where they once did, and there are new pieces to fashion.

And for me, a futile search for the reason that she died, is not a good use of my grief time. Remember, I mentioned that no Plan basket was available for this event? Well, that's because I haven't woven it yet. As I grieve, I make sense and weave a new basket, not one that holds a plan, but one that holds the gifts of being Caitlin's mother and learning to parent her even in death. We are made to progress toward healing and, for me, the ability to find meaning and purpose in the face of the most unnatural event imaginable brings me some comfort.

And that companion statement, "Everything happens for the best." We got that wrong, too. We can make the best out of everything. This one still stings too much to work with, but I'll get to it, once I'm stronger.


  1. What a beautiful photo of you holding your sweet Caitlin. My heart is filled with sadness for your loss that has no reason . . . and hope for all of us who must learn to embrace the bittersweet gifts of grief.
    Jessie (Sage's mama)

  2. You are amazing!

    Your words once again ring true in my heart.


  3. Caitlin is absolutely beautiful. What a darling baby.

    I've had the same struggle with "Everything happens for a reason". So many people said that to me at my baby's funeral. I'm with you; there is no reason.

    Thinking of you and Caitlin.

  4. She is so beautiful, and I am just so sorry...