Church

My husband and I sat on the bed a while back, discussing how hard it’s been since Jason died to find a church to attend where we fit. We belonged to one of the largest church in the Pacific Northwest when Jason died. Although we really loved the church and its youthful energy, because we had existing, extensive connections to Christian homeschool and church friends and activities, we didn’t get terribly connected there.

After Jason died, it was really hard to go back. For a long time, when I walked in the sanctuary for services, I could picture the photographs of Jason we used for his memorial service up on the big screens on either side of the stage . The church’s youthful, energetic, joyful vibe contrasted sharply with the deep grief I felt, and many times we left during the service. Sometimes it was just too loud for me; I became extremely sound sensitive after Jason died. I felt antsy and trapped at times. It was just hard to be there all the way around.

We had designated the church’s computer school for contributions in Jason’s honor. The computer school taught computer classes to anyone in the community for a minimal cost. Jason, our computer science student. We felt like he would appreciate it and it would be a good way to honor one of his interests. With the contributions they received, they were able to purchase some necessary equipment so they could continue their ministry.

Although the support we received from the church before and during Jason’s memorial service was incredible, we basically fell off the radar not long afterwards. The youth pastor’s wife left a message for Jenna once, but then never called back. I don’t remember hearing from anyone else. I think they felt we had adequate support elsewhere. If only they knew nothing could be farther from the truth.

We haven’t found a church that’s a fit for us since then. Not that we haven’t tried; we really, truly have. As the “new people,” fitting into an already-existing group is hard enough, but the death of a child makes it even harder and we – I guess I should say “I” – just don’t even have the energy or desire to try. I still feel antsy and trapped at times. I also recognize the fact that I just don’t trust Christians with my broken heart any more; I have too many scars from the way Christian people have treated us. And I don’t want to be pitied or to be treated like a project to try to fix. I’m not really sure how to explain it to a person who has not lost a child…or even to a bereaved parent whose church, friends and family adequately supported them when their child died.

Part of the problem is that so many of the same, old church patterns and/or programs no longer seem relevant. The music or message or platitudes a lot of times haven’t felt like the balm to our broken hearts and lives that we have desperately craved. I miss the days when church felt like a safe place, when it felt like home, a place to love and be loved. It just seems like we just don’t fit anywhere any more, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

This entry was posted in Death of a child, Grief, Jason David Carney and tagged , , , by Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective

My name is Becky Carney. My husband, Joe, and I have been married for 42 years. We have two living children, Eric (39) and Jenna (34). We lost a baby in utero at 19 weeks in 1987. In 2002, our middle son, Jason (19), and his best friend, Alina (20), were broadsided by a drunk driver who was going at least twice the speed limit. They both died instantly. This blog is written from my perspective as a bereaved parent. I don't claim to know what it's like to walk in anyone else's shoes. Each situation is different; each person is different. Everyone handles grief differently. But if I can create any degree of understanding of what it's like to be a parent who has lost a child, then I have succeeded in my reason for writing this blog.

15 thoughts on “Church

  1. Yes, we feel the same way about our synagogue. Not that the community itself wasn’t supportive and helped us throughout our ordeal. We remain friends with some of them and they continue to be there for us. But just being in the place where we received the news of Jake’s death has become unbearable. And the words of the service now ring hollow. Where was the “merciful God”? Did He protect and watch over our son when he most needed it? We don’t intend to find another place, it seems as if I just don’t fit in anywhere anymore. Peace to you.

  2. Once again, your words mirrored the thought s in my head perfectly! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  3. Exactly the same story for me. Perhaps today’s Christians are so busy doing things for God in the form of projects and ministries, they have forgotten to give a simple cup of water in Jesus’ name.

    (I know from reading your posts, as with me, we are not looking for attention whatsoever or feeling sorry for ourselves.)

    Time and time again I recall Jesus’ words – like the Good Samaritan who took the time and didn’t forget the wounded man, extending provision for him for the future.

    I, too, am forever grateful for the initial support those first few days. But then, like you, the silence.

    I, too, cannot start over in another church with new people, etc. It’s all to overwhelming.

    Humbly, I think many of us can say what Job said – “I’ve heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” I cling to the Lord as never before and he is more precious to me than ever.

    But at times, I do miss how it used to be. I continue to trust God in all of it even when I don’t understand.

    Thank-you for your writing! It helps us all to know we are not alone in what we have been through.

    -Kathy

    • Early on, I remember writing in my journal begging God just to send someone to apply the salve of kindness to my broken heart. I was so worried about Joe at one point that I called church friends – ones that I had considered true family – and begged them to come and visit us. Two couples came together (strength in numbers, you know) once and then never again. When people would go to lengths to avoid us (i.e. going quickly down the next aisle at the grocery store, pretending like they didn’t see us), I wrote in my journal about feeling like the wounded man on the side of the road and the pious crossed to the other side to avoid us. It felt to be treated like pariah when we had done nothing wrong. It was difficult at times to separate God himself from the actions of God’s people and from the church itself.

      I knew with my head, even then, that we were hard to be around. As I’ve said before, my heart didn’t understand quite as well as my head did. I understand more clearly now that there were many reasons people stayed away. Melanie has written a great post called “Why Friends Abandon Grievers,” and I thought it’s an excellent read. https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/03/08/why-friends-abandon-grievers/

      Thank you for writing, Kathy. I always appreciate your point of view.

      ~Becky

  4. Oh Becky, I feel the same way about my synagogue. Yes, there were and are people who have been kind and supportive, but I don’t feel hope or confidence in any religion. As Ed said, “And the words of the service now ring hollow. Where was the “merciful God”? Did He protect and watch over our son when he most needed it?” I say the same about my daughter. The only sense I can make out of this is that whatever god really is, this god only “allows” things to happen, but does not protect, even the most innocent. I feel that part is up to us to help, to protect and to serve others, but I don’t have a lot of energy. I do what I can. I have a hard time with prayer now. I don’t intend to go to another congregation as I am certain that it is simply a matter of having gone through child loss that has separated me from those who have no understanding of the depth of the sorrow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It helps not to feel so alone.

  5. OMG pretty much every word of this resonates with me. We’re going to a new church, and it’s nice and fine, and the services/music is good for our living children, but we’ve yet to really make any connections there, and I don’t see any in our near future… Like you said, it’s hard enough to enter a new group as a nonbereaved parent, so being a bereaved parent sometimes it just feels darn near impossible. Big hugs.

  6. Thank you Becky for your insightful posts about grief. I echo what others have wrote. In our case, we actually were ostracized by the christian community because my son died as a result of someone’s crime against him…it was really bizarre how those who claim to be followers of Jesus cannot seem to be kind to those in the worst of times. Maybe it just takes too much effort on the part of others, I don’t know. I have since switched to a christian faith that willingly embraces suffering…I still stay at a distance since our family has been so burned by those who were in our christian community. I also think others — in some way fear us, that the worst possible thing could happen to them, their family. What then?
    Our family lived a similar lifestyle in that we homeschooled our kids and did many of the activities you write about. Maybe it brings comfort in reading familiar stories.
    Thank you for sharing about your son Jason and your grief journey.
    Jesse David’s & Taylor Jame’s Mom

    • I have come to the conclusion that fear and lack of understanding play a huge part, and that is the main motivation for my writing – to try to create a dialogue that will promote understanding and empathy.

      It still boggles my mind, though, at the way Christian people responded to us and how they treated us when we were at our very lowest and most hurting point in our lives. My husband was treated more kindly by non-Christian people he knew from his job (who were so kind to provide a get-away six months into our journey) than by Christian people we had known for years. Having been very involved in two large homeschool groups in leadership positions and also involved in churches over the years, we knew a LOT of people, some well and some not so well, some close friends and some merely acquaintances. How nearly all to the person (not totally all, but nearly all) could just vanish and/or treat us the way they did is beyond my understanding to this day. I’m sure they didn’t mean to hurt us as they did, but they hurt us badly nonetheless. Sometimes I think people will think that, because we are grieving so deeply, we won’t notice certain things or will notice things less. The opposite is true, though, at least for some people who have lost a child. Because we are stripped bare and so raw with deep grief, things go deeper and hurt more. I, for one, was hypersensitive – to sounds, to noise, to reactions of people. I noticed it ALL. It all registered, went deep, and hurt like hell.

      I’ve worked hard on forgiveness, although without any apologies given. I recently read something along the line “I may forgive, but that doesn’t mean I forget.” The first part of that is crucial for my own sake. I have to forgive so I don’t live a negative life. But (to me) the second part means that I have scar tissue as a result of how we were treated and that it as affected how I see people and how open and trusting I am (which is not very much at all). As you said, so burned. “Once burned, twice shy,” the saying goes. Burned many times…no wonder we are so guarded. All we can do is do the best we can to honor the lives of our kids. I remind myself that I am not responsible for anyone’s actions (or inactions); only my own. And I guess that’s why I get up every day and keep on trying, although some days it’s just not that easy to keep on trying. But, I want Jason to be proud of me and who I have become.

      Hugs to you and thanks for responding.

      ~Becky

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