First published at Quora.com, in response to the question: “If you’ve ever lost a child, do you gain any comfort thinking they are “at peace” or watching over you accompanied by a “higher power”, even if you were a “non-believer” before?”
On 30 June 2017, my son Adrian James was stillborn at the end of a 41 week pregnancy. I went to the hospital expecting to schedule an induction, and came home with empty arms to a fully furnished nursery. My son was wanted and so very much loved, and when I lost him, I was absolutely broken.
I’ve heard it said there are no atheists in foxholes, or at funerals. I’m not an atheist, but I don’t follow formalized religion, and I don’t find comfort or need in worship of a higher power. Having not experienced much death in my life prior to the death of my son, I wondered if a close death would change my spiritual beliefs. It didn’t.
While I was at the hospital waiting to give birth, several people asked if they could pray with me. I appreciated the sentiment, and that they were providing the support they felt best able to give. I let them hold my hands and ask God for strength and peace. I felt appreciation for their love, but I didn’t feel connected to Him.
After my son was born, the nurses asked if I wanted a chaplain to bless him. I thought about this for many hours. I knew it wasn’t something I could change if I chose not to do. But in the end, it didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t feel a loss for not doing this for my son.
Back at home, I received many cards and visitors. Some were religious, and some were not. I don’t feel anger at those who talked about God’s love. I understood they too were providing support in the best way they knew how. I did feel pain at the few who talked about God’s plan, or told me that these things happen for a reason. That is not something I believe, and it makes God sound quite cruel.
When it was time to plan my son’s funeral, I was a bit lost on what to do. There are already so few examples of planning a funeral for a baby, and doing one without religion seemed especially out of the norm. I was lucky to make contact with a chaplain who worked with me to build a ceremony based on love. He used poetry instead of scripture, and never once mentioned God. And it was beautiful. It was the right way to honor my son.
In the twenty months since he’s been gone, I’ve had more experiences. I’ve been told to find God, or to go to church. I’ve been told I would understand if I just believe. I don’t believe.
I don’t know where my son is now. I don’t know if we’ll meet again, or if he’s at peace. I know that I miss him with a passion I can’t put into words. I know I would have given anything, including my own life, to guarantee him life on earth.
You ask if I find comfort in the thought of him being with a higher power or at peace. I can’t say that I do. I can only say that wherever he is, he is loved, and he is real, and that is all the truth I need for me.