* I wrote this for our Monday Memo publication we create for the school district where I work. Today, I noticed a post on Facebook from someone complaining/venting about all the atrocities in the world and wrote a laundry list of things he experienced that day (everything from buildings going up and destroying nature, to a customer being rude at a coffee shop) the post ended with several questions: “How do I stay positive? How do I keep going? I took that as an opportunity to share positivity and truly answered how I keep going in the face of negativity and despair. After all, we all experience it and working in public education for 20+ years I’ve seen some pretty sad situations. However, I think the questions were rhetorical b/c he seemed upset by my response which was simply: Gratitude helps me. We have to find the good in order to keep going, otherwise we’d all go crazy. The response I got was that he didn’t want responses unless we “lived the day he did”. Ok, so he didn’t really want people to answer his questions. It prompted me to remember this entry I wrote on 9/11/17. So much of my daily life as a counselor is empowering others to use strategies to help themselves, solve problems, and get through daily life. Even if he didn’t appreciate my sincere advice, I truly believe that everyone has to look for and find the good in even the most tragic of situations or we will always be left feeling hopeless. And there is always hope.
A good friend of mine is from a small town in Texas right near Corpus Christi. As you can imagine, they were hit hard by hurricane Harvey. She shared this blog post and it got me thinking about loss and tragedy. With two more hurricanes looming, the loss our community experienced this past week, and waking up to news of a massive earthquake in Mexico, I instinctively thought, “What in the world is going on? Is there a message? What could be the reason(s) for all these negative events?” I think it’s safe to say most of us want to believe that good will always prevail. So, it’s tough to answer the question of “why”? Why do bad things happen?
When dealing with grief, one thing I always talk about with students is finding some good in all the bad, no matter how small. In the moment when the grief is fresh and raw, that’s difficult, sometimes even impossible. Often it is not until more time has passed that we can even begin to look at the situation from that point of view. However, finding even the smallest of positives can allow people to gain perspective even in the midst of a negative experience.
When a loved one dies, for example, families and communities come together to support one another. People set aside differences and connect with others they may not have for a very long time. Sometimes total strangers or mere acquaintances come forward to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t erase the pain or hurt of loss, but it is something to hold on to and recognize. When my mom passed, my very large family all came together from near and far. My youngest daughter was two weeks old at the time and it felt like the worst possible timing ever. In that moment, all I could think about was all my mom would miss and how much I missed her. However, at some point, over the course of the few days spent at my childhood home, I remember recognizing all of us sitting in the basement together like old times, sharing stories, laughing, loving, and having fun. Even in the midst of losing someone we all loved, we found ourselves “celebrating” in a way. Celebrating being together, celebrating the past, celebrating life. I remember looking at my daughter and noticing that as one life was gone, another was just beginning–A positive in the midst of a negative.
I don’t think anyone has the answer to why bad things happen, but I do believe there is always something positive you can come away with. One activity you can do with your kids is to talk with them about a negative experiences they have had and an unexpected positive that resulted. (This doesn’t have to be as heavy as death and destruction-it could relate to any negative experience-striking out, missing a big play in the game, getting a poor grade, etc.) Being able to do this is a valuable skill that helps children (and adults) build resiliency.