Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Grieving" interfered with by "fanatical belief in the afterlife"?

On a blog where I have lately been commenting frequently, the topic was this given by the blogowner:

I remember during my clinical pastoral education studies watching a short film about a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I remember he had a wife and some teenaged children. In the face of his certain death he became fanatical about his belief in the afterlife and insisted that his family not be sad because he wasn’t really dying but transferring to a better place. They weren’t allowed to be sad or cry, even after he died. He insisted. We were shown the film as students because it was obvious the man was coping with his suffering by adopting a posture of denial with belief for its engine. It was sad to watch him and his family unwilling or unable to process their grief. Tragic.
This is what I wrote:

I have thought about this all morning because grief is still very acute in our house.
Anyone who has lost a child, and ours was 18 years old, knows that this grief will never be entirely over. I did not understand this about people previously. There is an elderly couple in our congregations whose son dropped dead in gymn class at the school where the father was school principal. He was the couple’s only son (there are two daughters). This must be how many decades ago now? When all the special days come and anniversaries of this and that everything is as raw as ever. Before it happened to us I would watch this from the outside and wonder why they are still not over this. Why the hugging and crying with other members in similar situations? I truly thought that this should be over by now.
But when someone is missing every Christmas, Easter, Birthday, death anniversary, Mother’s day, etc. they are still missing again and again, each time. The only thing is to be with people and get some distraction and companionship.
Our dead have been burned into our heart and brain and body. Our feelings for them, the things they said and did, the cars they drove, the clothes they wore, the pleasures and pains they had, the hugs they gave, the way they smelled… It is wired into us now, somewhere in the neurons. It does not go away. It is part of us, and the pain will be there.
It’s good to talk it out and cry it out, but it can’t be programmed.
And at the time of death and funeral, it may not at all be the right time. Then we need every bit of strength we can muster. I refused to cry then because crying gives me headaches and a headache puts me into bed and I could not afford to be in bed. Plus, there were hundreds of mourners, many young and inexperienced people and you end up being there for them. There was no time for grieving then. And every bit of spare energy was called upon for other things.
People looked at this and thought it was unnatural. They wanted to talk me through Kuebler-Ross. Good grief! We have all heard this a thousand times.
When the pastor came over, we just did a liturgy from the hymn book, the Apostle’s creed, the Lord’s prayer. What a relief to just fall back on that. What a gift. That’s all that was needed. “The Lord be with you.” “And also with you.” Amen.
Please, don’t make me cry.
But on Monday, I cried. It was a really good cry. I was with a women I did not know well, but she also lost a child and we walked along the North Saskatchewan river and sat on a bench in the sunlight and looked at downtown Edmonton. And we shared our difficulties and I cried. There was a time and a place and person. And this also was a gift. It could not be planned.
Others benefit from other things. I am just telling how it goes for me.

We are not really discussing the belief in the afterlife and resurrection here, though my guess is that to the blogowner it is simply a myth.  But since he likely does not believe in the afterlife and even though he calls himself a pastor, he needs to have some kind of view on the subject.  And this is what comes out.

And what is the pastor's purpose?  To facilitate the grieving I don't need him.  To tell my psychological platitudes I don't need him.

Just wanted to hang on to this item.


Steve Martin said...

You know full well the weight of grief and the real loss that happens when death rips a loved one from us.

I suspect that pain will never leave you as long as we reside in this veil of tears, called earth.

But one Day, He will dry evry tear, and that means your's. He will make our lives whole again. He will. He has promised it.

God bless you for trying to share the gospel with that "pastor" and with those who do not receive much encouragement there (his site).

Brigitte said...

That's it Steve, thanks.

But more that what it is for me, I am concerned about this whole teaching about "fanatical belief".

I am trying to look at it from both sides. Ok, there are these new songs "Don't cry for me..." And all these balloons and celebration of life...

You get this with secular people, too.

There is a point to make about having some somberness, and thinking about the loss and feeling it. And I thought this about
Christians, too. Sometimes, I'd be with Christians and they were so dry-eyed when making visits, that it did not seem right either. There was something right about the sympathetic tear...

Anyhow, the way this above was worded, it read to me more like a put-down of the Christian hope and consolation.

It's all a "myth" with the liberals, so this how you treat the hope of the resurrection. ? Pretty shocking to me.

Steve Martin said...


Sometimes I wonder about that "pastor".

It seems as though he is trying to drive people away from Christ and into themselves.

I thank God that hr is not pastoring a real church, and I'm sorry that he has so much influence on those who read his blog.

It's good that you, and I (once in a while) and some others put a good word in for Christ Jesus and His gospel.

Brigitte said...

I am not sure how much one can discuss anything with someone who does not seem to have a confession besides "we need to be inclusive and all institutions are bad". There is no basis, no footing. Or as Luther had it in one of our pieces on logic here: you can't discuss with people who don't agree with basic premises.

Steve Martin said...

Right. Maybe there is no discussing with him, but some of his readers may be hearing some of what we say over there.

Basically, that's why I still show up there.

Myrtle said...

Oh, Gitte, this was so beautiful!

Brigitte said...

:) You see, I wrote a little about it, dear.