I fully realize that everyone who has ever said an idiotic comment to anyone who has experienced a loss, especially the loss of a child, means well. But that does not recuse them from guilt. Why? Because I already need to forgive the world for cheating me out of my son and I don’t have the energy to make people who make me feel bad feel better just because they didn’t mean to.
Sometimes, the commenter is uncomfortable and speaking first to assuage personal discomfort. Sometimes he or she actually feels guilt over my pain and wants to find a “silver lining.” I think a lot of parents of healthy, living children feel these ways towards us. The very fact that something so terrible, and so rare – the thing they fear the most— has happened to us, makes us scary and threatening, because it is hard to separate us from the event. So they want to explain it. Even if they don’t say, or even explicitly feel it, they can’t overcome their own cognitive dissonance – sex and pregnancy equals birth not death – without pedantry. Maybe I’m doing that right now – taking hurtful comments and trying to make a “teaching moment” out of them.
But I’m not forcing anyone to read it. I’m not even sending out a sympathy card or an email, which in the abstract you could choose to ignore but obviously wouldn’t.
So, my biggest point here is that I think comments meant to help me find meaning in Natan’s death, if I’m not talking about it and I haven’t asked, are self-centered and wrong. Don’t ask me to subscribe to your way of making meaning in your life. Clearly, I am not a person who believes in witnessing. I am a Jew, who finds her epistemology in ritual and the Torah, and doesn’t think there is one central message from G-d at all. Except for maybe in Hillel’s one-footed explanation, “what you hate, don’t do to others.”
I don’t need to make meaning of my loss. Natan’s death is the fifth really bad thing I have experienced. I made my peace with G-d and metaphysics after those events. I understand as much as I can about the greater cosmic significance of Natan’s death. I know I need to cope with it and grieve. I don’t need to consider how other people think I’m progressing at it. I think I can actually “cope” with his death better than a lot of people I know. But that has nothing to do with why it happened, nor did G-d do this to me because I could handle it. If I believed that particular deaths and pain were part of any grand plan, or test, I would go insane with anger and resentment. I expressed it succinctly enough when a friend told me after my first hurt years ago, that it was all part of G-d’s plan. I said, “Well, f— him then, he can go to hell.” That’s not blasphemy because I didn’t believe it in the first place. Plans are for human beings. I only know things that can be expressed in words, sounds, and human sight. My cat doesn’t understand why I wash dishes, and I don’t understand why people die. Both might be “good,” but I won’t know what that means while I’m in this world.
I find peace in knowing that I have no idea what this is about. But I do agree with Aurelia, over at “No Matter How Small,” that people could prevent it. A friend with some knowledge in this field told me that pre-term labor is increasing in the U.S. but researchers are having a lot of trouble finding funding to prevent it. That confirms my feelings expressed way back in this post.