Football is an American idol. It’s a power that’s put in an improper place in the minds of Americans. At no time has the idolatry been more pronounced than this past Sunday.
Javon Belcher played his college ball at the small University of Maine. He went undrafted in the 2009 NFL draft, but was eventually signed by the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2010 he started as an inside linebacker, producing his best year in 2011.
In football, there’s players who are considered “character guys”, which essentially means that although they might lack in talent, they make up for it in their willingness to learn from their coaches and in their solid off the field reputation. Javon Belcher was described as a “character guy”. He had a supportive family, was a proud father to his 3 month old daughter and was described as a genuine person.
This past Saturday, December 1st, Javon murdered his girlfriend (and mother of his child), 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins. He then went to the Chiefs stadium, thanked the Chief’s GM, Head Coach and other personnel for the opportunity they had given him and shot himself in front of them. The coach tried to convince Belcher to stop, but the coach acknowledged that he failed to do so.
He didn’t take the time to apologize to his daughter for making her an orphan. No, he thanked the football gods.
The powers that be discussed the possibility of postponing the Chiefs game on Sunday against the Caroline Panthers. From the Miami Herald:
A league official said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with both DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association, and Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt.
Neither the union nor the Chiefs, after Crennel spoke with team captains, objected to the game being played as scheduled. The possibility of a postponement was discussed, but none of the parties thought that to be appropriate.
The hot topic for NFL Commissioner Goodell wasn’t when the grief counselors could meet with the team, it wasn’t how the Chiefs could start the mourning process and how the NFL could encourage proper services. No, they thought it would be inappropriate to cancel the game. I mean a guy ONLY shot himself infront of his coach. He ONLY just killed his girlfriend.
Already, the quarterback of the Chiefs is questioning himself. After the game, Brady Quinn talked about his thoughts:
“It’s hard mostly because I keep thinking about what I could have done to stop this. I think everyone is wondering whether we would have done something to prevent this from happening. And then we’re all thinking about his daughter, three or four months old and without a parent. It’s hard to not allow the emotions of the situation to creep into your head with the game this close. But we’re going to do the best we can to concentrate on the task at hand.”
The players are doing the best they can to ignore their emotions so that they can concentrate on the task at hand? This is why they should have postponed the game.
But they didn’t. This from Sportsillustrated:
“As far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do, because that’s what we do,” Crennel said, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “We’re football players and football coaches and that’s what we do, we play on Sunday.”
“We’re football players” says Crennel. Apparently that means that they’re not human. They’re better at hitting people than they are at dealing with loss, love, violence, emotions.
The NFL could’ve used this opportunity to pause, postpone the game and allow for the much needed discussion about suicide and domestic violence to ensue. Sure, postponing the game might have angered the Networks, but that’s the idea. Instead of all the commentators and pundits talking about how the Chiefs won the game over the Panthers, they’d be talking about the pause; they’d be keenly reflecting on the tragedy.
If the game was postponed, this is the message that would have followed: “Suicide and domestic violence, life and death are more important than football.”
The NFL isn’t the only part of American society that doesn’t give a pause for death. Death is simply too much of an inconvenience for us. We’re so set on building our gods … building ourselves into a god, that we remove anything that reminds us of our humanity. The NFL is a microcosm of American life. We’re so intent on building the dream, that we like to ignore reality.
I see this “ignorance” all the time at the funeral home.
“Johnny can’t make grandpa’s funeral … he has finals.”
“Let’s push Dad’s funeral to next Saturday … I have a big business meeting this week.”
“So and so can’t make grandma’s funeral … he’s got a lot going on.”
We’re too busy with school to give a pause. Too busy with work to give a pause. Too busy with our Facebook feed to give a pause. Too busy with OUR lives that we forget about the lives of others.
It was great when Jeremiah said “hi” for the first time. The day that he crawled was really special. A week ago he even sat with me for a couple minutes as we watched the abysmal Philadelphia Eagles. But perhaps nothing has made me prouder to be his father than the first time he was able to create his own fart sounds.
I recorded this incredible “first”. Here’s the video.
Disenfranchised grief is grief that is not recognized by society. One MAJOR type of disenfranchised grief that I often mention is the result of stillbirths and miscarriages.
A grief for one who had no connections in life. No schoolmates, no friends, no co-workers … all of which translates to no funeral. A grief that can’t be shared.
A grief to be borne solely by the ones who conceived. A grief that is carried by the one who may now feel guilt upon silent grief because she miscarried.
This is a grief that is often carried alone. A grief that is too often complicated by guilt. A grief that is private and difficult to share. A grief for a nameless soul.
Yet, there is a movement to recognize this grief. I’ve seen the movement. Mothers who have miscarried call us at the funeral home and request some public funeralization for their miscarried/stillborn child. Some even request a public viewing if the child is far enough along in it’s development. This movement to have funerals — whether through a funeral home or simply in a small private service — is a movement that provides a positive outlet for the grief of the parents and siblings. It recognizes a traditionally disenfranchised grief.
So, why isn’t there a movement to memorialize abortions? Here’s some reasons why abortions might not be memorialized:
Obviously, the political contentiousness of the topic doesn’t help.
There’s the idea that the fetus is not a thing to be grieved.
There’s guilt factors,
there’s shame factors (one night stands, rape, incest),
and there’s trimester factors (the fetus could have been only a couple weeks old).
And, there’s the fact that abortions are VERY private decisions, that aren’t meant for public appraisal. How much would a woman / couple be shamed, guilted, chastised and questioned if there was a public funeral for an abortion?
And yet we have this from a discussion thread at Steady Health:
I am 31 and desperately wanted to have a child with my partner. Last month I found out that I was pregnant and I was surprised to feel absolutely nothing positive about the fact. After the initial shock wore off all I felt was indifference, fear and depression. The sight of women with babies etc. provoked feelings of nausea… I took this to mean that I didn’t actually want the baby and last week i had an abortion. Now that my body is returning to its normal state I feel exactly the way that i did before I found out that I was pregnant! I don’t understand how it’s possible to feel so emotionally estranged from myself during pregnancy. Is it possible that this happened because of pregnancy hormones? I feel like my body betrayed me. I wanted that baby. Has anyone else experienced anything similar to this? It’s very disturbing…
And this was one of the nearly 100 replies — most of similar nature — to the above post:
I too have recently had an abortion and am having those same feelings of regret and grief. i have always wanted a family more than anything, am in a committed loving relationship and would even go so far as to say that I disagree with abortion – and yet, i fell pregnant unplanned, got scared at the timing of it all and the consequences of it, and before i knew it, I’d done it.
I cry a lot. I feel empty inside, like there is a big hole inside of me that won’t go away. I feel the desire to have another baby, soon, after my wedding, earlier than we had ever planned. I ache all the time and it’s as though my body misses being pregnant (even though I was so sick). I’ll be having a happy day and then suddenly i’ll break down into a flood of tears, racking sobs that shake my whole body and i feel an indescribable ache in my chest.
I worry that when i do have another baby that it won’t fix the real problem of the baby that I made the decision not to keep.
One of the problems with politicizing abortion is that when it becomes part of a platform we forget that there are REAL people involved, who are parting with a REAL part of themselves and who will likely experience some type of REAL grief.
Now, I understand that just as some don’t experience grief over miscarriages so not everyone will experience grief over an abortion.
Yet, it IS important to recognize that abortions may likely cause a type of disenfranchised grief that if not recognized will cause psychological difficulty. And if the grief goes unexpressed, may cause intense, unintended emotional consequences.
It’s time to give talk about our abortions to people we can trust. And it’s okay to grieve apart of you that is no more.
It seems there’s two poles in the livings reaction to death:
the one pole is where people almost think death is unreal … that when we die we simply “go to a better place” where all is not only okay, but it’s better.
And then there’s another pole. It’s the pole of darkness. Where death is
The thick cloud of paralyzing despair … the broken apart heart.
When we experience death — especially of the traumatic and tragic kind — we will often go back and forth, from one pole to the next, yet drawn, pulled to the pole of the real where all is dark. And we fight it. Often changing poles day by day … at times, hour by hour. From despair to hope and back again.
What we should seek to find in our grief is what Parker Palmer calls the creative tension between the two poles … the middle ground where our hearts are neither
That last line encapsulates the creative tension I strive for in my life:
“We’re called to live in this world with broken, open hearts. Not denying the suffering and grief, but neither striving for perfection that takes us out of the action and into a fantasy world.”