My husband always asks me why I keep reading the news, as he catches me sobbing once again over a news article that details something horrendous that has happened to a child. “I have to,” I reply, “because I want to know if there’s something I can do to prevent that from happening to our son.”
Because these things happened for a reason, right? And if I know that reason, I can ensure we are not the next family plastered across the headlines, our grief and brokenness displayed for all the world to see. I can have control over my child and his future, secure in the knowledge that he will be safe with me.
But in light of this most recent spate of seemingly random tragedies and near misses, I have begun to think about my own internal response to these events. It seems to me that perhaps this kind of thinking, this, “Of course there is a reason!” belief, is the driving force behind the horrible internet comments that emerge when something tragic happens to a child – where some people, shielded by their computers and the anonymity of the online world, lose a bit of their filter and unleash thoughts that should never be voiced; where it seems an entire nation starts blaming and shaming these poor parents who are already experiencing the absolute worst punishment imaginable. Maybe behind it all is a fear that if there is no one to blame, then that means that it could happen to anyone.
It could happen to me.
There HAS to be a reason that that little boy fell into the zoo pit, or that toddler drowned in a river, or that young child was taken by the alligator. Because if there isn’t a reason – if you can’t blame the parents for negligence – then it means that the truth is that sometimes horrible things happen for absolutely no reason, and that means I can’t guarantee that those horrible things won’t happen to me and my children.
For some people, that’s too much risk. They MUST assign blame because otherwise they are opened up to a big, wide world of terrible things that are too much to bear. Some keep that blame inside their heads, and other allow it to be spewed outloud in a public forum.
But sometimes there is nowhere to place blame, because the truth is that sometimes really really bad things do happen to good people, without any reason. Cancer. Car accidents. Drownings. Every day, awful things are happening. It is much easier to shift our focus onto the very rare and one-in-a-million alligator incident and say, “They were not watching their child”, than it is to accept the fact that alligators, along with horrible people, and cars, and cancer, and swimming pools, and a host of other seemingly random things, sometimes kill children. And even worse than that is the truth that a lot of the time, we as parents are unable to do one single thing about it.
That. Is. Terrifying.
So what is the solution? Do we switch our razor focus from the ONE most random horrible thing to ALL the horrible things? I don’t believe that would help anyone, and would possibly only serve to increase fear. And I feel that putting all our focus solely on protecting our own children, sheltering them to the extent that they lose the freedom to grow and explore, could cause us to be trapped by fear. So what if instead, we shift our focus completely? What if we shift it right off of ourselves, off of tragedy, and onto something that is greater?
What if we shift our focus to love?
Many believe “Perfect love casts out fear.” If this is true, what would happen if every time we felt afraid OF something, we instead chose to feel love FOR something? So instead of fearing our own child may fall prey to an alligator, we change our thought pattern to focus instead on having a loving response to the parents whose child did. And then, what if we spoke it outloud? What if we spoke it louder than those who are stuck in their fear response, desperate to cast blame? So loud, in fact, that we drown out the voices that seek to destroy these parents, these people, when they are in their most vulnerable state?
We will never live in a world that is free of wild animals, car crashes and cancer, but perhaps we could work towards a world that is free of the vile responses that appear in the face of tragedy, a world where parents and victims need not suffer more than they already are.
If we embrace these parents who are suffering through great tragedy with a love that says, “No matter what, we love you, we stand with you, we feel your pain.”, then we shift our focus off of our own fears, and instead of blaming others and tearing them down, we start building them up.
And in a way, doesn’t that actually serve to make world a safer place for our kids, at least emotionally? A world full of people who will support them, instead of destroying them. Who will stand by them when they are hurting, instead of turning their backs. Who will love them and ask ‘What can I do to help you?’ instead of ‘What can I do so that I don’t become you?’
Blaming a mom who has lost her child does nothing to make anyone feel better. But loving her? That has the power to change the world.