A kind-hearted, well-loved woman, married to a good husband, with three healthy, young children, is told she has a brain tumor and only months to live.
Perhaps she goes to church, but is not terribly religious. Perhaps she is open to the spiritual, but frankly and understandably has had to devote her time to herself and her family and hasn’t had the energy to consider all the mysteries of life.
Her heart broken, she wearily and fearfully comes to us and asks: Why do bad things
happen to good people?
Obviously, any such moment requires the utmost compassion and will draw upon one’s personal knowledge and relationship to the person.
The only rule is: follow our heart in that moment.
Perhaps the person is asking for another world view. Perhaps the person is seeking to understand our personal belief system, in which case we must share our understanding as honestly as possible because it is in the truth of our belief that trust will be earned.
In such a situation there are no more solutions to be suggested.
Talking about karma and the cycles of nature and faith in the seemingly unfathomable, in the face of the knowledge that loved ones will be left behind and lifelong dreams unrealized, may be too simplistic and even hurtful.
Even if we ourselves are absolutely secure in our belief in the perfection of all life and that death is not an ending, but a renewal, perhaps the most poignant allowance we can give another is to tell them that we do not understand why such things happen. But that they most certainly do.
But perhaps the best that can be said is to say nothing at all, but just to be present for the person, to bare witness to their anger and anguish, to allow them to vent and rage, cry and accuse. In such a case the true gift one can offer is non-judgment.
Allow the moment to be what it will be. Allow the words and pain to flow. They have already been to the problem-solvers and know all the possibilities. They don’t need more facts. They don’t need solutions. They need to be heard. Their pain and fear and anger needs to be honored.
Very few people in our world offer the act of grace to another of simply holding one’s hand, remaining silent, and being fully present without judgment.
It is in such a profound moment that one comes to the deepest awareness that life simply is.
Perhaps the most powerful words we can say are that regardless of the why and the why not, that we will be there for that person in every way that is possible for us. That if they should ask, that we will walk beside them; that we will do our best to clear their path ahead; that we will hold them deeply and dearly in our heart; and that we will always honor their life by we ourselves trying to live up to their example of honesty and courage – and humanity – in the face of the unexplainable.
Ultimately and finally, we must let the person have their experience, however it manifests.
Rather than answers, perhaps the most helpful thing we can say is: I don’t know.
And I am here for you.
Love and healing asks nothing else.