(Not So) Helpful Comments: Everything happens for a reason.

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a woman holding a sweater over her mouth on "Not So Helpful: Everything happens for a reason" on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

Everything happens for a reason.  These five, little words cause BIG discussion within the childless not by choice community.  They trigger pain, are viewed by many as less than helpful, and cause a range of emotions from sadness to anger.

Why?  Well, let’s talk…

Everything happens for a reason . . .

We’re going to look at “Everything happens for a reason” from a religious perspective.  (Although as I stated last week, I don’t particularly like the term “religious.”  For me, I am looking at this through a Christian perspective.)  If you haven’t yet read my blog about “God knows best,” I encourage you to do so.  It gives much insight into why religious comments can be so hurtful.  (Click here to read “(Not So) Helpful: God knows best.”)

But back to “Everything happens for a reason.”

Not So Helpful…

People say this statement so matter-of-factly when talking to someone who is struggling through infertility and/or a childless not by choice life.  The question for many CNBC, however, is, “What exactly is that reason?”

And that reason is?

As I mentioned last week, when in the pit of despair, those of us who are unable to have the littles our heart so desperately desires often wonder if we would be horrific parents.  So, telling us that “everything happens for a reason” is like telling us that we would indeed suck as a mom.  And that more than hurts…

You are telling me God allows this bad stuff?!

And those who add a religious or spiritual dimension to “everything happens for a reason…”  Well, that makes this statement sting even more.

For those who believe in God, this statement can cause an internal battle, making us feel as if we are simply not good enough to receive the “blessing” of children.  We question our faith, our worth, and our relationship with God.  What is His reason for denying us littles?

Some simply cannot align that a loving God would allow such pain.  Because of this, they may turn from the Church or even Him.  Some childless believe in the randomness of life, stating that nothing happens for a reason.  Stuff just happens… (Although they often use wording a bit stronger than this.)

Helpful if and when…

Like last week, you may have noticed that the “not so” is in parentheses.  That’s because I do believe “everything happens for a reason” can be helpful.  But, also like last week, I believe it is only helpful if the person struggling comes to this realization herself.

And it is not an easy realization…

I am currently in a new grief battle.  As many of you know, I lost both my Grandad and my best friend of 37 years in September.  If I am honest, I haven’t figured out the “reasons” why…

I mean, why did my Grandad have to suffer through Alzheimer’s, ultimately forgetting who I was and being tormented by a mind that just wouldn’t work?  And why did my beautiful, amazing, smart, funny, and loving friend have to spend her last 11 months on this earth battling a very aggressive form of breast cancer, only to be taken from us at 40-years-young?

I have absolutely no idea.  I am at a loss…

But I do fully believe that everything does indeed happen for a reason.  Like I said, however, I don’t know what those reasons are.

Being honest with God…

And I’ve been honest with God that I don’t understand His reasons.  And, you know what, I don’t really like them either!  But He’s strong enough to deal with my truth, and He loves me enough that I can tell Him I’m a bit angry that my friend had to go to Heaven so soon.  I want to talk with her about my upcoming endometriosis surgery and complain to her about situations that are annoying me and laugh with her about our crazy lives!  I miss her, and I don’t want to grieve for two years and I really don’t think I should have to because He could have healed her on this earth like I prayed, and everyone would have been much happier about that…

But He didn’t.  And He has His reasons.

Not so helpful in the midst of the battle…

But telling me that “everything happens for a reason” really isn’t comforting at this point on my journey.  Because I’m in the midst of my grief.  Plus, I have to figure that out on my own.

And telling someone who is in the midst of grieving her childless not by choice life that “everything happens for a reason” isn’t comforting either.

You know, people are kind when you lose someone who lived on this earth.  Someone they can see pictures of, that you can tell stories about…  But when you lose someone who lived only in your heart, someone whose only picture is in your mind, someone whose stories are dreams you hoped to make reality…  Well, many people don’t understand that grief, which causes them to say not so helpful things like “everything happens for a reason.”

So, I ask you to remove “everything happens for a reason” from your go-to “comforting words list.”  Because they really are not comforting.  In fact, they often have the exact opposite effect.

What is helpful?

How can you support the childless not by choice?  Well, next week, we are going to round-up all the “not so helpful” advice, jokes, and comments.  Then, at the beginning of November, we’re going to discuss “Helpful:  How to support the childless not by choice.”

Thank you for coming along on this journey.  Your support really does mean more than I can express in words…


If anything I wrote resonates with you, fabulous one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments…


You might also enjoy reading the following, in which I explore why God allows pain…
Photo of smartphone with multicolored lights around it on Teaching, Blogging, & Listening to God Uniquely Me Blog on Not So Mommy...

Click the image to read…


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shiloh November 5, 2018 - 5:18 pm

Hi Brandi, thoughtful post….I don’t think in my 50+ years on this planet I’ve ever muttered those words. They seem so shallow. If I did, I have embarrassed myself. I think that with any grief, the best thing to say is “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly “Let me know if you need anything” if indeed you can help them practically. Brandi I am new to this series and your website so I’m just now joining this party but I am so glad to have found you finally. I’m eager to review the canbace posts too when I get a moment.

Brandi Lytle November 6, 2018 - 10:10 am

Shiloh, I am so glad you are here, too!

I completely agree that “I’m sorry” is the best thing to say. And if you can help someone in a practical way (such as bringing a meal or doing some chores), then that shows you care rather than saying empty platitudes.

I hope you enjoy learning more about canbace. I’m very excited about this new part of our tribe! The first #CanbaceChallenge is going on. I hope you decide to participate!

Lots of hugs, my new friend. 🙂

Sharon October 30, 2018 - 12:05 am

Thank you for this piece. I often think about the unconscious platitudes people offer, and how frustrating/irritating/infuriating they can be. And, “everything happens for a reason” is right up there on my list of things I absolutely hate that people say. I often find those that say this haven’t, frankly, had to deal with really awful, drop-to-your-knees, dark-side-of-life life stuff. They just haven’t. Because the people that have don’t use this phrase. They say things like, “I wish it didn’t happen, and I wouldn’t wish it to be this way, but I’ve found some meaning, I’ve made some meaning for myself and my life in all the disaster”. I also find people say it when it comes to adoption, and I find it just as distasteful. To say to an adopting parent, “everything happens for a reason” sounds lovely and comforting – like the hard-won reward to a long and painful journey. But I often consider this statement from the perspective of the child, and well, really? It was meant to happen that that child’s parents relinquished parental rights, or abandoned the child, or just couldn’t get their act together enough to keep their children? This child was meant to be separated from their mother? Really? That was MEANT to happen? It just rocks me. I think we all have to find positive meaning in the hardships of our lives, because to not do so leads to hopelessness and despair. But finding meaning and having it be “meant to be” are not one-in-the-same, and I wish most people would understand this. Oh, and also I am not at all religious but I find it even more egregious when it comes from the mouth of clergy or people of faith. Thank you again for writing this.

Brandi Lytle October 30, 2018 - 11:06 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Sharon. I really like your perspective that “finding meaning and having it be ‘meant to be’ are not one-in-the-same.” You are so right about that! I truly appreciate your willingness and bravery in sharing your heart about the not so helpful “everything happens for a reason” comment. Hugs…


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