It appears that from one end of the globe to another during May 2013, the world has been shaken with tragedy. Regardless if these happened in your backyard or not, we have heard about them. And it’s not just the hearing. With many modern day technologies the visuals leave such an impact on us. Then there is social media. The very tool that assisted the more recent (and yes “in my backyard”) Tim Bosma murder (gosh, it’s still so hard to say that “m” word) investigators, drives the news and constant flow of “tweets” or “posts” to a constant and deeper level.
I got curious. A curiosity that was driven from an unusual level of grief. Was it just the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Bosma case that were so disturbing, or was it the “final straw” after several other global crises.
Having yet to sort out within myself some answers, yet feeling compelled to share something, I turned to Rochelle. You can read about her at the end of the post and please do check out her blog about death midwifery and home funeral consultation and support.
Thank you Rochelle for such an eloquent and thought provoking writing:
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON………..
……Or does it? This phrase makes the top 10 list of things not to say at a funeral. But even if we know better than to say it to a grieving family, I wonder if many of us believe, or want to believe, that this is true. Horrific tragedies, like Tim Bosma’s murder, are almost too much for us to bear, even for those of us who didn’t know him personally.
The forces that brutally took an innocent, and by all accounts good young man’s life, are so evil and senseless, that there’s some comfort in believing, even if we don’t say it out loud, that “there must be some reason for even this… everything happens for a reason.”
To admit the opposite is intolerable for most of us: “nothing happens for a reason” means that I wasn’t meant to meet my husband back in university, or to give birth to our particular children, or even to exist, in any particular form! “Meant to be” works well for the good stuff, but it’s problematic to suggest that horrifying and tragic events are “meant to be” in the same way.
Even though it’s scary, I suggest that it’s OK to hold this “double standard”: that good can be “meant to be” and “happen for a reason” while evil is “so not meant to be” and does not happen for any higher purpose or reason.
People and experiences that bring us closer to what we collectively know to be “good” (love, peace, generosity, sincere effort, personal and collective growth) are part of the overwhelming collective striving toward “wholeness” (many would call this “God”). The evil at play in Tim Bosma’s murder represents nothing more than a tragic rejection of all we know as good. Christians talk about “free will” – our freedom to reject good/god, at our own self-imposed peril, and with tragic effects on others.
Evil doesn’t always show up in particular humans rejecting the overwhelming force for good, though we’ve endured many recent examples of this individual evil. Recent horrors such as the Boston explosions, Cleveland captivity, or the willful negligence that resulted in the Bangladesh factory collapse, represent evil acts by individuals. Yet, history is full of examples of the horrors inflicted by evil regimes and larger societal dysfunction. In fact, we might argue that Tim Bosma’s killers, or any of the individuals involved in the recent events above, may be in some way products of our modern society’s decay – where a lack of accountability in community allows people to more easily become alienated, self-serving, and ultimately… evil.
But what are we to do, if we admit to the reality of senseless, meaningless evil? Sometimes we look to the growth and healing that can happen after an evil tragedy like Tim Bosma’s death: the community pulls together in support of his family, perhaps we could even imagine that those who loved him most might grow and contribute in a way they would not have, had they not experienced his loss. It’s true that humans are not only remarkably resilient, but we really do often manage to make good come from personal and communal suffering.
I would suggest, though, that we can go further than growing tomatoes out of horse shit (metaphorically speaking). Community memorials, donations, and solidarity with Tim Bosma’s family are a great initial response to the senseless evil that recently visited our corner of the world.
But what comes next?
Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed a model which is now well-known as the “5 Stages of Grief.” Whether personal or communal, grief reactions tend to start with denial, progress to anger and bargaining, ultimately move into depression (this is often where we get stuck), and then hopefully at some point, find acceptance. I can imagine it would be easy, after the initial outpouring of support in the acute stage of our community’s loss (and let us acknowledge right now that as a community, we are grieving more than the tragic loss of a good man – our sense of trust, safety, and hope in others’ good-will has been shattered!), to settle into a communal depression. Feeling hopeless and helpless, we may be tempted to “circle the wagons.” Increasingly suspicious of strangers, we limit ourselves to “looking out for our own.”
I would argue that the path through the depression stage of communal grief requires exactly the opposite – an opening to our need to care for each
other as a first priority, to heal the damage we’ve caused or permitted to our society and planet, through engagement and not withdrawal. This will mean admitting the tough stuff: senseless evil exists in our world, and even in ourselves. We must rededicate ourselves to “good” in all it’s many forms, and live our unique callings to help our world heal, in whatever ways we can.
This means more than volunteering or donating to good causes: it means being our best selves in and for the community. Some of us provide spiritual care, develop community-building organizations, inspire artistic expression, foster social bonds in circles of friends, seek justice for the disadvantaged, reduce/recycle/reuse, mentor youth, plant community gardens, counsel families, support healthy living, research for greater understanding, pray for our world, look out for our young or aging neighbours, do our jobs with integrity, share our own struggles and journeys of healing with others. And of course, there would be thousands more contributions that could be added! Some of the most impactful community-building efforts will never be noticed, or articulated in any list!
In the end, I hope that we can call these efforts to reach beyond ourselves “meant to be,” and that we can find hope in the power of good that “happens for a reason” in our communities.
Rochelle Martin, RN, MDiv. lives in downtown Hamilton, works as a mental health nurse, and offers education and support for home-based death and funeral care: