Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mourner's Bill of Rights--Tenet Eight

This is number eight in the Mourner's Bill of Rights with comments from Chelsea:

"You have the right to search for meaning."

~ Alan Wolfelt's eighth tenet of the Right of Mourners
"Why did this happen?"
"Why me?"
"What is the meaning behind this?"
How many times have you asked yourself these questions? It can be an endless circle of questioning and not finding answers. However, as you surrender to the not knowing, you may begin to feel more peace and understanding.
You do not have to accept other people's answers.
You may have received comments from people trying to give meaning to loss, such as "There is a reason for everything," "God has a plan," or "At least you got all those years with them." These answers typically don't provide comfort and may certainly hurt your feelings. Instead, look for your own answers.
It's okay to search for your own personal meaning and your way to make sense of things.
Nice work, Chelsea.  Good answer.

Job asked the same question.  He received no answer from God and crappy answers from his friends.  The clever trick of that ancient story is that we the readers know the answer.  We know exactly why Job suffered.  God was making bets with Satan.  That is a creative way of saying that there is no reason.  There is no better statement for ancient atheism than the book of Job.  The author of Job pushed the limits of divine meaning to the absurd.   It is a preposterous story which is of course the point.   There is no meaning or plan to any of it.  No one is calling the shots.   No divine protector is shielding people from tornadoes, hunger, war, alcoholism, or suicidal tendencies.   No divine being is making it all better.

That is just what I think.  But I don't know if my thoughts are normal. 

As Chelsea says, "You do not have to accept other people's answers," including mine.  

Let us ask anyway.


Why isn't Zach a happy 26 year old man?  Why isn't he here to help his mother and father celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary?   Why won't he be here for Sunday supper?  Why won't he ever play with his new cousins?  Why won't he play video games with his old man?  Why won't he ask me for advice?  Why won't he see the latest Star Trek movie with me?  Why won't he find his soul-mate?  Why won't he have children of his own?  Why couldn't I help him ease his psychic pain?  Why did I fail him?

Don't you dare try to answer these questions in the comment section.  It is boorish to offer answers to rhetorical questions posed by pissed-off grieving fathers.  Remember Job's friends?

I don't know the answers.  If I did learn the answer it would be as lame as the one God provided Job from the whirlwind.  To summarize in three sentences and eight words God's answer to Job (chapters 38 to 41):
I am God.  You are not.  Fuck you.
If I were in seminary I would submit that as a term paper on the exegesis of Job.  My title would be longer than the paper itself, The Meaning of the Divine Speech from the Whirlwind in Job 38-41 in the Context of Post-Modern Grief and Existential Search for the Sacred.

Now you might think it isn't a nice thing for a minister to drop the F bomb in a blog post.  No it isn't.  But I am a father.  Losing a son to suicide is not a nice thing.

A friend of mine who lost a son in the Iraq War sent me this book, Grieving Dads:  To the Brink and Back.  I like it because the authors speak clearly and occasionally use foul language:
Is it normal... lose the fear of dying? feel guilt regarding the death of my child? be pissed at people I don't even know, just because they're laughing at a joke or going on about their life?
...or cry when I hear a song or read a Hallmark card that has nothing to do with my child's passing?... utter the words, "fuck you" at the most inappropriate times imaginable?  p. 119
I am not sure if I am normal but I have felt (and done) all that.  Grieving Dads is a book for fathers written by fathers who have lost children.
     For all of the bad things a man might encounter in his lifetime, there can be nothing that comes even close to the loss of his child.
     According to Nick, "Losing a child is the worst loss a human feels."  This he says from a knowing perspective.  The kind that comes from losing a daughter to a heroin overdose.
     There were many other "knowing perspectives" gathered while talking with the grieving dads I've met.  Like the one from Kent, who watched his son, Chris take his last breath at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. 
     Or Ed's "knowing perspective."  His came as a by-product of finding his 17-year-old son, Joey, hanging from a ceiling fan.  
     Ed helped cut Joey down.
     And afterwards, like many fathers who have had to endure the shock, trauma, and agony of losing a child, Ed often wished that something would happen to him, not only because he wanted the pain to stop, but he wanted to see Joey again--if only for the chance to ask him, "Why?"
     I told you their stories were terrible, didn't I?
     Well, I wasn't kidding. Their stories are indeed terrible, and quite purposefully raw.  There are no candy-coated messages to be found here.  No empty talk about another angel in heaven or the death of a child being part of God's plan.
     So, if you are holding this book in your hands with the expectation that you're going to read the same sort of "self help" drivel you can find everywhere else, you're in for a disappointment.
     If this book ever gets made into a movie, I promise you it won't be a chick flick.  It wasn't written from a woman's perspective.  It wasn't written by a Ph. D. in psychology.  It wasn't written by an Oprah Winfrey book-of-the-month club author, either.
     Instead, it was written by men who are part of a brotherhood shaped out of unimaginable loss, unbearable grief, unrelenting despair--and all the things that come along for the ride.  p. 2
Back to the tenet at hand.  I have the right to search for meaning, so says tenet eight.  That's normal.

Just because I have the right to search doesn't mean I will find it.  All I know now is that Zach is gone and that reality is sinking in day by day.  There are days that I feel damn angry about it.  I am not always angry.  Sometimes just sad.  I am also exasperated, exhausted, exercised, dimwitted, dumbfounded, delirious, confounded, confused, crotchety, bewildered, bewitched, befuddled, addled, anxious, annoyed, and oh here it is again, angry.

A few weeks ago I asked my counselor if I was normal.

He said, "Of course not."

That made me feel better.



  1. "Is it normal... lose the fear of dying? feel guilt regarding the death of my child? be pissed at people I don't even know, just because they're laughing at a joke or going on about their life?
    ...or cry when I hear a song or read a Hallmark card that has nothing to do with my child's passing?... utter the words, "fuck you" at the most inappropriate times imaginable? p. 119"

    Mothers, too.

    I guess I can't quite say that this is a "wonderful" post, because it's a post that shouldn't have to exist. But it tells exactly how it is at 3:00 am.

    1. It isn't always like that. Just when I am there it feels like I am always like that.

  2. Your blog came to my attention though
    I am so very sorry for the loss of your dear son, Zach. All I can offer is my sympathy and the knowledge that you have been heard.

    My mom passed just over a year ago. She was just shy of 90 years so she'd had a long life and though her death was quite unexpected, it was in the order that we would expect. Still, I miss her daily and drop f-bombs about it, too.

    We are most definitely allowed the Mourners's Bill of Rights. I appreciate your honesty. Life is raw and eventually and unfortunately, we are left with not much choice but to stare it right in the face.

  3. I am here and reading. and praying.

  4. Prayers and grief and more prayers. And tears. Not walking the same path, but a similar one. And dammit, with no more answers than before.

  5. I'm so sorry that Zach is gone. Yesterday was my son's first yahrzeit (anniversary of his death). There is nothing worse that any parent can experience.
    I've added your blog to the site that I've been curating in memory of my son.
    It's meant to be a resource for bereaved parents and siblings, I think you'll find other blogs there that could be meaningful to you.

    1. Thank you. One year for you. So sorry about Graham. Thanks for the new word for me (yahrzeit) and for linking to the site. You have a very good resource.

  6. We should have lots of sex. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)