A Grief Support Blog

This blog will allow you the opportunity to acquire both support and guidance after experiencing a significant loss.

Why do good things happen to bad people?

Look carefully. Is that the question you thought it was or have the words been turned around? At first glance you might have thought it said, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Almost everybody knows this question and can tell you that it is also the title of a book. Many can also tell you that it's a book written from the author’s grief over the death of his son. His grief made both the title and the content of the book so poignant that the question has become a part of our language. It’s certainly a haunting question, especially because it can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Although, it sure can evoke heated debates. But we are not going to debate today. Instead, we are going to ask two more questions and then try to make sense of them and the two already asked. Here are the other two:

"Why do good things happen to good people?" "Why do bad things happen to bad people?"

Now we have completed the quaternity, which as everyone knows, is a union of a group or set of four. Right? Just testing. But what do the four questions have in common? They all share the fact that something has happened. Whether what happened was good or bad, or the beholder or receiver is of positive or negative character, something has occurred. So the real question needs to be, "How do we react to events that change or affect our lives?"

To answer that question, we first need to define grief. Grief encompasses the extraordinary range of human emotions caused by a change or an end in anything familiar. Therefore, when bad things happen, whether they happen to us, to our friends, or to our enemies, they fall outside the scope of our normal daily emotional lives. The same is true when good things happen. The presumption that we only grieve bad events is false. We react to all change as an invasion of the status quo. Folks are stunned to learn of the negative impact on the lives of major lottery winners. When that ultimate good thing happens, one might think that all would be well in the world of the winners. Not so. Statistics about the lot of lottery winners indicate that a large percentage of them lose all of the money within three years. A tremendous proportion of them wind up in therapy that they didn't need prior to their good fortune, and many report the sad endings of family and personal relationships. So much for the idea that, "I will be happy when I become rich."

As usual, it boils down to needing the correct tools for dealing with our feelings, positive or negative, in a world that keeps telling us, "Don't feel bad," when something bad or sad happens. Lest you think we are only admonished to limit our responses to sad events, remember that we've also been socialized with, "Don't toot your own horn," and, "Don't brag about yourself," which limit our ability to react to positive events. The net result leaves an underlying message - Don't Feel - which is the saddest message of all. We are made up of molecules and other such things that go bump in the night. But bicycles and computers are also made up of molecules. If there is a major distinction between us and inanimate objects, it is that we sensate beings have the ability to feel our emotions and to communicate them to others. It might be obvious that it is important to talk about sad or painful events, so as to not let our reaction to them fester inside of us. But undelivered communications, even about positive or happy things, tend to build up inside of us, and can even turn sour from lack of expression. We strongly recommend that you make a habit of honoring your humanity on a daily basis, by communicating your reactions to all of life's events to people you trust. So go ahead and toot your own horn, now that you know you're not a bicycle. 

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