it is what it is

Sometimes people dealing with death reach a point where they conclude that "It is what is is." After all, once someone is dead, that fact can never be changed.

William Safire of the New York Times notes that this tautological statement that is becoming increasingly popular. Safire says that, according to Joe Pickett, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, this is " also a way of expressing philosophical resignation over a disappointment, of saying that the situation just has to be put up with. Athletes will say it about a missed catch or a bad call by the referee; it means that they don't want to dwell on the situation."

I suppose the "it is what it is" philosophy is healthy in some respects. It acknowledges that we have no control over what happened in the past. It may help stop the "what if's" - those guilty thoughtworms that can eat away at you. It represents one of the final stages of dealing with loss - acceptance, which is the opposite of one of the earliest stages - denial.

A other times I find this philosophy infuriating. It implies there is nothing to be done. I am a proactive, fixer type. I believe there are things we can DO when confronted with loss. One is working through the grieving process. Part of this process may be trying to understand, and come to terms with what happened. We can also deal with the experience in a way that results in personal growth. As the author Jennifer Weiner noted, "Sometimes the worst thing that happens to you, the thing you think you can't's the thing that makes you better than you used to be."

Nobody gets out alive, so it should be no surprise that people die. We cannot bring them back to life. At some point, we survivors have to deal with reality. It's what we choose to do with that reality that matters.




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