Thursday, November 01, 2012

When Bad Examples Happen to Good People

Yesterday I picked up When Bad Things Happen to Good People (the book, not the cassette tape). It was written as a result of the death of the author's beloved son to a terrible disease that caused great suffering. The author writes about his loss, but also tells many other stories of loss to illustrate his points. In one example, he writes about how modern science has made it possible for babies who would otherwise have died at birth, to live into adulthood. If that person had died as a baby, the parents would quickly try to "put the loss behind them" and look to the future. But if a baby is born with some kind of condition that can be treated by modern medicine, he or she may grow into adulthood, get married, raise a family, become a doctor or a teacher or a poet, but then die early because of their condition. And he writes that now the death causes "more than just a few days of sadness".
"It is a shattering tragedy...and a profoundly saddening event..."
The message to me is - Toren only deserves a few days of sadness. I need to put this loss behind me (where ever that is). What I am feeling - shattered, and profoundly sad - is wrong.

This is a book that is read by millions of people. I can see why. It's one of the top titles that people turn to in difficult times to try to make sense of their loss. But that particular example does not help me! And I don't think it helps people understand the magnitude of loss when a baby dies. How can I criticize another grieving parent, especially one who has helped so many? Great, one more thing to feel bad about.

I will try to finish the book but my trust has been severely dented. Rabbi Kushner, thank you for your wonderful book but please rewrite this example!

1 comment:

  1. I find this happens a lot when Grief Olympics begin. People compare their loss to others, thinking that what they are going through is so much worse because of a, b, c, etc.

    So many times people (who are either simple parents (non-bereaved) or bereaved parents with a child that lived and then died) give me a sigh that means, oh, she died before she was born, that's not as bad as....

    Yet I don't let them get away with thinking that. ;)

    Every time they tell me their child did this and that, liked this and that, I point out that I never got to know what she would have liked and would have done. It makes them pause and think.

    They are missing a lot. I'm missing everything.

    I hope the author of that book pauses to think for a little and gives his book a much needed revision.