Stupid Theology

Please tell me they didn’t just say that

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 may tell people during our conversations (if the circumstances are appropriate and our conversation goes in this direction because for most it may not) that I will not be making guesses about why their child died or what purpose God has in it…I believe that this is private business between them and God and I will not trample on their sacred ground. If you ever find meaning in this and you want to share it with me, I will be honored to hear it. 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 pondered the purposes of the lives of babies who die and I am usually at peace with it. For me specifically, it comes down to very simple obedience;  my job is to take good care of the babies/moms and help parents 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 with it.  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 )


  1. Char

    Well said, Tammy.
    I used to think that when people said things like “God needed another angel in Heaven” or “You’re young, you have time to have others”, or even just “I’m sure there was a reason this all happened” it was okay because I gave others the benefit of ignorance or their lack of emotional understanding. As time passes, however, it’s getting harder and harder to tolerate those comments and just let them roll off my back like I used to. Not because I don’t think they mean well, but I want to be the one to make those conclusions FOR MYSELF if and when the time comes. I’ve lost my babies and the ability to raise them as they grow up, I wish others would give me the opportunity to make my own conclusions, or speculations, or trains of thought, etc… Let ME decide WHY this happened. Please please just give me that untainted opportunity in the midst of the pain of their lives being taken away from mine. I think now when I interact with others that have gone through what I have, or are preparing to do just that, I learn to give them a shoulder to cry on (if they want it), or an outlet to vent to and just shut up and listen. That is all. xoxo

  2. Baby Jo

    Tammy, as you know, this was a major hurdle that caused me great anger. Between the “God needed another angel” it was “God’s will to make you stronger”, “Maybe there was something wrong with her and he saved her from a life of pain”, all those, and sooo many more that have been said since. I just wish people would understand, first, it is not their place to tell me WHY God took my child, in fact, I don’t believe he took her, I think the day Jolene died, he was in heaven crying and sobbing and also screaming “no”. What people don’t realize, is when they try to identify how or why God has taken our baby, all they do is cause me to get more angry. It does not help. It doesn’t help to have someone preach to me about how I should just believe that she is in a better place, and that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, and all those lines of hogwash. I truly do believe sometimes, accidents happen-not intended by God in no means. If there is one thing I hope people that have not experienced the personal tragedy of holding their dead baby in their arms get-is sometimes, its just better to not say anything at all. Sometimes, its just better to let that Mom ball her eyes out, scream at the top of her lungs, and be angry, hurt, upset, bitter, sad without interfering with her emotions or trying to tell her she is wrong for feeling the way she does. I just wish some people would stop arguing with me on how I feel, and just let me be. Let me and my family work through this horrible tragedy, and if you want to help, then just say nothing at all. Just let us be…. Let us feel whatever way we feel is right. Let us question the God we believe in. Let us have the choice to make the decision on why our baby died. If they don’t agree, it doesn’t matter-it wasn’t their baby… It wasn’t their tragedy, it wasn’t their loss, it wasn’t their grief. She wasn’t theirs. She was ours. Her spirit is ours. She is ours to grieve over in whatever way we choose-including questioning God’s role in the whole thing…

  3. Char &Baby Jo Momma…you GO …tell it sistahs.

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