Monday, 19 November 2012

Grieving as an Atheist, Part 2

I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that when I had an appointment at the hospital pertaining to my recent miscarriage, I was given some leaflets that had religious style poems on them about the heartbreak and tragedy of miscarriage.

They didn't help. They made me sad, and angry, and on a wider level, cross that there is is assumption of religiosity in Irish society. People are reasonably tolerant of "other" religions than Catholocism, in comparison to their level of tolerance of atheism or even real agnosticism (as opposed to the vague, spiritualist/deist version of agnosticism espoused by a lot of people here who are angry with the Catholic church over recent scandals, and want to use contraception and have sex before marriage, but otherwise still hold similar beliefs to the population who declare themselves Catholic).People assume that you're a Christian of some kind, or at least that you believe in a god. Atheism is a far more alien concept to most Irish people than Islam.

I want to share the poems here; I want to explain why I find them offensive, even though the gesture was well intended.

This is the worst of them. The line "Don't try to question God" is particularly offensive and self-serving. What person suffering a tragedy wouldn't question why, of god or nature or the universe or chaos theory, why did this terrible thing have to happen to ME? Why did I have to suffer this loss, this tragedy, this heartache?

I don't believe in Jesus, I don't believe that there is a man in the sky singing my baby a lullaby. If I did believe in an all-powerful god, I certainly wouldn't choose to suffer this heartbreak unquestioningly, content in the belief that he was looking after my baby.

"Don't think he is unkind" - why not?  Surely it is unkind to make people to suffer tragedy and loss? Surely if he was omniescent and lives forever then he could have waited a while for my precious baby - oh wait, there I go, questioning Him, and I'm not supposed to do that (/sarcasm).

They don't want questions, because to question when faced with tragedy might result in figuring out the truth: that there is no god, no Jesus, no little baby angel in the sky. And that is sad, so very, very sad. But to know it would remove the power the priests have over the ordinary people. So even when your instinct is to rage against the universe, and its creator if you believe in one, they don't want that.

This one starts off all right. I can relate to the first paragraph very easily, and the first half of the second paragraph. It all goes downhill from there, however.

A parent's pain turns into a plea for the soul of the unborn child to "intercede for us at God's throne" - what, so we don't have to spend quite as much time in purgatory paying for our massive sins (like questioning god perhaps - see above) before we meet again???

I am sure the idea that one day "We will meet" gives comfort to many during this sad time. But not universally: it does not help me and presuming that it does helps me even less.

This one is not as offensive as the previous two. It refers to love, comfort and courage - all things which I need to get through this time. The angel described might "watch out for you in all the things you do" but it isn't interventionist at least.

In a secular, non-religious way, I will always have my baby with me, in the sense that I will never forget, I will always carry the sadness as well as the wondering with me.

So while this one is religious, it isn't offensive as such. It doesn't make me angry.

It doesn't make it worse.

A selection of mismatched lines here. The first - "I did not die young. I lived my span of life within your body, and within your love." is beautiful.It is non-religious. The only thing is relates to is the heartbreak that a woman who has suffered a miscarriage feels. It brought tears to my eyes, but good tears. The type of tears that come with dealing with sadness.

The two lines which follow also resonate with me. We did love this child, or at least the potential they had. We have named her, and we will always think of that baby.

And even to "Live in love" to honour her...well, I can relate to that sentiment as well, though it starts to lean toward religion again.

Finally, we return to "We shall meet again" and the baby sitting with god and waiting for us.

It started so well, and yet it descended into the kind of religious phrasing that made me angry. It's a pity.

Perhaps as time goes on I will edit or write some new poems, that describe the heartbreak of losing my baby, without the religious angle. Because although they were given with the aim of making me feel better, and cope better, they made me angry. They didn't help me through my grief, they hindered it. And others are surely finding the same thing.

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