People get pretty desperate to explain to grieving mothers why their terrible pain really isn’t bad or their tragedy isn’t as sad as it actually is. Most folks have lost (or never learned) the capacity to simply be with folks when times are bad.
I had a friend who was trying to adopt a baby and one day everyone got fouled up and she came over and sat on my sofa…one of my family members came along and asked us what we were doing and I said “We’re being not ok together”.
In the frantic scramble to solve the mysteries of the universe, people tell the moms guesses about what they think the baby’s purpose was. That is (almost) universally a bad idea and I seriously advise against it. I have cared for ~100 families a year for almost 8 years and in that time, I remember 3 where I thought I saw CLEAR Divine purpose right then – thier lives all HAVE Divine purpose, of course, but for most people, discerning the purpose of their child’s life is a process that will take years and hardly ever starts in the hospital. I think of the parents as being on sacred ground – and even though they are in MY hospital, it is THEIR sacred ground.
I will often tell people who during our conversations, I will not be making guesses about why their child died or what purpose God has in it…I tell them “this is private business between you and God and I will not trample on it. If you ever discover your child’s purpose and you want to share it with me, I will be honored to hear it and I have been chased down in parking lots with people screaming ‘Tammy, I know now why my baby died!!!!’ “
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to you that I have many times thought about the purposes of the lives of babies who die and normally, I am at peace with it. For me specifically, it comes down to very simple obedience; my job is to take good care of the babies and help their parent to see this as survivable – it is God’s job to unfold the baby’s purpose with the parents over time.
I have come to believe that there are almost as many reasons for death as there are babies who die and I’m likely to rarely ever know what it is, but I don’t have to. I’m perceiving the Universe with nothing more than a few pounds of goo in my skull to guide my limited understanding…it shouldn’t surprise me that there will be lots of things that I don’t understand – there is a God and it’s not me.
If, however, you want to make me annoyed, irritated, angry, disgusted, and frustrated beyond all human capacity to endure, say this:
“God needed another angel in Heaven”.
Lets stop for a second and unpack this one… (Humans and angels don’t become one another, but I understand that some folks use this idea as a comforting image and I won’t take it from them). They are saying that the Creator of the Universe is in Heaven and looking around and decides that despite the presence of every saved person (saint) who has died being there since the beginning of time, it is still so dull and empty that they all have no other choice than to find a nice baby in, oh, maybe Olathe, Kansas and get them to die so that Heaven will be better and the people in Kansas who loved that baby can just deal. That god sounds like a selfish bully and I wouldn’t even like him let alone worship him.
In reality, I don’t have the freedom to go postal when people say theologically questionable things that annoy me – I am hampered by a job-centered expectation to tolerate such things. Be rest assured that I maintain a sound exterior but I reserve the right to internally dislike this intensely.
The first draft of this post, I ended it like this “Honoring and acknowledging pain is so much more helpful that dismissing and spiritualizing it away.”
That ending (while true) makes it sound like I see no benefit in trying to discern God in the midst of this pain. Bereaved parents and grandparents need very brave people who are willing to hear out parents when they are trying to discern where God is in their pain but ones who are patient enough to let them come to their own conclusions in their own time.
(Please read the comments…these moms expressed what I was trying to say in vivid detail )