The other day I posted this article about things not to say to someone who has lost a child. The article can be very difficult for most Christians to read, it even claims to be. It paints God in a picture you don’t like to see. You see a loving god who cares for you even in the toughest of times. Bereaved parents don’t always see this same god. We see a god who stole our child away from us, or at least stood by and let it happen. We see an untrustworthy god, because if He can take the most precious thing to us, what else can He take? Will He take another child? He can – some parents have lost more than one child.
After I posted the article my worry wasn’t actually offending some thin-skinned Christians who don’t understand different points of view, it was more hurting the feelings of some of the precious people in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I have an amazing church family who has seen me in my darkest hour and is with me as I walk this road. I love them so much and I don’t know what I would do without them. I can now say I greatly appreciate their words and gestures of comfort. But, that was not always so. Trust me, small gestures, like a card, can mean so much – I have saved every card someone has sent me in regards to Phoenix.
I would also like to add that this article seems to be written by a mother who is very new and raw in her grief. So, while I have felt and said every single thing she wrote I do not feel as intensely about it as she does – well at least at this moment. And finally, while some of the platitudes listed are true a bereaved parent may not want to hear them, because, yes they feel like very hurtful comments even though you feel like you are bringing peace. Comments listed in the article need to be reserved for the right time. A child’s funeral is not the time or place. But, if you are close to the parent and one day you guys are talking… yeah that would be the appropriate time to offer some words of encouragement. Honestly, though, sometimes the best thing you can say is, “I love you, I am so sorry. I am bringing tacos over.”
I would like to address some of the mean and hurtful things said to me when I posted this article . I will start with the most upsetting.
1. I understand your loss because I lost someone very close to me. That’s a big fat NOPE! No, you don’t understand – child loss is not even comparable to any other type of loss. It is extremely hurtful and rude to say such a thing to a parent who has lost a child. I have not lost a spouse or a parent, but bereaved parents who have had such a loss have said that the pain of losing a child is much much worse than that of a spouse or a parent. I am not denying your pain because you pain is very real. And, I have no interest in getting in a grief measuring contest with you. It’s hard enjoying spending time with your children because your loved one isn’t there to share that experience? Try that with your surviving children. Trust me, it’s just different and you don’t understand my pain. Until you have seen your child’s lifeless body laying face down in her own puke you don’t understand. Until you see your husband screaming in the road because he got the worse phone call of his life you don’t understand. Until the mortician places your child’s cold body in your arms and you sing to her for the last time you don’t understand. Until you watch the father of your child tuck your baby in one last time and close the lid to her coffin you don’t understand. Until you have lost your voice from screaming you don’t understand. Until you have to pick up your child’s bedding from a police station and clean her puke off the bedding you don’t understand. Until you have to live every day with a piece of your heart ripped from your chest you don’t understand. I could go on, but I am hoping you get the point.
2. This article will hurt some feelings and that’s not okay. Umm?? So are you saying your feelings outweigh mine? Because my feelings were hurt when you said all these things.
3. Some of the things grieving people don’t want to hear are in the Bible and they are true. Okay,first this article is specifically about grieving parents (see number 1) not just ‘people’. Second, you are right these things are in the Bible and they are true, but that doesn’t mean they need to be said to a parent who is so raw in their grief that they can’t tell up from down. You are doing more harm than good.
4. He is in control and knows what is best and this brings about good things. So the best thing was for my baby to die?
5. God promises we can get through it and doesn’t mean for us to lose our happiness or faith. Yes, eventually grief changes over time and I guess for those who don’t get it can call it getting through. And, yes happiness does come back, but it will never look the same. I will never be the same person I was before Phoenix died. It’s pretty hard to have faith in a god, who I feel like, picked me up, threw me in the air and let me land on my head and then said, “Pick yourself up.” Have I truly lost my faith? No. But, that doesn’t mean I am not careful with my heart.
6. Sadness is not His doing. That doesn’t change the way I feel. That doesn’t change the way it looks either.
7. The author’s feelings are understandable but not excusable. This makes God look bad. Who are you to judge? If she did not say how she truly felt she would be lying to herself, to others and to God. God’s reputation was not hurt by one little blog post. People have been mad at God for thousands of years. Saying her feeling didn’t suddenly make people realize they were mad at God – they already were. We don’t know His will or His plan, so yes we think the plan is sucky. We won’t know why He does what He does until we meet Him.
8. Jesus is full of compassion, love, kindness and grace. He is so good to us. This comes back to 2 things. 1. Timing! Do not tell a grieving parent God is full of love. YOU ARE NOT HELPING YOU ARE HURTING. 2. A grieving parent does not see the same loving God that you do. You can’t take God and stuff Him in a love shaped box and expect grieving parents to slap on a smile and say, “you are so right, my loving God took my child for the greater good.” Not going to happen. The most you are going to get is, “My child died, I don’t why. One day, when my arms are full again, I will.”
9. Am I at fault for saying God is much better than the writer makes him out to be? Yes and No. You have a right to your feelings and you have expressed them very freely. But, the author has a right to her feelings as well. I have a right to my feelings and I have felt exactly what the author wrote. Every single word. Losing a child is the worst possible situation a parent can find themselves in. We do not see the same god you see. This does not make Him anymore or less than He is.
10. I have felt that way before, but I didn’t write it out for the world to see because that’s dishonoring Him. So, does not writing it out make you superior? Cause that’s the way I feel when you say things like that. Or, maybe, it’s more dishonoring to God by lying about how I truly feel about Him. He knows how I feel. He is much bigger than my feelings. He doesn’t need crusaders defending His honor. He is all powerful. Do you really want to know what brings dishonor to God and doubt in people’s hearts? Christians who don’t know when to be quiet and just love on people. One of the most talked about subjects at my child loss support group is ‘mean things Christians have said to me.’ It is truly heartbreaking to hear some of the things said. I have to force myself not to defend the Christian, which is my natural response, but instead, I listen and love. And, those who claim to be Christians have judged me and put me on the defensive instead of simply loving on me.
My viewpoint on faith, love and God changes, sometimes daily. It is not the same as it is not 2 years ago, and will not be the same in 2 years from now. God created us with a wide variety of feelings and emotions. Should we not explore these feelings? Should we lie and say, “Even though my baby is dead I am so happy in God?” I am not saying that child loss can’t bring people close to God, but that wasn’t my experience. I needed a break. I stopped going to church for weeks. I still struggle singing along during worship. But, if I am not honest about how I feel I am lying and that doesn’t do anybody, people of faith or not, any good. That is why I post articles about angry grieving parents and why I write about the wide range of emotions I feel. God gave me love and anger, shouldn’t I write about both?
Allen CalkinsMay 24, 2016
The more tragic the circumstances of the death of a loved one, the LESS that should be said by somebody trying to be supportive. Silence IS awkward. It makes us nervous, and makes some feel compelled to break the silence; which is when the most dumb things are nervously said. But presence is so much important than words, the more tragic the more true. If a friend cannot be more quiet than chatty they should send a card and stay home.
Cheryl WhittenMay 25, 2016
I can relate to many of the things that you wrote. Each person’s journey through grief is unique, but when Tyson was killed a week before his 20th birthday, I truly felt that I had been slam dunked by God. It was months before I could attend church. Years before I could sit through a service without seething in anger. I found it hard to pray. Because I was hurt and angry with God. It has been eight years and I have found healing in time. There are still days when grief raises it’s head. But I am now able to look at pictures of Tyson and smile. One thing I feel certain of… The God that I serve is a loving Father who is big enough to handle our anger when we are in the midst of grief. I believe that He looks at our angry tears as a father looks at a tired, sad, angry toddler. Seeing our hurt and anger, His only desire is to hold us close until we feel better.
Freya RemmerOctober 7, 2016
Good job, Beth. I think this is one of the best things you’ve written!!!!