Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Climbing Inside of One's Skin

I had a good friend who lost a child two weeks before the child was due. It has been probably 35 years (I am just guessing), but it is painful for her to this day. The last week of her pregnancy was the worst part - the child was already dead inside her, and when she went out of the house, people would ask about the due date. The due date was also going to be the death date for her baby. I could not imagine her feeling when that question was asked. She always says she has three children, two are grown, one died as a child.

Every once in a while, I talk to someone who has lost a child – either at childbirth or after carrying that child for many months. And although the words may be different, one story is the same: all say that someone will minimize the death – say that at least the child was not older, with more memories. Then it would be more painful.

Now I am not going to debate whether it is more painful to lose a child at childbirth, at ten years or at twenty years – I have no idea how you would be able to quantify such pain. But I find it fascinating that people who have no experience with children dying will offer up advice that minimizes someone's pain. What are they thinking?

I am reminded by something that Atticus Finch said: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." (Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird)

But I have heard others say that you can't judge them until you walk in their shoes. And I don't really get it. I mean, we don't ask murderers to be judges in the courtroom, because certainly having someone who has committed the crime would have more information about how the defendant was feeling. So I am not a big believer in "can't judge me until you walk in my shoes." One of the disadvantages of being a Christian is that we are taught not to judge. That it is God's role. All about casting the first stone. Well, there are other disadvantages to being Christian – but I don't think I am supposed to be highlighting problems with the Church. Martin Luther did that, and the Catholic Church tried to hunt him down.

Anyway, I was just thinking about how insensitive people can be on topics that scream for people to be sensitive to them. Oh, and I guess I was judging those people because I am a piss-poor Christian.


Xmichra said...

I don't know if you remember or not, but last month one of my best friends had their 5 month old die of sids. This was one of the things that they said to me last week (that it was of some solice that it was the baby and not one of the other children who are older) and for the same reasoning. I kinda flinched and wondered if that was from a grief councillor and thought it was really not good. I am sure I can't quantify the pain either, but I can look at my Bella and know that I need her here with me, as much as Kira. Maybe that is the type of personality, I am not sure. But I do not equal time *being* to loving, and conciously think that way... so maybe it is one of those things only certain people can hold on too. If that is what gets them through the loss, so be it.

You, I would say (the resident anti-everything), are not a piss-poor christian. You ask questions and want to be a part of your god. That is not piss poor.

Grant said...

Christians are taught not to judge? Are the Christians aware of this? From my observation, one of the greatest things about religion is that it gives people an excuse to point the finger and blame everyone else for all their woes.

Leesa said...

Xmichra: Yeah, I remember your friend. And there was another blogger who had a child die. Both events I learned about during the same day or two. I started this post, but abandonded it. I did not know what to write about today, so I was looking at my unfinished posts.

Grant: Point fingers and wear great hats at Easter.

Under the Influence said...

Whatever happened to an "I'm so sorry for your loss" and then a nice gesture to follow up - a card, a meal, some flowers?

I have a few friends who have lost children - one has lost TWO children - at various ages, and based on what I have seen and they have said, there is no differentiation of the pain they feel for their loss.

Anonymous said...

I remember when my sister mis-carried her child that was due the same time as my daughter. Things have never been the same.

Advizor said...

We are all called upon to make judgments (good v. evil, right v. wrong, chocolate or salad), but to judge the heart of others is left up to God, THANK GOODNESS.

I like the comment by "Under the influence." Express your concern, offer to help, and then follow-up. But do something valuable, take their other kids to the park so the parents can have alone time. Show up with some friends and clean their house, mow their lawn, and go grocery shopping.

The grieving period can be devastating and simple, practical help can be invaluable.

Gary Baker said...

The pendulum swings...

There was a time when most everyone was discouraged from showing heavy grief. It was considered a sign of weakness. Not good. Today, I think people are encouraged to wallow too much in their emotions. Not just grief. Also not good. I admit that most of the time, I am insensitive. Not out of any desire to hurt, but because I just have very poor empathy. Emotions are a mystery. Regardless of that, I don't think there is any way that is "best" for everyone in this regard. Some people need lots of tenderness to heal. Others need a firm hand or they may fall to pieces and never put themselves back together.

Dittos on the comments regarding "judging." Christians aren't supposed to execute penalties on sinners, but I would go so far as to say that it is essential to identify right and wrong. If we don't, then it's left up to the secular culture. Big not good.

Leesa said...

Under: Yeah, I completely agree with your approach.

Knot: I can understand why.

Advizor: And most of us discriminate - we hire people who are generally on time, etc. But we should not judge by the color of one's skin. Your response made me think of that.

Gary Baker: the probem occurs when right and wrong are not clearly identified. But I concur.

Advizor said...

Are you saying that my comment was racist or that it made you think of discrimination?

I certainly didn't mean that if that is the message you got.