Monday, December 21, 2015

Real and Dirty

A million things contribute to making life exceptionally difficult after your child dies.  Being judged and criticized for how you handle life makes it a million and one.  I have never been more scrutinized than I have been in the last seventeen months since our family went through the worst trial we can imagine ever going through, something that most families will never experience. 

I hate comparing trials because they range a lot on the scale of bad-ness.  What's terrible to one person may not be as bad to another person.  We handle things differently.  We have different strengths, different weaknesses, and we are all cut from entirely different cloths.  But the one trial that affects most people in the same way, is the death of a child.  There is no escaping the devastating wake that it leaves, or the bone crushing loss of self that a parent experiences when they literally lose a piece of their heart.  There is no pain like it in the entire universe and that's why most people don't even include child loss in the normal categories of bereavement.  It belongs to a category all it's own, and this is something I could not understand until Garrett died.  Even when one of my best friends lost her four year old son a few months before, and I "thought" I understood what she was going through, it wasn't until Garrett died that I realized how little I actually understood.  In fact, I barely understood any of it.  I've apologized to her countless times for acting like I knew what she was going through because "my brother died and I had children of my own so I knew what that kind of pain could feel like".  Oh, how little I knew but how much I learned a few months later. 

All my life I was told that challenges in life would be much harder to bear without the true Gospel to lean on.  I always figured that was true, until my brother was killed in a car accident.  Things really started to change for me then, and I spent the next few years in and out of a very significant crisis of faith.  There's a lot more to my background that I won't go into because it's very personal and embarrassing, but my life has been difficult.  Very difficult at times, and my brother's death was the beginning of the new lens in which I saw life. 

My experience since Garrett's death has been that my religion has made it a lot harder.  A lot.  There are many reasons for this and I know it isn't the same for everyone, but my life has been complicated even more BECAUSE of my religion.  In the year and a half since Garrett died, I've thought about leaving this church at least a thousand times.  I've sincerely contemplated it and not because I'm bitter and angry, but because I see things so differently now.  I will never, ever see anything the same way as I did before he died.

I've disappointed many people since his death.  When he died, I was in a terrible place spiritually.  I was on the verge of leaving the church to which I've belonged my entire life.  I was a moment away from taking my family and heading for the hills.  Then Garrett died, and I was scared.  In the hospital as he was dying, I was told by different friends and family members that I needed to change my life and that this was my "wake up call".  At the time, I was so shaken that I didn't stop to realize how terrible it was to be told those things....as my son was dying.  "If you want Garrett to be yours in the next life, you better change how you're living."  My own mother told me this, as I was laying in the bed stroking the forehead of my dying child.  The insensitivity of other people continues to astound me, as I have been told this same thing at least a hundred times since losing him.

Looking back on it, I wonder what it was that was so exceptionally bad that God would take my child to give me a "wake up call"?  I disagreed with certain church policies.  I didn't gush over prophets and apostles, and I had stopped wearing my Mormon underwear a long time before.  But apparently, disagreeing and my choice in underwear warranted God ripping my child from me.  It was all to "shake me" because I had gone off the deep-end, right?  I advocated for women's rights within the church, so naturally God would inflict the most heinous kind of torture a person can experience; finding their child face down in a swimming pool, yanking his lifeless, grey, and rubbery body from the water, flipping him upside down to drain the water from his lungs, perform CPR for endless minutes, and then, watch him die hours later.  It all makes sense, right?

Wrong.

But the thing is, I bought into it right away.  We hadn't even left the hospital before I was inwardly repenting to God of all my wrong doings and praying for forgiveness.  It's sick.  I was so scarred of being separated from my child for eternity that I bought into each scare tactic hook, line, and sinker.  I was repenting of transgressions that were not even transgressions, because people scarred me into doing so.  There is no worse fear imaginable than that of being separated from your children forever.  And for months, I've listened to people tell me that "I have to stay on the Straight and Narrow or else...." 

What, pray tell, it the Straight and Narrow?  It's interpretation is completely subjective.

 I'm rambling now.  But I'm tired of being told I'm doing it all wrong, or that I'm not strong enough, or that I'm setting my family up for failure because we don't pay tithing anymore and depending on my mood and the current state of my relationship with The Almighty (i.e. how angry I am at him on any given day), there is a direct correlation to whether or not I'm sporting my Mormon underwear.  Because after all, my eternal salvation and the likelihood of ever seeing my son again is tied into what I wear underneath my clothing and how much money we fork over to The Church. (Mind you, God already took 20% of our life and we are in debt up to our eye balls for expenses related to Garrett's death and everything we've gone through since then.  But yeah, I should write that check each month because The Church says I have to or I won't be with my child again.)

Oh geez.  Life gets messy when your child dies.  I'm trying, but apparently I'm not trying hard enough, or I'm not trying in the right kind of way.  I'm doing something wrong because things are so difficult for our family...still.  The Gospel is supposed to make things easier, right?  It's supposed to sustain you during hardships, right?  Or is the expectation and threat that goes along with that sustenance actually debilitating and damaging?  It's harming me and it's harming my family.  Families "can" be together forever.  People fail to recognize the tiny word in the middle of the title.  Can.  There is a huge fat clause attached to it that says in fine print (your family can be together again if.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................)

Whew, that is a lot of fine print.  I'm not really into the fine print these days because I remember the time when my sons was given numerous priesthood blessings and my children spent sixteen hours praying for him to live, and then he died.  And then they go to church and are filled with amazing stories about so and so's grandma being healed of cancer or so and so's dad surviving a car accident, or Jesus healing people, but not healing others.  And we prayed so hard for Garrett to live, and he died.  And I am left with four incredibly broken children and a husband whom I don't recognize anymore and I'm supposed to have absolute answers for them.  Because families are forever.  And God heals.  And the church is true.  And yada yada yada. 

It's exhausting and I'm tired of the charade because honestly, I don't know what's up and what's down.  I don't know what's true, I have no answers, and you know what?  NEITHER DO YOU.  Stop telling me that you "know" that such and such is true, because at the end of the day, all you have is a hope that what you believe in is true.  Please don't tell the bereaved mother who tends to her oh-so-broken family day after day after day that if she had more faith, things wouldn't be so shitty.  Or that if she read her scriptures more or prayed more (mind you, to a God she doesn't trust) that she would be sustained.  It doesn't work that way, and until you walk this same path, you cannot say that it does.

I'm glad for you, the person who has trials and overcomes them through faith.  But you know what?  It doesn't work like that for everyone.  So rather than criticize someone who struggles (albeit lovingly criticizing...gag...spit...ew) why don't you just put your arm around them and be a real friend and not mention anything about church or God unless it's to say "This is a really shitty thing God is putting you through".  Because that is the only thing someone like me needs to hear right now, and you don't need to always be a missionary.  I don't need saving, I need a shoulder to cry on who will validate how bad things really are.  Because they are really, really bad.  



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