I do not believe bad things are punishment for what people did in a past life. I believe bad things happen by chance or habit. We are born into a natural universe that is very much chaotic, from the macro-atomic level all the way to the upper realms. “Stuff” happens. We try to make sense of these tragedies, and automatically assume we’re suffering because we are responsible in some way. Small children, when faced with loss, often assume they caused it in some way, and it’s hard to drop this habit, especially when it’s unconscious. But it is worth the effort in terms of healing and peace of mind.
At the heart of the Western distortion of “karma” is a persistent feeling we have that we are here to find our “life purpose”. I have a t-shirt I made with the slogan “Life is not about finding meaning, it is about creating meaning”. The chaos of life is reflected in all our lives, and as long as we are stuck on finding out “why”, the less time we have for finding ways to turn our tragedies into blessings. Rather than ask “why”, ask yourself how you can find a way to turn your experience into a blessing. What can you learn? Can you be a coach, a healer, an educator, an understanding ear to others who share your suffering? The answers to those questions will be the answer if you are seeking true meaning in your life.
At the same time, part of the reason we reincarnate is to heal trauma from tragedies and mistakes in our previous lives. The healing process can be tough, and in the wounded state, we can react to circumstances in ways that seem to further wound us. We develop habitual response patterns that result in a series of recurring traumas. It is our own habitual reactions we need to heal. The best tools I can recommend to heal our toxic reactions are in the books and seminars by “The Love-Based Leader”, by James Roswell Quinn. We may choose generally challenging lives to test that growth, or we may simply encounter trauma because of the innate chaos of a natural world. I recommend “Journey of Souls” by Dr. Michael Newton. In this epic book, Dr. Newton shares experiences of his “in-between” life regression patients. They share stories of reviewing the next lifetime options they would have. There is no element of “judgment” to the process, only guidance.