www.pinterest.com“Suffering brings women to god.”

So says Igraine in the Mists of Avalon movie (I can’t remember if she says this in the book as well, it’s been so long since I last read them.) This is something I’ve contemplated a lot lately, and without a satisfactory conclusion. The only solid thing I’ve deduced is that suffering either brings people directly to their source of faith, or sends them running the other direction. And that changes, sometimes minute to minute.

Six weeks ago, we lost our daughter. She was born at thirty-one weeks by emergency c-section because I developed preeclampsia that the doctors couldn’t control. She didn’t breathe on her own and only lived forty-seven minutes.

My initial shock period lasted about four weeks. Other than a handful of really fragmented memories, I don’t remember much from the hospital stay or the days that followed. I’ve only very recently gotten to a point where I realize she’s really gone and accepted that, though that says nothing for the grief. I’ve gotten three pieces of advice/encouragement repeatedly, and among them, the suggestion that I should turn to god for support.

From a Wiccan perspective, this idea of relying on a male god to relieve a mother’s grief seems strange. After all, what would an aloof, temperamental male deity know about the suffering a woman goes through when she loses a child? It’s true that fathers grieve too, and many Christians would make the argument that their god is familiar with the pain because “he gave his only begotten son.” But even within the context of that story, I’ve never been given to the impression that god felt the joy of a human man finding out he’s going to be a father, never held back Mary’s hair while she puked her guts up over and over, and never ran out to the village market to grab whatever she was craving. That image of god offers no comfort.

A female deity on the other hand, at least for me, is in turn a source of comfort as well as anger and resentment. The Goddess is a girl too, and one who birthed the entire world along with each living creature in it. Not only does She hold each of us in every stage of life, including death, but She holds all other living creatures as well, and as such She is intimately familiar with child loss. The anger comes from knowing that She knows this pain, and has allowed you to endure it anyway. This is the kind of pain that you would do anything to protect your loved ones from, and we would like to think the Goddess loves us, right? Sometimes that’s hard to believe.

Another comfort I’ve found is just being outside. Before losing my baby, I held loosely to the belief in reincarnation, and since she’s been gone I’ve actually gone through several different belief structures for the afterlife. The one that’s offered the most comfort is the idea that while her human body died, her soul and her energy went back into the world around me. I try to take comfort in the trees in the backyard, the dirt I’ve dug up for the garden, and especially the thunderstorms. It stormed for four days after she died. I think these are things that a non-Pagan would not think to experience; their god is so closely tied with their churches and holy book that something as simple as leaves blowing by on the wind doesn’t automatically hold meaning.

Ultimately, whether you turn toward your deity or away is your own decision. But I will say that in the moments I’ve turned towards Her, I’ve wanted to be a better person, and a better Wiccan by extension, because of my daughter. But those are only a handful of moments.

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