When people ask me how the church responded to Gabriel's death, I'm left saying that I wish Anglicans said Kaddish. I wish we had institutionalized mourning rituals after the funeral. I wished we understood that grief didn't end after the funeral, in fact it only, barely, begins then. I wish the church understood that grief is such a long journey, and the death of your child will smart for years. I wish people could understand that every Sunday, when the children come to the front for the Children's time, I see children who would be my Gabe's age, and in that moment, I lose him all over again. I wish they would understand that part of my heart is in heaven, and every day, I still miss my baby. It will always hurt, just a bit, that he is not here with me.
I often remark, that it was the Christians who understood how we felt about Gabe's death, right after he died. In the sense that they understood that death was not, is not, and will never be the end of life, in the sense that they both believed and shared in the power of the Resurrection, they had the power to bring us tremendous comfort.
And then, last spring, I realized that my friends without faith were actually better at staying in touch, better at being kind, better at abiding. Most (not all) of our friends who would call themselves Christians, had moved on. In fact, one got the feeling that they were looking at us, wondering why we were still sobbing in church, wondering why we weren't over this already. After all, Gabe is in heaven, why on earth would we be sad?
My friends without faith understood that there was nothing they could say or do to make this better, that there was no better, so they just held my hand. They had no platitudes, no promises to bring to the table. There were no bible stories and quotes on their lips. (1)They only had themselves. And so when they had to bring comfort, they brought themselves. Sitting with us. Holding our hands. Knowing there was nothing they could say to make us better.
And I was perplexed. This didn't seem to make sense. It seems counter-intuitive. It is all the more bewildering and all the more painful because it seems to me, church should be the place for the grieving, the broken, the walking wounded. It should be the safe place, the place where we are all a wonderful mess. How in the world did I find the only church in the world with all the perfect, put together, highly functional people in the world? How in the world did I find the only church where every family has 2.5 kids, a mum a dad and a dog? How in the world can Mr. Spit and I be the only broken, left-out ones? How can we be the only ones that hold broken dreams and not much else?
It is a truth that on the 11th of December, Mr. Spit and I turned inward. We faced each other, and I think, to some extent, we shut out the world - and the church. I could tell you when it started, I could tell you when we made the decision, I could tell you why - it was because of a terrible hurt. We did hide our pain, from those at church. Perhaps they simply have not realized that the death of a child goes on and on, and it is a terribly long time before you are able, much less willing to join in a community of normal, un-broken people. Perhaps they were not aware of the need for gentleness and mercy and care in their dealings with us, long after the funeral. Perhaps they didn't know we no longer had voices, we were mute in our pain and anguish. Perhaps they did not know the grieving are struck dumb by pain and cannot speak their needs.
You, my blog friends, have read about the pain, my husband has heard it, and that's really it. A few at church have been invited to read the blog, to a greater or lesser degree. But for the most part, I have built walls around my pain, not bridges into it. I have realized, when our church talks about family, they don't mean Mr. Spit and I. We aren't a family. When they talk about the mission field, when they talk about sphere's of influence, or who they serve, they don't mean Mr. Spit and I. We don't have children. We are those grieving people at the front of the church, on the gospel side. They don't know what to do with us. And I was, and am perhaps still am, to busy grieving to educate others about perinatal death. I am to broken to teach the church about the need to reach out. The need to remember the grieving and the broken. The need to honour the small anniversaries, and the big ones. Mr. Spit and I walked through Advent alone. Gabe's due date is coming, and we will be alone for that too. Perhaps if you have not been here, you simply don't know. You can't know.
And so, I go back to wishing that the Anglicans said Kaddish. Not just on the 30 days after Gabe's death, but on the anniversary. I wish that my entire church came together for mourning. I wish that I didn't have to explain to someone why I wanted to put the flowers on the Altar the week after the 10th. I wish that we could have stood up together, and recited God's promise, that we could have been, just for a moment, united in our grief. That just for a moment, we wouldn't have felt so left out, so useless, so worthless. That just for a moment we wouldn't have had to defend our right to mourn and grieve, our right to be wounded and sad.
They would have known what to do with us. A bridge into grief.
(1)And a special thanks to the person who told us the story of David's son that died, as a result of his father's sin - can't tell you how much better that made me feel!