Everything Happens For the Best — Oh, Yeah?

Twice today I was told, “Everything happens for the best.” Everything? Is it best when a child dies? When an earthquake hits? When people lose their home and end up on the street? In books, everything does happen for the best, whether good or bad. That is the point of writing — to make sense of senseless happenings. There has to be a lesson to be gleaned from the story events — perhaps character growth or a fitting resolution. If the story events happened without reason, the way things happen in life, readers would throw the book across the room and never pick up another one.

Venice Beach PierOddly enough, our brains do that same work for us. When a tragedy has passed and we have come to terms with it, when we have found a way to live despite the pain life dishes out, we often look back and think, “Everything did happen for the best.”

Sometimes now I feel that the death of my life mate/sould mate and my ensuing grief all happened for the best. If he hadn’t died, our lives would have remained on the same treadmill of pain (him) and despair (me). His death set me free — free from his illness, free from the financial constraints that his illness caused, and even free from the chains of such a deep love.

He almost died twenty years ago, and so every day I made a point of recognizing and appreciating his continued existence in my life. Because I knew our time together would be cut short (and it was, just not as short as that earlier brush with death would have indicated), whenever there was a choice of doing something with him or by myself or even with another person, I always chose him. And so, gradually the chains of love were forged. Now if there is an opportunity to do something, being with him is not an option, which has opened my life to many new possibilities.

But was his death really for the best or is my brain simply doing what it can to make sense of everything that happened in the past two decades, and especially the past few years? His death ended our pain and set us both free, but what would have happened if he could have gone into intermission? Would I have ended up in the same place even if the tragedy hadn’t occurred? It’s impossible to tell, but I do know not everything happens for the best. We make the best of what happens. It’s called life.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

13 Responses to “Everything Happens For the Best — Oh, Yeah?”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I think the people who say that are running from reality. Even if there is a God in this world (and I believe 100% there is), saying that everything is according to a plan that’ll work out for the best is placing a little too much faith in Him. There is human error and there is shit circumstances and things that make no sense. Saying that it’s all for the best is just trying to bottle away something that needs to be acknowledged.

  2. nivaladiva Says:

    I can not stand the phrase “Everything happens for the best,” almost as much as the phrase “It’s all part of G-d’s plan.” In my opinion both are total cop-outs to the difficulties of life, some of which (violence towards children and the Holocaust, to name the obvious) are completely and utterly unjustifed and unforgivable. Anyone who tries to explain away such atrocities is sick in the head. It’s much more honest to say “There is no rhyme or reason to many things that happen on this Earth and it SUCKS, but we do the best can to deal with it.”

    Like you pointed out, we try to make sense of it after the fact. To that end, writing (art in general) is an incredible medium for exploration and healing.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I too despise the phrase. I hadn’t extrapolated it as far as you did — to violence and torture — but such inhumanity is never for the best. Besides, such acts never just “happen.” They are willful acts. Which means that even the beginning of the phrase is a cop-out. Not everything simply happens.

  3. Mary Says:

    No way to answer that but I do know that Bill’s death was for the best. The real question for me is “was his getting Alzheimer’s for the best?” Not in my books. Death relieved his struggle and freed him from a mind that no longer worked. It is the Alzheimer’s I hate.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, it’s the same with Jeff. His death was necessary to relieve his suffering and to free him from a body (and mind) that no longer worked, but still — his suffering sure as hell wasn’t for the best. The horror of those years sure wasn’t the best for either of us. And it wasn’t best for me to lose the man I loved, though in truth I had already lost him to ill health.

  4. Steve Lakey Says:

    Pat, I appreciate your honesty and courage in writing these posts. Thank you.
    I prefer to say “Everything happens…” and leave it at that. Experiences don’t just matter when we are living them, but also when we re-live them. We don’t consciously choose what happens to us, but we have control of how we respond. Even the worse tragedies can have the seeds of inspiration within them. With hindsight, some of our most difficult experiences are when we are forced to grow the most. That doesn’t make them “good” experiences, but they are sometimes the most significant.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like that — that these experiences are sometimes the most significant. Not the best, but the most significant. And we make them significant or at least add to their significance by the way we respond.

  5. Wenswritings Says:

    I hate the saying everything happens for a reason too! Another one that drives me crazy is When one door closes another one opens. Shut UP! To me that is another cop out! You never get over the loss of a loved one but to save your sanity you learn to live with the pain.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I hate that door/window saying, too. What do doors and windows have to do with death and grief, anyway? Even if the death of a dearly loved one does open windows (which it often does if we spent years taking care of them) what does it matter? They are still dead. And there is still a hole in our life where they once were.

  6. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    I believe it’s up to us to make the best sense we can of things and to find the best response we can to tragedy. I simply cannot believe in a “higher power” that determines everyone’s fate. I would too often end up hating that higher power if I tried.

  7. Terry Jean Allard Says:

    This is an excellent blog and reader comment entry! Turning or replacing the phrase “happens for the best or good experiencet” with “significant experience” helps sooth me. Turning “God did this to me on purpose” into “I may be able to find significance in this experience” switches a mind set from self-pity to self- compassion. It is not my first time with this concept. My husband in the last couple years of his life deteriorated emotionally,as well as, physically. He had great anxiety and depression about the over-all saddness,pain,hurt,unfairness,injustice in the world. He’d been raised in dogmatic Catholism…later ,as an adult, rejecting it but retaining some of the view God is a “master puppeter”. I would tell my husband “God doesn’t make things happen to you but with a belief in God you can find a reason/lesson in the experiences that do happen.” It helped him. It helped me to help him. Do we necessarily need a belief in God to find significance in the death of our spouse? (notice I said significance NOT something good). No, I don’t think so..it’s a personal decision. There could be many reasons to try to find the significance of the loss. Similarly, there could be many places (inside and outside) of ourselves to help us get the courage,stamina and insight to tackle the task. It strikes me that is what you are doing with your writing….creating significance. You ask your readers( as you write your new book) “What did you do to comfort yourself and relieve the stress?” The long term answer for me may be in part be find significance.
    I emphasize the word long because my needs,insights,feelings change. My grief cannot be taken out of the context of time nor follow a straight linear timetable.
    I emphasize the words “in part” because grief is not solved by finding a single answer. There is no “one and done” answer.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Finding significance is a good way of putting it. I did find significance in Jeff’s death in that I was very aware that his death set me free from what could have been a lifetime of servitude to his illness, and I didn’t want to waste his sacrifice, inadvertent though it might have been. After the first few months, I made a point of visiting museums, going on short sight-seeing excursions, doing all kinds of things. And I’m still doing things, though not as much. But I will be going on another trip at the end of the month to clear out my brother’s storage unit. I’m planning on taking my camping equipment, and maybe this time I will even go camping! I might even scatter Jeff’s ashes. Somehow it seems fitting.

      And yes, my writing about grief, especially when it might help others, was a way of finding significance. I am very aware that if Jeff hadn’t died, this book I am writing (As well as the last three) would never have been written. I will try to get it in the hands of a major publisher, which will increase the significance of the book, my grief, and Jeff’s death. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

      You’re so right about finding the courage,stamina and insight to tackle the task.

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