On today’s episode of Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom, I talk to Camilo’s dad, Doug Van Doren. Since recording the first episode with my husband Eric, I have only spoken with women, so it was nice to get another dad’s perspective. We discuss the societal differences in how men and women are expected to grieve. Although all parents experience feelings of helplessness after the death of their child, Doug thinks that these feelings are especially difficult for a man. Men are expected to be ‘doers’ and ‘fixers’. After a death of a child, we are all helpless to be able to ‘do’ anything. For many men, this is so difficult to accept.
In addition to being a grieving father, Doug was a pastor of a church. We talk about the challenges of caring for others and yourself at the same time. We also delve into a little bit of theology which may be a bit more controversial. Doug says that he personally cannot think of Camilo’s death being part of God’s Plan. Bad things happen in this broken world, and God is there to offer comfort and compassion when these horrible tragedies occur. There is a big difference between God knowing that something will happen and God causing something to happen.
I know for me personally, when someone has said to me that Andy’s death is all part of God’s Plan, I tend to feel defensive and think, ‘Well, I hate God’s Plan then.’ This is not a comfort at all for me, although for many, I know that it is. Some people get comfort when they think of God being in control of everything. It is all in God’s Hands, so there is nothing they could have done to prevent or change anything.
I definitely see both sides of the issue, and I know that on this side of heaven, I will not have answers as to why things happen. For me though, especially in those first days after Andy’s death, I needed to think that God was present weeping beside me, not that He ignored my desperate prayers by the side of the road. I know that God can make good come from all things, but in my deepest, darkest pain, I just need Him to hold me.
This was a wonderful interview. As a father who blogs about his son’s death, I’ve wanted to hear a father on this topic (and podcast). I’m not sure how much we can separate men’s and women’s experiences of death, but I know my wife and I experience grief differently. As a Christian, I find Doug’s theology making complete sense. Watching my 6-year-old die from cancer was not part of God’s plan, but part of how our life works. However, knowing God suffers with me assures me I’m not alone. Many helpful comments in this interview. Thank you to both of you for putting yourself out there.