The things I learned in the counselling room

Sometimes bad things happen to good people

Registered psychological counselor / Tiew Ee Jing

“Why me?”

This is a common question heard in the counseling room.

“I’ve never done anything bad in my life, why did such an unfortunate thing happen to me?”

“He was a good man – always doing good things – why did God take him away so quickly and take away the bad people?”

“Do we have to be bad people to live longer and get better rewards?”

Whenever I listen to a case, I always listen silently. In addition to empathising with the emotions and feelings behind what the words that are expressed, I don’t impart any great revelations or words that have no effect on comforting. The truth is, I have no standard answer in mind. It made me relate back to a time in my own life when I had similar feelings.

About 7 or 8 years ago, my dad was in a car accident. He was badly injured, suffering trauma to the brain and legs. The worst consequence was he needed surgery. My sisters and I were in shock at that time, and everyone was in a state of panic. I remembered waiting outside the emergency room for updates. Other than the question, “why did this accident happen?” running through my mind, I also thought about, “why us?” and “my dad is a good man, why did such a horrible thing happen to him?”

Tears kept falling as I thought about it and I began to feel some rage, but I didn’t know on whom to vent this anger. God? Fate? Who can really provide us with the answer? Looking back now at the emotions and feelings I felt at that moment – due to the suddenness and unexpected nature of the accident – we could not accept what was happening for a while. The many “whys” rushing out functioned to soften the blow caused by the reality of the situation as it slowly sinks in. The manifestation of anger reflected my helplessness and despair at that moment, and I really don’t know what else I could do other than to assign blame. Perhaps what I wanted most of all at that point was not an answer, but rather for my father to pull through this difficult time safely.

The question of “why good deeds go unrewarded” or “why do good people suffer from tragedy” can be explored and explained from different perspectives of various cultures, values, religions and so on. However, just like my own experience at that point in time, what we want is not a definitive answer, but a place where we can put our emotions and doubts to rest. 

In the Korean drama “Hospital Playlist 2”, there is a short story involving a pregnant woman who was at risk of miscarriage due to her health condition. She was careful from the moment she conceived and had to stay in bed to protect the fetus. The couple and the doctor put in their best effort, but the worst still happened. Although everyone prepared for the worst, they were still devastated when it occurred. The mother in particular, broke down and cried, asking the doctor what she had done wrong or what she had not done well enough –  a question to which the doctor did not know how to respond. Back in the office, the doctor opened a thick textbook on obstetrics and gynaecology. On the first page of the textbook was a quote: “Bad things at times do happen to good people”. The doctor sent this quote to the couple who had lost their unborn child by text message. The wife wept when she read the quote, and the husband printed it out and hung it in his home. For the couple and the doctor, the message was like a kind of salvation, assisting them to get out of the dilemma of their inner turmoil.

We may perhaps lament the fact that sometimes unforeseen tragedies can befall us even when we choose to be good people. However, looking at each tragic case in the counseling room, they still choose to continue being kind and grateful despite the overwhelming feeling of helplessness regarding their fates filling their hearts. After all, “impermanence” is not a choice, it is just a normal state of life. Whether we are good or bad people now, we cannot escape the “impermanence” that comes eventually in the end. Kindness is our inherent self; it is not because we choose to be kind to gain something, but being kind is our true and genuine self. When a kind person encounters tragic circumstances, please remember that in the process we gain love, care, warmth and companionship. Although all the cases in the counseling room are suffering from their own stories of grief, in the end they all have the eyes to see the “goodness” of what they have and to appreciate the love and care of the people around them. Thank you for teaching me about “kindness” in the counseling room.

Nirvana Care Grief Care Department

Nirvana Care – Grief Care department, cares for your grieving journey… We provide individual counselling, group support and life education awareness. 

Contact us at griefcare@nvasia.com.my or 010-9896954 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm) for appointment or phone and email enquiry.

Author:

Tiew Ee Jing, K.B.P.A.; certified and registered counsellor under Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia. She is passionate to promote life education to the public awareness and caring for life.

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