How (Not) to Respond to Grief

While scrolling through my Newsfeed yesterday morning, I saw a blog post that was “Liked” by a friend. The post was simply titled “Adoption Update.” I didn’t know the husband or wife who wrote the blog, but since we share a Facebook friend, I followed the link. I was crestfallen when I started reading the full post. They explained that yesterday, after months of excitement and preparation, they expected to officially adopt their daughter and bring her home for the first time. But instead, the birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep the baby. What was to be a day of joy, a day to welcome their baby girl into their lives, was now a day of loss.

The blog’s comment section is full of condolences and prayers. But one comment has stayed with me for 24 hours, because of its well-meaning inappropriateness.

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Did anyone catch that besides me? If not, let me repeat the phrase that makes my hair stand on end: “Please remember that God has a plan and this baby was no meant for you…”

How could anyone think this is an appropriate comment, now or ever? Imagine this couple’s daughter has been kidnapped. Imagine they’ll never see her again, and there’s nothing they can do about it (Because that is, essentially, what happened to them)…Welp. God must’ve planned it that way! But hey, I’ll be praying for ya!

Here’s the deal: If believing in God always made sense, believers wouldn’t need faith. It takes faith to believe in an all-powerful, all-loving God. Especially when horrible things like this happen. But God never asked His followers to understand or explain all the areas of life that require faith. It’s not our job to know God’s plan. Maybe there’s a reason why God allowed this couple to lose their baby girl. But now’s not the time to tell this couple about that reason. God’s name should not be used as a magical sadness-stopping band-aid. Simply invoking some mystical “plan,” like a witch doctor would invoke a spell, is not an adequate way to comfort someone in the grips of despair. It’s not fair. And it’s disrespectful.

Let the grieving grieve. Mourn with them. Tell them your heart breaks with them. Pray with them if they’re comforted by prayers. But please, don’t say a word about God’s plan. Just let them grieve.

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Remembering Roger Ebert 1942-2013

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Roger Ebert died one year ago today, on April 4, 2013. It is hard to put into words the influence this wonderful man has had on my life. His views on politics, religion, culture and really, life itself have had a profound impact on the evolution of my own perspectives. I was enthralled reading his reviews; I read every one that I could, whether I was interested in the movie or not. I still remember the excitement I felt when I realized that his blog would become a way to know his thoughts on an ever-expanding array of topics.

When I read Ebert’s words, I can often feel myself growing in wisdom and compassion. I feel that reading Ebert taught me things that I could only have hoped to have learned by the end of my life. To know these things now and use them to inform my daily life as I live it out is a gift.

I know that many reading this will think it odd to feel such affection for a man I never even met. Indeed, it may be odd. But Roger Ebert opened up new worlds of thought and ways of processing emotion to me that continue to inform my worldview today. His emphasis on kindness, optimism, compassion, and honesty creates a standard that I often fall short of, yet always strive to reach.

With that, I offer you a collection of some of my favorite writings by Roger Ebert:

From Roger Ebert’s Journal:

Reviews (in no particular order):

Roger Ebert Defending a Film at Sundance:

TL;DR: Roger Ebert is one of America’s most important writers. I miss him.