The last thing we want to hear after suffering a severe setback is that the failure is “a blessing in disguise”. Although the statement may be true most of the time, sometimes, it isn’t.
A nation undergoing a revolution might succumb to the tyranny of a merciless dictatorship. There are worst case personal scenarios such as a setback in the treatment of a child’s chronic illness that leads to her death. When events like these happen, the last thing that victims want to hear is a chirpy platitude. These are the times when we hold back our reflexive verbal response and allow for some contemplative silence.
As for other setbacks, it’s healthy to experience an appropriate, reasonable grieving period. It’s a rare person who can healthily, speedily spring back from getting laid-off from a many-years-long job. A betrayal of trust in a long-term relationship or marriage is certainly a bad time for a friend to utter the blessing in disguise statements.
If we survive the throes of a tyrannical revolution or if we are the survivor after a personal tragedy, we eventually learn how to pick up the pieces and begin recovery. We might decide to learn from other people’s experiences by reading about them in books.
One year in the past, in the space of a month, my mother died and a very dear former boyfriend died, then I became seriously ill. I returned to work after the permitted one week “mourning leave” granted by my employer in honor of my mother. Perhaps the serious illness was my body’s way of giving me another two weeks away from work to help the grieving process. Trust me, one week is insufficient time to deal with the death of loved ones.
Thankfully, one of my friends bought me a copy of Eilie Wiesel’s Night. The account of Wiesel’s and his father’s experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald at the worst of the Holocaust was just what I needed to read at the time. It is a book I recommend to anyone who has suffered a serious setback–that is everyone.
It’s interesting that some people are able to quickly bounce back from serious setbacks and challenges while others become crushed and require much more time to recover from failure, while some never do. Perhaps it is a matter of personality and/or how they were raised as children. Many parents treat their children’s errors as tragic failures. This over-concern may negatively influence the children and lead to less ability to recover from future setbacks. It seems that parents with a more balanced attitude towards their children’s mistakes, leads to their children developing healthier recovery from setbacks. At least this is what happened in Wiesel’s case.
There appears to be a normal progression of events following a setback. First, we feel down and out maybe we ask ourselves, “Why me?. Second, we gain a more objective perspective and realize that awful things happen to everybody. Third, we analyze what went wrong and determine what we can do in order to obtain more favorable results. Fourth, then we follow through.
Just like everybody else, I’ve been deeply disappointed and heartbroken. There are the situations that turned out worse than anticipated. There are setbacks that were harmful and gave no ultimate positive results. I’ve had to just accept that they happened and move on. There were also the setbacks that turned out to be blessings in disguise. I’m not happy that they happened, but I’m grateful for the lessons learned.
As long as we’re alive, we will have boom times and bust times, apparently those are evidence of one of life’s cycles. Hopefully, there will be fewer insurmountable setbacks in life and more that yield positive results and new ways of living, working, and loving.