Friday, July 31, 2015

The Trouble with Silver Lining

So many times I’ve read blog posts that share a problem faced, a lesson learned and a conclusion that the difficulty was worth it. This formula gets pounded into our subconscious until we start to think that it must be super-imposed on every real-life situation. Every struggle must have a lesson, a reason, a purpose. Others expect you to say, “It’s tough, but I’m actually fine because of A, B and C.” Well-intentioned friends may even try to do the legwork for you, suggesting all the possible benefits to your broken heart.

For someone facing loss, an over-emphasis on silver lining may actually cause more harm than good. By its nature, loss is a subtraction. It is a black hole, dividing by zero. It leaves a gaping hollowness. To ask someone who has lost their job, their father or their health what they’ve gained from that experience is to overlook what loss truly is.

When I was diagnosed with my disease, 7 years ago now, I felt obligated to construct my story in a way that my listeners would expect. A cherry-on-top ending, if you will. A friend even constructed one for me. She prayed for me saying, “God, thank you for giving Sharon this disease so that you could teach her valuable lessons.” I wanted to scream, “You don’t understand! This isn’t fair. This isn’t a gift.” But I stayed silent.

I know that we can learn about life through the challenges we face, but I think it is dangerous to equate what is gained with what is lost. Loss is legitimate, and sufferers deserve to grieve and to mourn at their own pace. Glossing over the hurt, the hollowness, may lead to stunted healing. Acknowledging another’s tragedy may comfort her more than pointing out the positives.