What to Do When Bad Things Happen to Good People

We do not know why bad things happen to good people, but we can do what we can to help, and to remember that underneath those dark clouds, the sun is still shining.
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Why do bad things happen to good people? "It's not fair," "there's no justice," and "God's not paying attention" are the feelings that oftentimes arise when we learn about a tragedy that have befallen an innocent person or a group of people. When blameless people suffer a horrific disaster, like in the recent Boston bombings, earthquakes, or hurricanes, or when children are terribly hurt or killed, it tests our belief in a loving and just universe. This is especially challenging to deal with when we are directly impacted by the trauma.

How do we manage the frustration, anger, helplessness, and all the other emotions that flood in when this happens? When the JAL flight 123 crashed into two mountain ridges in Japan in 1985, 520 people died. It still is the biggest single-plane fatality in history of the world. This was not an intellectual tragedy for me; my father was on that flight. Four passengers miraculously lived; he was not one of them.

The Boeing 747 clipped one mountain ridge and crashed into another, flipped and landed on its back. The total elapsed time between the first explosion in the tail area and the final crash was 32 minutes. That was enough time for some passengers to write a farewell to their loved ones, and probably a good number said their last prayers or were in frenzied panic and hysteria before their untimely death.

It was even harder to accept that my father was gone when we found out that improper repair of the rear section of the plane allegedly caused the accident. Why? How could this be? Tell me this isn't real, and again, why?

Exhausted from jetlag, and in the pain and horror of spending a week looking at pieces of what used to be people to identify our father's remains, I was on my knees weeping and praying for greater guidance and strength. In that place of desperation and despair I felt a little sense of peace emerge from inside. A quiet inner voice said, look around for the blessings. The thought seemed ludicrous to me at that moment, with little sleep, food and even less information and knowledge of how to handle the situation, the message floored me.

So that is what it takes sometimes -- for us to shift from whatever we are feeling and thinking to a new way of looking at the issue. Release your grip on righteous anger, the sense of being wronged and ask -- what can I do now? Where is there light in these circumstances?

"All we can do is try to rise beyond the question 'Why did it happen?' and begin to ask the question 'What do I do now that it has happened?'" -- Harold Kushner

The people from JAL, the Japanese soldiers, the officials from the three small towns who offered up their largest halls to house the remains and us temporarily, they didn't plan to have a huge aircraft crash into the mountains, either. Their lives were disrupted too, and they were doing all they could to help with open hearts.

We are not going to be able to bring all killed innocent people back. What can we do now? What can we learn from the situation? How can we prevent this from happening again? Where is there a blessing?

We eventually identified a part that we felt was our father's, and had the proper ceremonies to bring some closure to a dreadful nightmare. We also spoke and emphasized to the JAL and Boeing officials that this can never happen again. Errors and mistakes in aircraft maintenance are believed to have destroyed many lives and devastated people all over the world -- this is something we don't need to repeat.

In retrospect, I gained a renewed sense of faith, and am a bit more prepared to slow down and take time to respond instead of reacting without thinking in times of tragedy. To ask what can I do now that we are faced with another disaster. How can I make it better? How can this be a teaching moment? How can I open my heart even wider to encompass the pain and grow from it rather then closing down?

I've shed many tears since that plane crash over numerous more injustices that have occurred in the world. And I have also stopped to look for the good that can come out of a bad situation. Where are the blessings? In the end, that is all we can do. We do not know why bad things happen to good people, but we can do what we can to help, and to remember that underneath those dark clouds, the sun is still shining.

"My understanding of God does not permit me to accept that every bad or good thing that occurs is a reward or punishment. There are times when bad things happen to good people ... We need consolation, not anger; love, not hate. The God I serve and pray to daily has charged me not to blame but to help." -- Jerome Epstein

Marilyn Tam wrote her book, "The Happiness Choice - The Five Decisions that Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be" so that others may benefit from what she learned, often through painful experience on how to be happy, healthy, productive and have a dynamically balanced life. Many experts in the five key aspects of life: Body, Relationships, Money, Spirit, and Community contributed to the book. This includes Joan Borysenko PhD, Jack Canfield, Arielle Ford, MJ Ryan, Harville Hendrix PhD, Michael Galizter MD and many more leaders in their fields. All share personal stories, insights and expertise on the key factors that influence our lives. Each talk about their personal life purpose and their secrets to happiness. You can get more free insights and find out about Marilyn on her website http://www.marilyntam.com/books.html and connect with her on facebook

Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.

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