Archive for year 2012

The Disenfranchised Grief of Abortions

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.

Dumb Ways to Die

I’m not sure there’s any “smart” ways to die, but this video definitely shows some dumb ones.  My favorite is the “sold two kidneys” guy.

Also, the song that accompanies the vid. will get stuck in your head.  You’ll be singing it all day and your coworkers and family will never let you read my blog again.  But, you should watch it anyways.  Because you’re rebellious.

It was made by the Australian Metro Safety advertisement … they probably created the most cutest “scare the crap out of you” ad EVER.

Is God Your Crutch?


Death brings out the religiosity in all of us.  If you’re a reader of my blog, you may realize that I’m rather critical of the whole God as Cosmic Santa Claus motif.  AND, I’m rather critical of using God as the Grand Band Aid who fixes everything, including death.  Somethings have no answer.  Some valleys are dark.

I’m not the only one who is critical of the “God as crutch”.  Freud, Marx et al; as well as a few Christians like Pete Rollins and, one of my favorite authors, Richard Beck are also critical of using God as a means to assuage our existential turmoil.

In The Authenticity of Faith, Beck suggest five strong beliefs for the believer who uses God as a defense mechanism / crutch / Grand Band Aid.

Here they are:

1.  Special Protection: In the face of a hostile universe, the belief that God will especially protect the believer (and loved ones) from misfortune, illness, or death.  The universe is existentially tamed.

2.  Special Insight: In the face of difficult life decisions, the belief that God will provide clear guidance and direction.  God’s guidance reduces the existential burden of choice.

3.  Special Destiny: In the face of a life where meaning is fragile, the belief that God has created a special purpose for one’s life, a destiny that makes life intrinsically meaningful.

4.  Divine Solicitousness: The belief that the omnipotent God is constantly available and interested in aiding the believer, even with the mundane and trivial.  God is an eternal servant, our cosmic butler.

5.  Denial of Randomness: In a life full of random, tragic, and seemingly meaningless events, the belief that God’s purpose and plan is at work.  No event, however horrific or tragic, is existentially confusing or disconcerting.  All is going according to plan.

Pages 158 – 159

These beliefs are meant to step in and remove or reduce the anxiety of the loss of our assumptive world.  Together, they can form our crutch.

Do you use ALL of the above beliefs?  Do you use SOME of the above beliefs?

Would You Consider a Green Burial?

Seventy-five years from now it’s very possible that Green Burials will replace embalming as “the traditional mode of disposition.”  The environmental friendliness of green burials is one reason (not to mention the DIY spirit behind it) why I believe Americans may start to trend towards this mode.

The following is an older article from Apartment Therapy (that I found via a link from Connecting Directors) that provides some of the environmental reasoning behind green burials:

Scientific American says it well: “Modern western-world burial practices are arguably absurd, all things considered: We pack our dearly departed with synthetic preservatives and encase them in impenetrable coffins meant to defy the natural forces of decomposition that have been turning ashes to ashes and dust to dust for eons.”

Along with this, shall we call it, denial, there is a tremendous amount of waste in modern burials, at least in America.

According to National Geographic,

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.”

That’s heartbreaking. Death is hard enough to contemplate, but the last thing I want to do after I’m gone is make the world worse for everyone else still here. Sure, I’ve loved trees and steel and concrete in this life, but I certainly don’t need them once I’ve passed away. You guys enjoy them! And after trying so hard to be a good person, I really don’t want my final contribution to the world to be a noxious substance.

So, what to do? Scientific American lists a few options, including sustainably-harvested more-biodegradable coffins, trees instead of headstones, dry ice instead of embalming fluid, and specially-designed urns that can become part of ocean reefs.

The Huffington Post likewise lists horrifying statistics (formaldehyde causes cancer and prevents a corpse from “decomposing efficiently, and this slow rotting process favors sulfur-loving bacteria, which can harm nearby water sources”) and better, more affordable alternatives.

Two that caught my eye were a new technology that can turn a corpse into compost, and a bicycle hearse. Design Taxi featured Martín Azúa’s Bios Urn (shown above), a biodegradable urn that holds ashes and the tree seed of your choice (although keep in mind that according to the Huffington Post, “the energy used to cremate one body is equivalent to driving 4,800 miles”).


Ignoring the acerbic language and tone of the article, would you consider a green burial?

Playing Taps and Doubting God

Today’s guest post comes from Jennifer Lee.


I was a freshman in high school, standing with my head bowed behind the cemetery shed, where the maintenance guys stored the lawnmower. It was noon on a late-winter day, and I waited for my cue, a military gun salute.

I leaned against the weather-beaten wooden planks – hard and cold like my waning faith – while holding a silver trumpet. The family huddled against the wind on velvet-covered folding chairs, under a blue tarp, while the preacher read from a pocket-sized book of last rites.


The uniformed veterans lifted their guns, clicked and fired. Clicked and fired. Clicked and fired.

And I — the lone bugler — stepped from the behind the shed. I lifted the trumpet to my lips to play “Taps” in honor of the middle-aged man in the steel box.

The notes rang out, mingling with pained and muffled cries. And I felt hollow on the inside.

Fourteen years old, and already I didn’t believe there was life beyond the grave. Not for me, or the man in the coffin, or for the hundreds of other sons and daughters already buried here in my hometown cemetery in Iowa — with names like Anderson and Benson and Larson. These were the people I saw in the pews of my church on Sunday mornings. Hear me now: I wanted to believe that there was something More in the great beyond. But it all seemed so … fairy-tale-ish. So foolish.

“Taps,” a song that means “lights out,” was the melodic and literal end of all things. That’s how I saw it anyhow.

Death always exposed my doubt. And from a young age, it came around frequently, like a specter haunting our little Iowa town, robbing me of my favorite people.

When townfolk died, Mom would walk us down the block to the old Sliefert funeral chapel, where our old friends were laid out in velvet-lined boxes. I peered over the edges of their caskets, and when I thought no one was looking, I would reach a hand in to feel the waxy coldness of death. I had once heard that a dead body could actually make a jerking motion, or that its eyes might suddenly fly open, so I’d watch like a tiny hawk, waiting for some macabre spectacle to unfold before me.

Death both repelled and attracted me – the same way I felt when watching horror movies the week before Halloween.

On summer days, my little brother and I would visit the cemetery after the diggers finished making a gaping hole in the earth — before the mourners showed up. Curiosity drew us, and we’d lay on our stomachs giggling nervously as we looked into six-feet-deep holes  – dirty holes that swallowed up bodies and precious parts of my faith.

As I grew older, the funeral home director started asking if I’d play “Taps” at the ceremonies of war heroes. The school principal always let me go. He thought it was a “good community service.” But sometimes, I wished he wouldn’t. Sometimes, I’d rather have done algebra, instead of graveside service.

In the cemetery, there was no escaping my own inevitable death. Or my own suffocating doubt.

I played the song — time after time — and it felt like these were the last bitter notes on the end of life.

Casket closed. Book closed.

But right there in the pain of doubt — at the edge of opened graves – I took important first steps in my discovery of life and death and faith in God. I realized that doubt can actually be a gift. No kidding, a GIFT.

It would be years and years later, but I began to ask questions that, ultimately, led to a few important answers.

Here’s the deal: I was a modern-day Thomas. I doubted the very existence of God for much of my life — despite the fact that I grew up among believers, many of whom I led home with a silver trumpet. If there really was a God, I was sure my doubts would doom me.

So I found sweet relief, I tell you, when I found these words in the study notes of my Bible: “Silent doubts rarely find answers.”

That meant it was OK to ask, to doubt, to fumble around for a few answers. It meant that my doubts were not a curse, but a step toward a God who invites us to get close enough to touch a Savior’s scars. He doesn’t turn His back on modern-day Thomases, but invites us closer.

And doubt? Well, it isn’t meant to be a place of permanent residence. Not for me, anyway. For me, it was the place from which I could grow, stepping out from behind the weather-worn shack to play a different song.


About the author: Jennifer is a former news reporter who is passionate about sharing the Good News through story.

She blogs about grace and God’s glory at She is a contributing

editor at

You can find her on Facebook here. Soon, her words will make their way into her debut nonfiction Christian book (Tyndale Momentum).

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