What do you say to someone who is grieving? I’ve been thinking about it since reviewing a recent string of comments on my Facebook page.
When a former high school classmate ended a Facebook comment saying she miscarried her child in the second trimester, I was struck by her vulnerability in sharing her loss and wondered if anyone else would notice.
Some alumni of the all-girls Catholic high school we had both attended responded. Mostly just “sorry for your loss.” I gasped aloud, however, to read “God has his reasons” and then “Loss is always so sad and hard to work through but one silver lining is that you have your little one right next to God looking out for you! Happy New Year!”
I find “it’s all God’s plan” troubling and leading to questions grieving people probably don’t find comforting: “Really, we have a God whose plan is the death of children? God plans random accidents and oppression? How does God formulate these ‘plans’ and why is the plan for my loved one? If my kids hear this will they fear God taking them out because mom needs some more supporters up in heaven?”
But I do feel torn. I believe in a powerful and loving God who does have plans for the world, who hears our prayers and responds. I take comfort (eventually) that God makes good come from bad, though I rarely want to be told that in a moment of crisis. I’ve been taught God is Love and Love in my mind doesn’t “plan” sadness like miscarriages and typhoons, though Love does create us to live in a world where sad, tragic, and violent things happen. Is it enough of a comfort we are given the dignity to maneuver, contribute, cry and laugh through that world with the support of people we love, and a loving God?
I could get all theological here. There are roots in my tradition to support “God has a plan” responses. Clearly people are being taught it’s a good thing to say and it may be comforting to the woman who lost her baby – I hope so! But I felt the need to process the topic with some colleagues. Mat was eager to know why people offer such sentiments and his reflection on his experience follows. Diane said she could help me see where the many people who do like to reassure with “It’s part of God’s plan” are coming from. And Tom helped still my intellectual ramblings when I asked his opinion about the “God has a plan” response. He said, “Well experience teaches us not to say that – most people really don’t like to hear it!”
Some people might, but as a general rule I avoid it.