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What did I do to deserve this?
It’s a question many going through hardship have asked, only to be met with a deafening silence.
Allow me to answer this existential question for you:
Nothing. You did nothing to deserve this, whatever this is.
Of course, plenty of people answer with more in-depth, often insensitive answers. Answer such as:
“Oh, this is all part of God’s plan.”
Really? Genocide, rape, murder, torture, tyrants, dementia, drugs, slavery, people having rights stripped away, wasting away to chronic illness, being robbed of yourself by mental illness… all part of God’s plan?
“Well, maybe it’s karma! You must have done something bad to deserve this.”
Really? Have infants done terrible things? Innocent people who get swept away by war and hatred? Did they do something terrible, too?
Aren’t those kinds of answers so convenient?
They’re so convenient because they’re black and white. Those kinds of answers allow the world to make sense. You did something bad; therefore, you are punished for it. Justice is served. It’s all God’s plan. God has a masterful plan that we simply can’t understand. Someone controls this, and all the suffering serves this greater purpose.
Or, maybe, just maybe… we are one of 8.7 million different species on one planet spinning around one of 100 billion stars, and our problems mean nothing in the major scheme of things.
Consider this: homo sapiens, the species we are today after millions of years of evolution, has lived for around 300,000 years on this 4.54 billion-year-old planet.
Is it reasonable to think that the universe is punishing you in the vast expanse of this existence? What grave transgression did you make to stand out in this massive thing we call life? What terrible thing was wrought by your hands that required creation to punish you specifically?
“Well, I wasn’t a good person…”
That may be, but you know what, many people aren’t.
Again, we try to divide people into categories of right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. It makes the universe make sense.
But what if it’s not that simple? What if it’s a spectrum? What if there is a whole gray area between those two things? What if many people are acting badly out of their own trauma, losses, and pains in their lives because they just don’t know how to handle them?
They sit alone and ask the same question: What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing. Nothing at all. None of us are that important.
The truth is that terrible things happen to good people for no other reason than life is chaos. You’re walking down the street, and a driver loses control of their car. You’re swept up in the machinations of madmen who lust after power and control. You contract a chronic illness or mental illness that doesn’t run in your family. Your beloved friend gets sick and dies. You experience something terrible because mankind can be terrible to one another.
It’s not personal.
It’s all that life is – loosely organized chaos. And like every other person in this life, you will face undue, unfair hardships that seem like you’re being punished by the universe.
However, that does not mean that your pain and suffering are not valid. They absolutely are. After all, you’re the one who had to experience it, you’re the one who has navigated it, and you’re the one who will have to find a way to overcome it the best you can. Your pain is valid.
What can you do?
Many people get hung up on the “why me?” Some people get stuck in the “why me?” mindset for decades of their life. They ruminate on it, tumbling it repeatedly in their minds as they try to make sense of it.
And what’s the end result of all that rumination? They stunt their own healing process because they are just going over and over with it again.
Some people lose themselves in unhealthy pursuits to not need to think about it. They may sleep around, use drugs, drink too much, work too much, or shut themselves down emotionally, so they don’t need to deal with the bad thing that happened.
They may try to avoid it. They avoid going to the doctor so they don’t have to deal with the reality of an illness. They throw themselves into religion or ask God to take away their pain.
And you know what? That kind of stuff will allow someone to avoid their suffering for a while.
But here’s the problem with that. The longer you avoid confronting your pain and suffering, the harder it will be to find a way to heal and move past it.
Grief (and not just the grief that comes with detah) is a common part of the human experience. We all need to learn how to shoulder that grief, process it, and move on. However, people who avoid doing that open themselves up to many other problems.
Do you sleep around? You open yourself to pregnancy, STDs, and being taken advantage of.
Do you abuse drugs? Well, few addicts will tell you addiction is fun, and those that do likely haven’t experienced the worst of it yet.
What about alcohol? Alcoholism can turn your life inside out. It can ruin your friendships and family.
Avoiding taking care of your health? That just allows the medical problem to continue to compound until it can’t be dealt with.
But what about religion? Well, it’s a convenient way to escape dealing with it for a while, but it doesn’t resolve the emotions that go along with grief and suffering.
Instead of coping, you may develop what’s called Complicated Grief. Complicated Grief causes a person to continue to experience the same intense feelings of loss and grief without processing them and resuming their life.
The normal grieving process includes the following steps, though not necessarily in any order:
– Acceptance of the thing that happened.
– Allowing yourself to feel the negative emotions of the thing.
– Adjusting to the new reality you face after the thing happened.
– Moving on to other relationships and experiences.
The problem is that there are several ways to disrupt this natural process. For example, you may accept that the thing happens, but every time the negative emotions pop up, you drown them in alcohol so you don’t have to feel them. So you end up stunting your growth and healing because you’re not allowing yourself to feel those feelings.
Or maybe you lost your partner to suicide. You’ve accepted it and allowed yourself to feel your feelings, but you get hung up on resuming your life and allowing yourself to have relationships. You may feel like you can never replace that person, which you can’t, so you keep yourself from experiencing other people who will give you different love and life experiences. The person and the experiences you had with that person are not replaced. You simply add to your own experiences and life once you accept they aren’t coming back.
The key is to get help.
The truth is that confronting any hardship in life can be difficult to do on your own.
Sometimes people need additional help to walk the path of healing. So, if you aren’t feeling any better after about six months to a year after the event, it would be a good idea to seek out a trauma or grief counselor. They will be better equipped to help you deal with those complicated feelings, navigate them, and come out on the other side.
A good place to find this sort of professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – you can speak to someone via video, phone, or instant message from wherever you are in the world.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service they provide or to arrange a session.
It’s not going to be easy. And don’t think that trying to heal those wounds will make them disappear or not exist either. That loss or difficulty will always be there, but working on healing it will make it smaller, so it doesn’t just crush or intrude on your mind all the time.
You didn’t deserve whatever you are going through. Nor do you deserve to have it disrupt your ability to find peace and happiness in your life, even if it is bittersweet.
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