***I want to start this post by asking for understanding from anyone who is devout to a particular religion. It is not my intent to start a debate, but I do not believe in a higher power despite being raised in a moderately religious household. If this topic causes you any negative feelings or if you feel the need to "save" me, I ask that you please do not continuing reading. I will strive to be respectful in how I express myself, but this blog is for my continued struggle and I have to be who I am. I hide it almost every day to avoid conflict and debate and out of respect for those closest to me that believe, but not today. Those niceties are rarely given to me. You can poke holes in my theories and ask me why as many times as you want. But this is me. Thanks. ***
My husband recently forwarded an article from the Huffington Post about a woman who lost her three month old and is an atheist. I found myself silently nodding my head and thanking the author while reading it. There are so many emotions when you are grieving. Add every day stresses and events and it is even tougher; the (hopefully) occasional inconsiderate/impatient/non-understanding friend or family member, continued societal taboos on talking about child death, etc. But for me, and this is my personal choice, not believing in a higher power makes this all even more painful (especially while living in the southern US). Being raised Protestant, I know the stories and general foundations of Christianity. I would love to imagine Ellie happy and with her grandparents. But I believe that death is final. I will not see my daughter again. She is not with other loved ones who have passed. She is gone and it hurts like hell. Yet, I continue to hear people explain her death away as if some magical man in the sky took her from me and wanted to make her an angel. Or worse, that she is better off in some imagined, convenient place instead of here with her family. These statements, although I know they are not made from malice, hurt in such a deep way. I feel strong in my beliefs, yet begin to question myself, if even for a moment. Did I do something wrong? Am I being punished? Is my daughter dead because I don't believe? If I would have relented (repented?) and prayed, would she still be here? Do they think she was taken from me because I don't believe?
And then there are the survivors. Believe me. I NEVER want to see another child die. I don't want anyone to have to spend weeks or months or years with a child who needs assistance. I wish everyone were happy and healthy. But we all know that is not reality. When I listen to or read about someone recovering or beating the odds and a comment is made about God's will or the power of prayer, I want to scream: "Is anyone awake? Do you see the state of our world? The poverty, war, pollution, hatred, classism, disease, etc.? No amount of prayer is going to stop that! Have you read the Old Testament?? Get off your butt and do something about it!" I consider myself a compassionate person and think I have done good deeds throughout my life. Hundreds of people in my community and family as well as friends were praying for Ellie. But she died. It didn't help. It didn't save her. It didn't "save" me. I am not meant to understand why she's gone, you may ask? I don't buy into that. I know I will never know why her heart formed the way it did. I understand natural selection and nature and know mutations and errors happen all the time. But knowing and accepting are two different things.
I wonder how people feel when they thank a higher power for good things or health in their lives. I know when bad things happen, many will say it is done for a reason, to learn a lesson in some way. Other's will just accept that it is the will of some magical creature. Some may think I was meant to learn a lesson. But that is insulting to me and Ellie's short life. I am thankful for every second I had with her and know I am lucky. I know too many others who had so much less time. But please don't rub my face into your "good fortune" because you went to church or prayed or read your bible. How awful to imply that you deserve good things while others who don't believe do not. Are you somehow more deserving? Just support and love me. Tell me this sucks and that it's not fair. Please let me continue to talk about my girl and my pain. There is no reason to try and explain it. It happened and I broke as a result of it. No amount of prayer is going to fix me.
I feel my daughter is with me. I really do. I carried her and felt her move. I nourished her and hope she felt how loved she was. I remember her and will always honor her. But her light has extinguished and I hurt every day knowing that I will never see her again. Believe me. It would be easier, in my mind at least, to trust that she died for a reason. Not to say that religious people don't struggle with the death of a child. Some may falter while others believe even more. But losing a child isn't easy for anyone.
I like how Jena Pincott puts it: "During pregnancy, cells sneak across the placenta. The fetus's cells enter the mother and the mother's cells enter the baby --and stay there for life. In mothers, fetal cells often take residence in her lungs, spinal cord, skin, thyroid gland, liver, intestine, cervix, gallbladder, spleen, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. The baby's cells may also live a lifetime in Mom's heart and brain. Implicated in health and disease, fetal cells may also behind some of the mind-shifts that happen in motherhood."
But as I have written before, I do think her legacy lives on through her siblings and her parents.
(I do want to say how thankful I am for the support I have received. This predominately Christian community supported our family during our worst nightmare. But I believe it was out of the goodness of their hearts and not at the hand of God.)