Faith is the belief or confidence we have in something for which there is no proof. For many people, faith is religious-based; notwithstanding the natural reaction of many bereaved to question, if not blame the death of a loved one on their God. With suicide, child loss or other traumatic death, it’s a bit tricky. No matter the degree of one’s faith, how can any person reconcile any God allowing a child to end their life? Or someone to die at the hands of another? Or experience death in so many painful and inexplicable ways? Given that my beautiful, intelligent, young adult daughter died by suicide, it was a question I grappled with for years.
Whether spiritual, religious or something else, when the foundation of our belief system has been knocked down (our faith), it leaves us feeling lost; maybe even without purpose. Picking up the fragments or starting from scratch to rebuild it is not easy.
I was raised a Christian, but as an adult, my beliefs expanded to include my spiritual interests. At the center of these remained my faith in a greater power that governed all living things and from which we humans come here to express as only a small part in physical form. I also placed great faith in the power we all have to attract wonderful experiences and people into our lives with God at the helm, so to speak (and so I did). Beyond this, I had no reason to further question what I believed.
Are things in their natural order?
This all changed instantly when my daughter died. While I never blamed God for her death, I did lose my grip on the beliefs that had formed the foundation of my adult life. In my quest to find answers, I was left floundering between two worlds. One filled with torment, where there was no order or reasoning. The other, representative of the views I’d held for years that all things happened in their right and natural order, even though I may not understand or like what was happening. In this world view, I felt more at peace. Instead of letting pain overwhelm me (maybe even end me), I searched for a way to reconcile my child’s death with my living in whatever state I could and would choose (i.e. free of pain or not).
Though I have made leaps and bounds in my healing since the death of my child in 2005, it is my uncertainty that leaves me questioning:
1) Whether we really can choose the state in which we want to exist when something really bad happens; and
2) if yes, why is it so hard to let go of pain?
Without faith how can we evolve?
For years after my bereavement I leaned on my spiritual beliefs to understand death and grief. A decade on, I was forced to face the physical effects of my loss after I collapsed. I was quickly hit by a torrent of grief similar to my early grief. Keeping my search to the corporeal world to try and understand what I was going through (trauma) and what I could do to recover, while I valued all that I learned for its contribution to my growing knowledge base, after two years of this searching, I found life without my faith would not allow me to evolve beyond anything much more than my pain.
People don’t have healing powers or even all of the answers. Books and tools are only conveyors of information. Healing must be activated from within and is much more powerful when we are aided by something more.
In my view, we are not equipped as humans to deal with suffering on such a scale it is difficult to understand; whether experiencing this first-hand or as somebody trying to help others (our reach is limited in both cases). As the sufferer, we need something more to help us move beyond the pain. To help us trust that we can move to somewhere.
Faith gently pushes us
Faith gently pushes us to believe in something more and ask questions. With knowledge comes the opportunity to expand our awareness, from which we can discover we do have the power to be different. And while this is still too simplistic an answer for all healing, because life is not so clear cut, after years of contemplation and working with various healing approaches, I stand by my earliest assumption that with faith will come all of the answers for our healing, when we are ready.
While faith did not necessarily ease my pain in my early grief (or maybe it did), it certainly protected me from taking thoughtless action or making hasty decisions I may regret later. In looking back and opposite from what I think about my life before my daughter died, I have no regrets in how I’ve managed myself and my environments throughout my grief. I know I couldn’t manage anything without feeling grounded in something that is more than just physical to aid me.
Faith is predictable
Faith feels comforting. It brings us relief. Faith is predictable. It is the only thing that can be the constant for anyone living in pain.
Maybe faith is built in and only has to be reignited after a period of questioning. Maybe it comes to some people like a lightning bolt from one experience. For others, maybe faith is born from the tiniest crack in their shell that allows a sliver of light to filter in and change their life over time. One thing is certain: faith is something that cannot be stripped away from us when we are securely fastened to it.
While I still have questions, I know at the heart of my choosing to live life again the way I envision how it can be (no regrets and at peace with my child’s death), the decision must be based on my willingness to fully accept my life as my choice and all things having happened in their right and natural order.