I had a friend who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He seemed healthy in every way … at first. But soon the newborn was clearly in distress. Tests revealed that he had no liver. The heartbroken parents (there are no words) held him and loved him every minute of his brief life.
When my friend talked about what happened, she said, “I go to sleep, and I wake up feeling good. Then I remember what happened, and sorrow takes over again.”
She sent me a poem about a bereft mother who goes about her day, cleaning, cooking, reading. But her tragic loss always intrudes and reminds her that “it always will have happened.”
Many of us inhabit this zone where terrible things always “will have happened.” Some of us experience shock every time we realize this anew. Some of us give up, knowing the past or present circumstances can never change. He went to war, she was raped, he was held at gunpoint, her husband cheated and left. These traumas always will have happened.
When circumstances don’t change, what can we do? Do we live trapped in what happened? Do we try to forget? Neither is a healthy option for recovery.
There is another option when circumstances don’t change: We change. We adapt and grow, building healthy boundaries. Or we leave the life that “happened” and begin building a new one. We redefine our scars as proof of hard-won victories.
Yet the bad things “still will have happened.”
The best thing about that phrase is that it refers to something in the past, not something that is still going on. (For those of you who are still in the midst of trauma, I wholeheartedly pray that your living pain today will soon be resolved pain in your past.)
So … a tragedy that happens to you always will have happened. That won’t change. But you can change. Acknowledge your anguish, give it a place in your past, and step onto new paths that lead toward the light of a better future.
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