As bereaved parents, I think we have all experienced the pain of people staying away from us. We feel like we are being ignored. And knowing the reason (because they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing) doesn’t seem to help, does it? We want to scream at them, “Just be with me! Just give me a hug! Just tell me you don’t know what to say but you are praying for me!”
Their silence makes us feel like they have turned their backs on us at a time in our lives we needed them the most.
Death Doesn’t Care Who You Are…
Death doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about age. It doesn’t care about money or prestige. Death doesn’t care about fame. It doesn’t care about intelligence. Death doesn’t care about gender and it doesn’t care about ethnicity.
And so, with those two thoughts, I believe the Holy Spirit has given a nudge. It is time for me to say something, so that my silence isn’t seen as turning my back on those who need us.
I will admit, I have told myself that people don’t want to hear this kind of stuff from GPS Hope. They come here to be given hope and encouragement in their place of darkness. But the truth is, we are a family, and if it affects some of us, it affects all of us in one way or another.
Division of Any Kind is Never From God
My heart has been so heavy these last few weeks with what has been happening in our nation. I am guessing yours has been, too. Division is never from God, so we know where the root of all this lies. So, for the last few weeks, I have been doing what I can to listen to voices I have not paid attention to before. I want to get a more complete picture, because it’s so easy for us to only listen to one side or the other, based on our backgrounds and upbringings.
It is also easy for us to stay in the shadows, waiting for things to settle down so we don’t have to upset anyone by what we say or share. But as grieving parents, we know the truth of the saying, “Your silence is deafening,” and I just can’t let silence be the voice of GPS Hope on this issue.
I Didn’t Know This Until I Started Some Personal Research
No matter what your personal view is on what is happening (or the why, for that matter) the fact is that racial tension is rampant in our nation right now.
I also want to say that no matter your skin color, your political views, or any other thing the enemy wants to use to divide us, if you are a bereaved parent, we are united and are on this journey together.
Did you know that African American parents experience a higher death rate in their children (especially their sons) than Caucasians by a significant amount? Based on 2017 CDC statistics, the death rate per 100,000 for black versus white males is 76% higher for those under the age of 45. (The age bracket of ages 15-19 is 90% higher.)
That is significant in our world of bereaved parents, and I for one, want to say how sorry I am. No excuses, no blame, just a heart that hurts for these parents, both the ones who are part of these numbers, and the ones who have to fight the fear that they will become one of those parents.
My Personal Experience in a Tiny Town called Boynton
I have my own small experience of seeing how some people behave as if skin color makes you less of a person.
When I was younger, we lived in a tiny town in Oklahoma called Boynton, where whites were by far the minority. My dad took a pastoral position, with the understanding of having full support from the church to reach out to the black community. When the youth group outgrew the church basement, it was moved to the community center.
One evening, a church member of one of the white girls came to pick up her daughter who had walked to the youth group meeting. However, that girl had not shown up that night. Come to find out, behind my dad’s back, a youth group for the white church kids had been started by one of the elders, back in the church basement! My dad’s salary was drastically cut so that he had to resign, which is when we moved up here to Wisconsin. That would have been in the mid 70’s.
As a child, I didn’t understand. As an adult, I still don’t!
Have You Been Hearing Stories Like This?
I would like to share a couple more things I have heard recently that tugged at my heart, while learning what I can from as many people and viewpoints as possible.
I was listening to a podcast where a black woman shared how she had received some documents from her mom about the history of their family. All of them had good jobs and even their own businesses. When her son was told this, he got so excited and said, “You mean we weren’t slaves?” How sad is that, for a black child to believe that because of his skin color, it must mean his ancestors were slaves in our nation.
I heard a highly educated black woman talk about her experience of moving from the west coast to a southern state, and how her life changed to moments of fear and intimidation because of her skin color, which she had never experienced before, with stories and examples.
I heard another black woman share about how she and her sister were pulled over six times within one stretch of road in a certain city, for reasons that made no sense, including things I had never even heard of before.
These are all mothers…
…who fear for their children’s lives, with valid reasons.
The one that caused me to believe it was time to also be a voice in this social issue was listening to a mature Christian black woman say that when all of this recent uprising started, she found herself very angry and siding with “her people.” After a few weeks, she realized this anger was not a righteous anger from God, but her own flesh being stirred up. As she took a step back, she realized how both “sides” were wrong, and both “sides” were right, and that she really needed to pray into what her part is in this, to educate and bring people together.
This is why I felt compelled to no longer stay silent.
It goes both ways
I know there are also plenty of stories of those who have done their part in bridging this shameful gap throughout our nation’s history. There have also been many people rising up these last few weeks to speak out against this injustice, who are either being ignored or “trampled on” by those who just want an excuse to lash out in anger, perpetuating the problem instead of being part of the solution.
We might be able to erase visual reminders of our history, but we cannot erase the effects of it, just like we cannot erase the effects the death of our child has on us no matter how much people around us think we should be over it by now or want us to get back to normal.
Yes, we bereaved parents are doing it right!
I am so thankful to be part of a group of people who look beyond skin color. When we meet someone who has also lost a child, there is a bond that goes beyond ethnicity, political beliefs, religion, and anything else that seems to cause division in the world around us.
Yes, as bereaved parents, we are doing it right! It doesn’t matter the skin color; we hurt for any parent who has lost a child. No matter who you are, we are sorry, we are hurting with you. You have our hearts, our love and our prayers.
Do you struggle with fears you didn’t have before, after the death of your child? We would like to give you chapter 8, “Looking out the Window of Fear” from Laura’s book When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life With Hope and Healing after the Death of Your Child. (This will also allow you to join over 1,000 other parents who are receiving a Weekly Word of Hope, which you can unsubscribe from at any time.)
Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
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