I hate that platitude as much as you do, DakotaT, and it chaps my ass every time some mindless moron uses it. I have been through some shit in my life (most of which I don't talk about here), and I can't think of anything that has really made me stronger -- but I can certainly think of things that have set me back quite a bit.
I guess it depends on how you harness it and chose to look at life experiences.. I can both look at 1987 as a growing experience as well as one that ultimately will be my undoing upon this earth. Lying on a gurney, body shaking off of it because they are pumping blood into so fast that they cannot warm it properly, being read last rights and all but expected not to pull though will do such.
For the first couple of years.. it seemed like a life sentence.. how could one recover both mentally and physically. Hope seemed lost.
After some time, I will be very honest.. it made my appreciation for life much greater and to a greater depth. I choose to disregard (for the most part) the tragic and sadden filled aspect of that moment and latched onto the positives (yes there were many).
So yes.. most people that use the cliche' have little understanding from my perspective, but I am not wired into their cerebrum
and actually see the world from their aspect. What would seem trivial to me, may seem earth shattering to them.
With that.. I will state that I hate the casual use of such a phrase, how it feels cheap and lacks understanding.. but that doesn't mean that there isn't truth in the words.. just depends on your mindset and interpretation of them in context.
Basically, tragic life experiences can be very grounding.
"The oranges are dry; the apples are mealy; and the papayas... I don't know what's going on with the papayas!"