why do bad things happen

“My younger brother and I were raised by our grandma. I never really knew my grandpa because grandma said he had died when I was just six years old. My mom died while giving birth to my younger brother, three years after having me.  I’ve only faint memories about her. Even those were the ones re-narrated to me by grandma.

According to my grandma, my grandpa had died a year after my mother’s death. She was their only child. He said grandpa couldn’t cope with her death. He would cry almost every night about not being able to prevent the death of his only child as a father. He had grieved far much more than his body could handle. He developed very high BP as a result. He died a sorrowful man.

My grandma is a fantastic story teller. She was a teacher and rose up to the position of principal in one of the unity schools in Nigeria before her eventual retirement. I used to wonder at her inner strength most times.

Things were fine with me and my brother because of my grandma’s love and financial ability at taking care of us. She adopted us like the children she never had. Raising us was joy to her, and a ‘major reason I am still alive,’ like she would always say.

That was until one fateful Saturday morning three years ago. It was the month of August. I was just out of school, and still trying to get used to the joy of finally being a graduate.

My grandma and I were in the kitchen preparing breakfast, when we received the phone call that has since changed our lives, forever. Someone called me with my younger brother’s number, telling me we should meet in a particular hospital along Shagamu way. He had told us my brother was fine, but in the hospital and responding to treatment after the bus he boarded on his way from school had somersaulted. I left my grandma who was already very shaky in the house, and called for a neighbour of ours to help stay with her while I hurried to Shagamu that morning.

My journey that day was filled with many mixed feelings. I remember being grateful on one part for the words about my brother responding to treatment, but not dead; and on the other hand, having thoughts about what if he died? It was a very tensed one for me. Everyone in the bus knew something was definitely not right with me. One passenger was even discussing my matter with the other about how she presumes I might have been heartbroken! That led them to openly discussing relationships and the ‘unnecessary’ drama that comes with it. Just imagine! I was too sad that day to respond to the things going on in the bus. I guess people find a way to keep themselves busy in a long distance travel.

But I did try my best to relate to the very caring matured man who was sitting next to me that day, and patiently asking me about what could be the issue, while he tried his best at saying very inspirational stuff to cheer me up even though I hadn’t told him anything. I mastered strength to finally tell him my story amidst tears and a shaky voice.

He was the one that made others aware of my agony as we had a stopover for some people to ease themselves along the journey. Some passengers even donated cash to me, including the man seated next to me. Nigerians can be very sympathetic, though.

I remember getting to the hospital that day with the hope of seeing my only brother and the only man in my life up till that 25 years of my life, then. But God had it another way. What I met was a lifeless body wrapped up in the small mini mortuary of the private clinic. That was all I remember. I was told I passed out that very moment.

It’s been 3 years since I lost my only brother. I do not consider myself as one that has a father. My father had left us and went abroad two years after my mother’s death. We never heard from him since then. People say maybe that was his own coping mechanism about the loss of his wife. I don’t know. And cannot claim to understand, even now.

My grandma has developed various ailments since then. I am now a dispensing ‘chemist’ of different drugs for an emotionally bankrupt grandmother. Seeing her unhappy these past years has changed my once hopeful disposition towards life. She was a resemblance of what strength and resilience meant to me. Now, I am trying my best at being strong, for her.

I keep asking: why? Why do bad things happen? Why was my own younger brother among the only 4 people to have died in a 14 seater bus? He could have been among the 10 alive. And my grandma: who will help save the only woman that has made my mom’s death, father’s disappearance and grandpa’s death less painful for us? I fear she might leave me soon. Or maybe it’s me leaving her, first? I don’t even know. Life’s been too unfair to me.”

Why do bad things happen?

Or as some would rather ask: ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’

I’m still asking the century old question.

This post may not in any way give answers to why bad things happen to us, however, it can help us ponder more on how we can best respond to bad things that happen.

Like the story above, I have had my own fair share of similar deaths. I did lose an elder sister to child delivery, too, and saw my mom and dad, along with every member of the family suddenly raising a day old baby without breast feeding. While grieving, we knew we had to keep this one alive. The quest to raise a child without breast feeding kept us busy that we may have forgotten how to grieve when we should have. Till today, I still think my sister’s death may have contributed to my mother’s early grave, just like the grandpa in the above story. And maybe my dad would have still been alive had my mom not died? I don’t know, too.

There are so many things we really don’t know about life. I guess we know only in parts.

But this is what I know: bad things happen. Not because we are bad, but because we are in a world rotating in a cycle of good and bad stuff. The “bad” stuff, I have since realized, isn’t to destroy us. Although it could, if we do not know how to manage the situation. Rather, I think, they happen to teach us more of what the importance of the good thing is. And to strengthen our muscles to survive life, ultimately. Because life is tough. Unless we live in denial of the obvious truth.

Of course, that is my opinion. And it may not in any way explain why you are currently going through the unpleasant circumstance you found yourself, now.  But, it is one that has helped me in the most trying times of my life.

Bad times taught me to appreciate every measure of goodness, whether from people, or of situation, no matter how little. And when I spend time being grateful for the goodness, I have less time worrying about the bad stuff. It turns out that in the end, I am rewarded with more goodness for my gratitude in terms of a healthier mind and a hopeful attitude towards life that in turn, attracts goodness into my life.

In my new post series, I’ll be sharing insights on grief, and what we can do to manage our emotions when bad things happen to us.

Why do those we love die? We may not have the answer. But we know that it is inevitable that some people die that new births may arrive here on earth. It is part of the balance in the ecosystem.

It is unfortunate if you are the one experiencing the loss right now, but then if you don’t, another will. While the loss is happening in a place, others also gain in return, at another place. This is how it works here on earth.

It’s part of life that bad things happen. We may use more ‘positive’ words like ‘challenges,’ ‘issues,’ ‘tough times,’ or even ‘trying times.’ Regardless of what name we choose to call those seasons of our lives, it is inevitable that we will have the experience while we are here. The time it will happen we may not have the control. But that it will happen, is inevitable.

If we will look more closely to learn from the seemingly bad stuff that had happened to us in the past, we may be able to understand, in retrospect, why they had happened, now. Maybe this is the reason some people get over pain with time? May be.

Someone might be asking me, what about those people who may not eventually get over the pain, or grief from the loss of their loved ones? Well, if I’d be honest with you, I would say: ‘they chose not to.’ This might sound harsh, but if you consider that I have had my own fair share of losses, too, you might at least, judge me less severely for saying this.

The truth is, as much as we all want only good stuff to happen to us, for as long as we live here on earth, we must prepare our mind that things may not always go as anticipated. We should never allow our own optimism bias becloud our life’s experience here on earth. Not everyone who made the marital vows joyously on their wedding day ever dreamt of the awful period they would be divorcing from such covenant from one they once proposed a forever love to.

But it happens.

Does that mean people would stay off marrying? Not at all!

Now should one stop living when the unfortunate happen? Definitely, not.

Life has been designed for the fittest survivors. No one may be able to fully explain why bad things happen, especially to good people. For the conspicuously bad people, we may quickly say Karma had it on them. But, what about those who seem to have done no wrong to deserve such pain and loss?

Yet, one thing is certain: we should learn from the bad things and not allow it turn us into lifeless beings merely existing bitterly.

Rather, we can grow from the experiences they bring us. And use the wisdom gained through the benefit of hindsight from our own troubles, to comfort others whose turn it might be the next time.


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To your successfully evolving life.

Joy Iseki

|The Counsellor|

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4 Responses

  1. Awesome piece. I’ve had my own share of loss of loved ones and bad experiences. The question of why bad things happen is because the world is flawed. Through what we did and what we didn’t do, consequences come on us, some bad. The case of the young man who died in the bus could result from the driver’s careless driving or lack of maintenance of the bus. The case of a woman losing her life in childbirth could be as a result of medical errors or complications. The reason for your writing this piece is a result of your experiences and your understanding of the subject matter.

    The idea of a heaven, a paradise, where no bad happens, is an idea of a world that doesn’t need the balance of good and bad to maintain its ecosystem.

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