Elizabeth Rubenstein, a grieving mother who describes herself as an agnostic atheist, originally posted this on the Facebook page Walking with Forest, a page on which she and her husband have shared the story of their son Forest.
If You Want to Comfort, Don’t Assume
by Elizabeth Rubenstein
We don’t believe in God. We fall into the category of agnostic atheists, meaning that we don’t believe in any deity and we don’t claim to know for sure if any can or do exist.
I put this out there because, as we wade through this world of child loss and the greater world of grief, I find more and more often that many people assume otherwise. I respect everyone’s right to believe whatever they believe. Even without believing, I truly appreciate the offers of prayers for us as I believe that any positivity being put out for us means something. I do not, however, appreciate other religiously based comments. Not because I don’t think they come from a good place or with good intent but because they bring me no comfort and honestly hurt more than they help.
I know that these words come from a good place: an attempt to comfort, a lack of something else to say. I know that some of these things don’t even comfort or feel good to those who do believe.
When I hear “God needed another angel” all I can think of is a jealous toddler. My 3 year old handing his 1 year old brother a toy only to grab it back from him the moment he starts to enjoy it. I cannot fathom any god who would “give” a child only to change its mind mere weeks later.
When I hear “God has a plan for you” or “All things happen for a reason” it makes me angry. Flat out, seeing red, angry. How could anyone believe that the death of a child was anyone’s plan?
I have hesitated about posting my thoughts on this for quite a while. Afraid I would offend someone. Afraid I would lose support from those who do believe. Then I realized that ignoring my being offended for fear of offending someone else was ridiculous.
If someone decides to not support us because our beliefs are different than theirs then they never really supported us. If someone is offended because we believe differently, well that’s too bad.
I beg of you all to think before you speak or type. Do you know if the person you are speaking to is religious? Do you know for sure that they hold the same views you do? If not, find something else to say.
My first suggestion is “I’m so sorry.”, “I’m thinking of you.” Or any sentence in which you can use their loved ones name, “We think of Forest often.”