The phrase may be among the top 10 worst things one can say to someone who has lost a loved one or suffered a trauma.
“Something good will come out of this” are not words of comfort, no matter how well-intentioned or lovingly offered. Because if you ask the one suffering, no good thing that results from their tragedy is worth the pain. We say these words because we want to say something — anything — that will stop the suffering. But they don’t really offer comfort, even if sometimes they are true.
Yet it is possible, in time, to take comfort in the good things that occasionally have their origins in tragedy. Thon has grown from the power of a story of a child’s struggle with leukemia; the country is awash in pink in October as a result of a promise to a dying sister. And more recently, our community has rededicated itself to keeping our children safer through public education and the creation of a child advocacy center.
Positive things do not automatically come from tragedy, however; they are not a natural result. For positive changes to come from tragic situations requires first that we look deeply at the tragedy, face it completely and understand its causes. To look in the face of tragedy requires courage and commitment when it is so much easier, and usually less painful, to look away. But if we can find the courage and commitment to explore the roots and causes of the trauma, sometimes we can find the ways to prevent it from happening to others.
This month, we celebrate the fourth anniversary of a good thing borne out of tragedy.
The Centre County Child Access Center, dedicated to providing a safe place for custody exchanges and supervised visitations, was created after the tragic murder of Jodi Warshaw Barone by her estranged husband during a custody exchange.
Those who knew her, who knew her situation, determined that parents must have a safe place to exchange custody, a place where no contact between them was permitted, a place where children could establish healthy relationships with both parents in an atmosphere free of conflict and violence.
Since opening its doors, thousands of custody exchanges have occurred and children are able to visit and maintain relationships with parents safely. By facing and examining the tragedy, by coming together as a community to respond, by working hard to raise the money, find the staff and develop the policies, the good of the Child Access Center arose from the tragedy of Jodi’s murder.
It is a small comfort, to be sure, for those who loved Jodi, and we know they would give anything to have her back. But perhaps the reality that other children and parents are safer now than they were before has given new meaning to an otherwise heinous and meaningless violent act.
If comfort is elusive, commitment and change must suffice as we work to create a healthier, safer community for all of us.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, 140 W. Nittany Ave., State College. Contact her at 238-7066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.