We were sitting in the office of the rabbi, who had so lovingly cared for us during our son’s short life and in the days after it ended. Tear soaked and desperately forlorn, my husband and I asked questions, both attempting to process how we would be able to live after losing our shared trajectory of parenthood in such a swift manner. We felt alone.
We talked about God and the ways in which people might try to interject their beliefs into our situation, hoping to make us feel better without thinking through the impact of their words. My husband and I, each in our own understandings—and rejections—of what we thought God to be, realized that there would be no catch-all answers, no explanations that we could ever fully comprehend as to why something like this would happen. Regardless, in the early days of our grief, it didn’t keep us from trying to find answers.
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When the inexplicable occurs, like the loss of an infant, it’s a seemingly natural reaction to scan the situation for overlooked clues, analyzing portraits and pieces of discomfort or doubt for a causal effect. We want to be able to explain why tragedy happens, even if we come to the conclusion that the onus of blame is on ourselves—at least it provides some kind of answer where there is otherwise none. Often, for people of belief, perhaps there is some comfort in believing in an afterlife, a heaven, or a purpose for all of this suffering now. But for me, a person without concrete belief, who does not know what is true—as I am not sure it can be known in this realm—the beliefs of others simply act as another assignment of logic, a conclusion to be drawn.
“Everything happens for a reason” is one of those statements that I have been lucky enough—if you can call it luck—to yield only a scarce number of times in response to my loss. It is demoralizing enough to lose a child. It is worse to assume that because it helps you sleep at night, it will be comforting to me to believe there’s some grand plan at work that will make the pain I’ve endured in any way redemptive.
Related Post: Not Everything Happens for a Reason
The birth story of my son is one of inconsistency. There were aspects of what happened in the days before and on the day of my induction and during his delivery that make me wonder if it all has a reasonable explanation, a discoverable connect-the-dots, but nothing adds up perfectly. Despite my desperation over time for such a narrative, there may not have been a linking chain of events, no undercurrent of our story waiting to explode in fated disaster.
After the early terror began to subside, and the episodes of reliving the tragedy of losing him became less frequent, the ability to sit quietly with the unknown began to appear, albeit slowly. I found I spent less time haranguing myself for the things I couldn’t explain, and more time simply missing the baby I had so hoped to parent. I allowed myself to disconnect from the need to compartmentalize, to reason. Over time, I’ve come to truly believe that there is something beautiful about the unknown.
The unknown is infinite in its possibilities, with mystery and wonder and pain and heartbreak all as options and inevitability. And alongside everyone else who knows that this is what it is to live, with faith or not, we’re not alone.
Katie Colt is a writer, songwriter, musician, and mother. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Mommy Nearest, and most recently at Kveller, as a 2017 Writing Fellow. Katie lives near Chicago, IL with her husband and son.