themighty logo

What It's Like to Hear 'Everything Happens for a Reason' as a Trauma Survivor


As I sat in an oversized green suede chair, I told you about that party and the years that followed.

I spat it out in fragments because I thought that once you knew, everything would be different.

I yelled parts at you because I was mad at myself for believing other people’s lies.

I sobbed because I knew it wasn’t my fault but I still felt it could have been.

If only I could have done something different.

If only I was smarter.

If only I was stronger.

If only I was more experienced.

If only I didn’t feel so much.

If only…

If only…

If only…

Once I gave you everything, whispered like a confession. Once I got through the assault, the self-loathing, the suicide attempt, the self-destructive behavior… Once I got through all of that, you told me: “Everything happens for a reason.”

I bit my tongue until I tasted blood because I had heard that before. I heard it right before a monster didn’t listen when I cried and begged for it to stop. I heard it after I confessed to binge-eating. I heard it after I finally admitted, out loud, that I didn’t want to exist anymore.

I said it every night before I chugged alcohol. Followed closely by: “Life never gives you more than you can handle.”

So before you say, “everything happens for a reason,” let me ask you these questions:

What did I do that resulted in me questioning everything, questioning my worth as a human being? I still can’t begin to comprehend a reason behind a violation of your body.

Is the reason behind me being bullied growing up that I now try to make everyone feel valuable?

What’s the reason I started loathing myself for letting others dictate the way I saw myself?

What’s the reason behind losing my faith and my trust in humanity?

Why couldn’t my brain fully process something as small as a flat tire?

Why did I have an anxiety attack in the middle of a grocery store parking lot?

What’s the reason behind my anxiety?

What’s the reason I’m waging a war with depression?

What’s the reason that all of the things that have been more than I could handle happened?

I don’t think you have a reason.

So instead of saying “everything happens for a reason,” say things like…

“I’m sorry you had to go through this. While I can’t understand how you’re feeling, know that I will do my best to empathize with you.”

“I will do my best to listen without judgment.”

“I will do my best to see you.”

“I love your strength.”

Unsplash photo via Elijah M. Henderson