"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

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 its 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 family told me this, as I was lying 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?


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 scared 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 scared 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?  Its 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...eww) 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.  


Kim Porter said...

Yes, yes, and more yes. My mom is from Twin, and lives there now, and I originally heard your story after Garrett died. Kristin L. is my cousin. I have never commented until now, but I have followed you because you are the kind of chick I could be friends with in real life. :) I applaud you for having the guts (balls) to post this. It's real, it's important, and most of all it's CORRECT. You can believe all you want, but no one KNOWS what's to come, and what's beyond. There is not one single person who can tell you what to think, what to feel, and what to believe. If there is a God, I would hope that he created us to be smart enough to question everything, and come to our own conclusions based on all of the info he has given us in this world. Hugs to you and your family.

Grant Collard said...

Powerful. Thank you. So sorry for your loss.

Nicole said...

Oh mama. I just stumbled on your blog via someone who "liked" it on Facebook, but you put into words exactly what my thought process has been since I lost my daughter Gabriella. You're not alone.

"That providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling..." (Held by Natalie Grant) I don't think there's any greater sense of abandonment as when that happens. Especially when you're then surrounded by good outcomes that people just *have* to attribute to prayer/faith. As if I wasn't praying hard enough, as if you weren't. It's so hurtful.

So much love to you and your family.

Ashtyn Jade said...

Hello, Beautiful.

"I don't need saving, I need a shoulder to cry on." THIS is what truth and love and the Gospel are all about. I am so incredibly and ridiculously sorry that so few of us understand, grasp, and embrace what I wish would come so naturally to us.

I love you. I believe we all do. Whether your funny Mormon underwear is on your body or in your drawer. But we're human. And most of the time...? Pretty stupid.

While my words will always be far from adequate, I have two {usually showered} shoulders that are yours to claim whenever you might need them. Aaaand an impressive stash of chocolate.

snaphappy said...

I don't know you. I've never met you, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for saying what so many have wanted to, but couldn't. Or didn't. Thank you for sharing how you feel...in real life. I have no idea of the pain and loss you are feeling. I've never lost a child. It would be my worst nightmare as I'm sure it is yours. But I can only imagine. You are living the hell. You are so brave to wake up every day and continue on. And still find the strength to teach the rest of us so many wonderful things! You must be one amazing woman! Your Garrett is so lucky to have been able to call you Mom. I don't know you. But I love you. I would do anything to take this hell away from you, but I can't. I can't even say anything to make you feel better. But know that you are amazing!!! You are more compassionate and real than most Mormons who wear funny looking underwear. ;)

Natalie said...

I remember your crisis of faith from the BBC. I can never imagine the pain of losing a child.

I no longer believe in a God who cares what underwear I wear or if I drink coffee. I don't think our forever family is based on petty things like that. I believe in a God who cares if we are kind and generous, I believe families are forever because love is forever.

I don't think God caused your son to die so that you would start walking the straight and narrow, A God like that is cruel. And somebody who would tell you that is cruel as well.

Thank you so much for getting real something that I have not been able to do publicly.

Carolyn Cannistraro said...

Anyone who would believe in, and then worship completely, a God that would kill someone's child- regardless of the reason- is completely insane. Why would that be the person you decide to hold higher than all others. God is supposed to embody compassion and love not fear and revenge. Keep figuring out your true path, that's all you can do and that's all you should be expected to do. Being a good, loving person should not depend on wearing the right underwear or believing stories you have no way of verifying. It seems to me like being able to get through the day should be enough for you at this point in your life.

Missy said...

Love you V! When can we get together? I have something for you.

AshleyT said...

I had a lady tell me one Sunday at church after I shared about my loss and my journey, that she was glad my son died, I was stunned and speechless and she went on to say that she had a brother who died young and going through that loss made their family so close. After I walked away I remember thinking that was a horrible comment and so insensitive. I could never say anything like that to someone, ever. People can be so ignorant. I'm so sorry for your loss, your boy was so beautiful. I'm sorry for your anger and heartbreak. It's so exhausting isn't it? I lost my son Ryan in 2008. He was only four days old. It's been a long journey. The grieving process is tortuous and I often wondered why God would give me the worst trial imaginable. Especially since up to that point I had worked hard to do "everything right" spiritually, physically, mentally, etc. I wished so badly I could've lost a limb, or had a house fire, or (I'm ashamed to say it) lost someone else rather than my baby. After that sadness I grew angry and resentful. And so did my husband. Our grieving was never on the same page but when he was down I would try to lift him and vice verse and I know now he was perfect for me during such a nightmare. A lot of couples don't make it through such a hard trial and I'm so glad we did. It took several years for me to learn through my own personal journey that losing Ryan was not a punishment from God. After telling Him many times how mad I was at him I realized how silly I was being. I have hope that I'll be with Ryan again. No one can take that hope from me because that's what keeps me going. And that's what kept me alive back in 2008. The creator of all, I believe, is a loving God, and just, and though I'm far from perfect I hope He will have mercy and let me have my Ryan forever. It's easy to give up, especially when we are angry, but I'm going to try as hard I can to be the best person I can be because even if there is a small percentage of a chance that what the church says is true, I'm willing to take that chance than not, and then be sorry later. Ryan had a baby blessing before he passed in the hospital given by my husband and it said that Ryan performed all of his duties well before this life and that God was pleased with his efforts, and that he was too valiant to live in this world of sin, that he only needed a body. In my heart I feel that that's true, I don't have evidence though. But I felt his strong spirit as I held him during that. From one mother of an angel to another, take care of yourself.

Meg Kleckner said...

Love you friend. I'm here if u ever need a shoulder

Botts said...

Hi. I don't know you. I was linked here through Facebook. My heart goes out to you. My brother lost a full term baby because Chris wasn't eligible for surgery his heart was beyond repair. It was a valve issue. It was and is devastating! He lived for 8 days and died in my brother's home surrounded by him and his wife and 5 other kids.

But, what I wanted to say is that your faith crisis is shared by myself. You can go to my blog and read what happened to me and the LDS Church. It is devastating, and I hesitate to say anything to you as you are already going through a tremendous loss. But, maybe it will help you, I don't know. Please forgive me for intruding and I only hope to be of help.

With love.

Mommyof2Miracles said...

Anyone who tells you that God took your son away from you to punish you is wrong. God had a reason for taking Garrett, but it was nothing you could control and nothing that you did. I don't know why we lose people we love or why God would take away part of a mother's heart. All I know is that God is there for you in your pain. The church has nothing to do with your personal relationship with God. You can walk out of church and never return. That will not change your salvation if you have a personal relationship with God. I think it may be time for you to evaluate your church and those around you. I'm not Mormon and don't know what the church teaches. What I do know is that my church would never tell me my salvation was based on tithing or any other behavior. It is completely normal to question your faith when you have the unimaginable happen to you. I will pray that you are able to walk through your faith and come to a new relationship with God and a good relationship with your religion.

Janice and Jessica said...

I have followed your instagram and became "acquainted" with you wayyyy back when you were pregnant with Lauren on BBC. I was an ex-mormon even then, but never said anything negative against the church. I did comment on your blog a couple of times when you have had different struggles trying to be supportive.

I remember learning of the death of your precious son and even after losing my father and husband in 2014 I knew that my pain was nothing compared to what your pain was and would be.

My mother passed unexpectedly this year also. I have been suicidal to be honest. I can't even imagine losing my child.

Sorry for the word vomit, but even the words "have a blessed day" set me on edge. I wish people would say nothing vs trying to justify a reason for losing a loved one.

I know I am rambling, but I think about you almost daily and send peaceful thoughts across the miles. I wish there was something more to say, but I guess just like my own situation one can only take it second by second.

I hope you find peace in whichever path you choose. There are plenty of us out here that will stand by and support you.

Hugs and Love