Christian-ese and Grief: Why Those Platitudes Don’t Help The Mourning
After the unexpected death of our son, Turner, everything I knew and felt about my faith and God was shattered. How could my Heavenly Father, who I believe is good and loving, ever want one of his children to experience the death of one of their children? Where was God when I was praying and pleading with Him to save my son? Where was God when I told Him I had enough faith and knew he could miraculously heal my son? Where was he when I begged for a miracle?
When we got home from the hospital, completely empty-handed and shattered, all the condolences, comments, and advice started pouring in. I was surprised to feel that some comments hurt me to my core. The comments I struggled to hear the most were the Christian based condolences. These were platitudes and comments I have used before to help console other people as well. Now being on the receiving side the weight of these words and the meaning behind them were very different especially after having my faith shattered.
Platitudes are designed to put a silver lining or an explanation on something. When dealing with the death of a child there is no silver lining. There is no explanation that will ever be good enough for why our child died.
I don’t claim to speak for all grieving Christian parents, as I know some don’t feel this way. Everyone processes grief differently. However, I have spoken to so many parents who do feel this way but don’t want to verbalize the hurt in fear of offending others. As a grieving Christian mother, and from one Christian to another, I ask you to really take a look at just a few of these platitudes and comments.
1) God only takes the best/God needed another angel
First, I don’t believe in a God that ”takes” people or “needs angels”. And he certainly doesn’t need children and babies as those angels. Second, being told that your child was so ”good” that God “took them from you” and caused their death, this heartbreak, and gut-wrenching pain you feel every day, only makes it hurt worse. How would you feel if one of your children died and my explanation and words of comfort were that your child was so good that they needed to pass away? We live as mortals on earth and part of this life is death. Some people live long lives, while others, like my son, pass away very early on in their life. My son didn’t die because God needed him as an angel. My son died because everyone who will ever live on this earth will pass away. My son passed away much earlier than most people and earlier than what I ever planned and prepared for. That’s what happened.
2) He/she is in a better place
I think this one should be self-explanatory. To a parent, there is no better place for our child than here on earth with us. I know where my son is and where he resides now, but I didn’t plan to bring him into the world and raise him with the hopes that I would have to experience my life without him. Further, there is no better place for a child than in the loving arms of the parents who miss them.
3) One day you’ll see him/her again
As a Christian I believe in an afterlife and in heaven and that I’ll be reunited with my son one day. The key words there is ”one day”. I cling to this hope that I will see him one day, but I never thought I’d have to wait until I die in order to be with one of my children. “One day” seems forever away when your child dies. Yes, I’m glad I have the belief that I will see him one day, but I want that day to be today and every day.
4) Now you have an angel watching over you
To be told that our child is now watching over us is nothing a parent wants to hear. They are supposed to be here with US watching over them not the other way around. No parent I know of wants their child watching over them instead of us taking care of them.
There are so many other Christian platitudes that I received and will more than likely continue to receive since my son’s death. These are just a few that hurt the most. These platitudes aren’t designed to help the grieved, they are actually designed to help the person trying to comfort the grieved. To a grieving parent, there will never be a good enough explanation for the death of a child.
And that is ok.
We don’t need people to explain or fix our child’s death for us. What we need is people to be understanding and patient and know our lives are forever changed. And for Christian parents, it might take some time for them to regain their faith and trust in God and that’s ok. Just lean into us, be with us, mourn with us and instead of giving these platitudes just simply say “I’m so sorry. I can only imagine the devastation you feel. I am here for you always.”
Don’t explain away our pain.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burden