2. Belief in God creates an atmosphere of denial for the grieving
I was one of the very few people at the funeral wearing black. Most were adorned in an array of colors. When I asked my sister-in-law about it, she said, “We have no reason to mourn, ever. The departed are in a better place, a level of heaven better than on earth. And we will see them again!” She continued, “One of the common phrases in prayers that we say is ‘and bless those who have cause to mourn, that they may be comforted.’ But that prayer has never sat well with me, because we never have cause to mourn.”
The entire theme of the service was that God called this baby girl home. His will and love caused her to die, and she will be reunited with her parents upon their death. Not only that, but the church authorities proclaimed over her mother, “Jane*, I proclaim over you that you will be able to raise Amelia* as in heaven as her mother!”
Several talks by multiple people all echoed the same thing — God’s will caused this, Amelia is happier now, your life will be better now (because God is wanting you to learn a lesson from this), and everything will be made right, redeemed, and even better in life after death.
All of the above uses god as a buffer for dealing with real pain. Religion casts a shadow over reality and places its followers in denial of the truth: A baby dying is tragic, always. The gaping hole she left in her parents’ hearts remains regardless of their faith. Religion fills that hole with sawdust and expects life to grow on top of it immediately. Reality fills that hole with the blood and tears of grief. Confront pain with a buffer, and it becomes infected, often ignored, and festers through the years only to be covered up by more sawdust. Cyclical dysfunction. Confront pain with reality, and the immediate effect feels more poignant, but only then can true healing can take place.
Amelia’s death is agonizing. Period. This is a terrible time for her parents. Period. This should not have happened. Period. And we are so sorry, soooo sorry Gavin and Jane for your pain. No “but,” no offering of hope, no distraction from reality. Just “We’re sorry.” Period.