Something better

I read something today that disturbed and challenged me in an unexpected way.

I knew when I clicked on the link that this would be step into unknown territory but I still wanted to see it. To see what possible justification there could be for such a provocative headline.

In my writing I have found an audience and tribe in line with my world view. One that loudly rejects the attempts of others to who have not suffered the loss of a child to assign supernatural agency or that most hateful of platitudes “everything happens for a reason”.

What I hadn’t expected to find was a family that had lost their child, that had gone through the quiet horror of stillbirth and found that not only had their faith been tested, it had been strengthened and for them that demonstration of God’s love was a compensation or reward for the loss of their daughter.

They didn’t welcome it, they hadn’t asked for it but in their own words “we lost a child and gained something better”.

Previously I have written of the contempt I hold people that would use their tragedy to barter for trinkets but this is different. The prize here is something incomprehensible to me.

Here is something that tests my faith in the philosophy that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

For this couple their faith not only sustains them in their grief but they appear to be reassured by the feeling that they have received a reward for their suffering and that reward makes the loss worth it.

Who am I to say that they are wrong? It works for them and I get no sense that they have tried to apply this view on anyone outside of their belief.

It is a truly astonishing read that by turns repulses me and makes me envious of that sense of peace. There is a curious lack of anger and lots of accounts of weeping.

Not the messy, snot dribbling, mad, tear streaked howling from a foetal position that I’m more familiar but a dignified, restrained release of tears.

When I clicked on the article I expected to be angry but what I found instead was a sense of bafflement. The whole thing from the description of the day it all happened and the words of the Pastor and their community in the aftermath felt utterly alien to me.

The nasty cynical part of me believes that the account is just too polished, too tidy to be true. The feeling that it masks a rage that would be unforgivable to articulate, a sorrow too terrible to admit.

That in itself makes me feel bad that I would seek to impose my world view on another in a way that I would find abhorrent if someone did the same to me.

If I am to be a good bereavement befriender and be inclusive and open then I have to understand what faith can bring to grief even if I reject it myself.

3 Little Buttons

17 Comments Add yours

  1. This is quite the thought provoking blog post. I read the article you linked. And, while I have no problem with any particular religion, Christianity included, (before Matthew died, my husband and I actually attended a Christian (Lutheran) church, though haven’t been back in 6 months now), I simply cannot subscribe to most these ideas (i.e. we lost our child but also gained something greater, God knew and planned that our child’s life would be 250 days, etc.). Actually some of them infuriate me.

    I too consider myself a very inclusive person (a bereavement befriender, if you will), and I think people should be allowed to grieve in whatever ways most help them, and, if that involves telling themselves, “Everything is okay, because it was God’s plan, and now we’re not angry and at peace, because we know God’s with us,” then fine. They have every right to say that about their own tragedy if it helps them get through the day.

    But, as inclusive as I like to be, sometimes, when people say these things about their own tragedies, it feels as though they might also be thinking it about mine. And that’ll usually drive a wedge between us (even if that wedge is just me not reading their blog posts anymore). Because, despite any Christian beliefs I still hold, I will NEVER accept that Matthew died “for a reason” or that it was “God’s plan”.

    To some (and not just Christians), having a reason brings comfort. But, to me, it’s just the opposite. Because there’s NO reason that will ever be good enough for me losing Matthew. And I know I’ll ALWAYS feel this way. No matter what.

    Also, within Christianity, there’s much disagreement when it comes to explaining tragedy… I feel so many (writer of the article included) potentially don’t think deeply enough, or even misinterpret certain things in the Bible about tragedy. Like people want to deem everything “God’s perfect plan” and move on when, really, many believe bad things happen because there’s evil in our world and we have free will and God doesn’t reach down and prevent us from suffering in this broken world, etc. And, as such, our faith can only be in eternal life. I’m not trying to say this is correct either. I actually acknowledge I have no fucking clue.

    But, I can say, if I continue on in the Christian faith and in the church, I’m going to keep pondering these more complex arguments. Because, I think, “everything happens for a reason” is illogical and bullshit and fails to dig into the complexities required to attempt to explain tragedy from a religious perspective and just doesn’t cut it. People telling me “it’s God’s plan” will be a deal breaker for me with church.

    And it actually annoys me when people wrap things up in this beautiful bow. Again, certainly, it is their right to do so when it comes to their own lives. But I call bullshit. We’re all human, and you may be saying, “I lost my child but gained something greater,” but I’m not buying it. Sorry. You’re just as broken and angry as the rest of us. I’m only saying this because I’ve seen it play out in church settings. I think it’s unhealthy and helps perpetuate the myth that when you go through something horrible, you better be able to just thank God and move on, or you’re not good enough, faithful enough, etc. And it contributes to the psychological warfare unleashed on so many who experience tragedy.

    So, in short, to conclude my obnoxiously long response, I still identify as Christian, but I wrestle with it a lot and don’t see eye to eye with many others. I respect people like the author of this article. But, at the same time, I’m always VERY disappointed to read their messages.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OMG – that above comment is so long. Feel free to delete it if you want. That linked post obviously sparked some feelings – I get so mad when I read stuff like that (even though it is their right to think it!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      I’m not going to delete it after the time you spent crafting it.

      I am genuinely interested in these arguments because I don’t have a faith background to provide a comparison. Like you say, there’s elements of interpretation of holy writings and philosophical and theological debates on free will that will determine a view of grief and understanding tragedy.

      It looked so shiny and not even Hollywood but some day time heart warming TV drama view of one of the most horrible events.

      There’s an urge to call it but equally an envy that such a peace could exist.

      The original title for the blog was a Paper Chase lyric

      “I’d sell out everyone / if I could find such peace / see you on the other side”

      It’s a fleeting wish but nothing is worth the death of my sons and certainly not faith.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with all you’ve said. And you can certainly delete – haha! I didn’t actually think it was that long until it posted! An obnoxiously long way to say even as one with a mustard-seed of faith, I agree with you. I drafted it quickly b/c I was so fired up about that article! I guess way to go posting something so thought and emotion-provoking!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. After almost 30 years (on and off) of volunteering with the bereaved/pre bereaved & experiencing it myself, my personal opinion is that is their public persona. Maybe they are truly that dignified now but I doubt very much that they have never had a gut wrenchingly awful periods full of extreme emotions. My concern over posts like this is that others may feel they have to ‘live up to’ these expectations of behaviour and as you rightly point out- grief is as unique as a snowflake and should be accepted and supported in all its forms. Great post! Thanks for sharing & opening up this topic. Caroline

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is not unusual for trauma to briefly spark a strong sense of community, and a refocusing of priorities towards personal space. Loss especially, shifts the spotlight towards the connections between us and others, and on how much of our identity exists in that complex web rather than within us.

    Small acts of kindness become signs of great unity. When our grief is all that occupies us, receiving compassion makes it feel like others can empathize with our entire person. It feels as if that ultimate boundary between us and others (brought on by the knowledge that we are the only person who will ever think our thoughts and feel our feelings just as they are), becomes briefly erased. This is the core of spiritual feelings.

    Loss can also come with growth, with learning, and with a kind of soul-searching that doesn’t happen so often in adults. And it comes with feelings of great tenderness for the children we’ll never get to know, and with fear for our other loved ones, and a thankfulness for their existence, and health. It can be confusingly positive at times, enough so that people want to cling to the experience. It takes courage to voice that in some small ways, sometimes, life can be better just after loss. But this is a common theme in trauma victims, and one that brings a lot of guilt when not spoken about.

    The intense emotions that make personal boundaries porous, can also make reality harder to interpret using familiar categories. I had moments of such intensity that I felt as if a beam of energy was flowing into my body from above and exiting through the palms of my hands. I know exactly which fantasy novel this image comes from, and I know it for an attempt of my mind to give structure to this new feeling that I’ve never had before. I can see how somebody else might interpret it as a sign sent by some intelligent energy. Narratives become important, crucial for making sense of what this means for us.

    You are building your own narrative, using writing to sift through conceptual space, and I get the feeling that you are experiencing just how sanitizing that can be. I took the same path, perhaps because I too don’t find religion meaningful. Others look for existing narratives, and when it comes to death, religion offers those more than any other source. It’s not my thing, but I have no trouble understanding it, just as I can understand the wave of positivity this person writes about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such a detailed and thought provoking post.

      Would you mind if I posted this as a guest post? It’s not something I’ve done before but this is such a good comment it should have a wider audience as you touch on some of the unspokens of grief.

      Like

      1. I would love that. Could you give me a bit of time to touch it up, though? I wrote it in one go but had a number of related thoughts just after, and was thinking about writing something up along these lines… but I didn’t know where to post it, because I want to keep my own blog work-related. It would be great to have it posted here, I really like your blog.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShoeboxofM says:

        That’s great. I can DM you my email address and once you’re good to go I can post it up with any details you would like (short bio etc).

        Like

  5. Kate Orson says:

    Hi, I think you raise some really interesting points in this. I think that many are comforted by religion and spirituality at times of grief. I read the blog you linked to and I think it’s fairly balanced between they grief and sadness they feel, and then their religion, and awareness of something deeper, and how it has been a learning and growing experience for them spiritually. What shocked me most about the piece was the title, because although I am a spiritual person, it’s hard to say that there is ‘something greater’ than life itself. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      It shocked me because it was so alien to me but as you say presented in a balanced and even way. That quote still disturbs me though.

      Like

  6. Annette says:

    I am not really sure what to say.

    If I am completely honest, I don’t quite understand why someone would use such a quote in these circumstances. It’s quite shocking. Like others have said, people find comfort in different ways. Some of those ways we will never understand ourselves, but will be completely normal to others. I actually feel quite horrified.

    We are all different and I shouldn’t comment on how people write about loss. Though I will say one thing that did strike me was the lack of rawness to the post itself.

    When I wrote about my rubbish experience in the postnatal ward (which cannot compare to this), I think I must have used up every tissue in the house and been blotchy red for days afterwards. The pent-up emotions, fear and everything else all just flooded out, unrestricted and ended up in a bit of a blob of wobberly writing. Readers got it.

    The post this couple have written feels different. Odd to me. Detached. Unemotional. I don’t know…. apologies if I have offended anyone with my comment.

    Thank you so much for linking up to the #DreamTeam. Another thought provoking post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      No offence taken. It baffled me too. The tone was alien to me, the account had an air of unreality to it.

      Liked by 1 person

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