Grief & Faith

I write this with a pounding headache from crying for hours last night. After vacillating all day about it, about 10 minutes to six I decided it was important for me to go to the memorial service, both to show support for the family and for me to face my own fears. It was horrible…and beautiful. I live in a small mountain town of about 1,000 people, and I’d bet there were at least half that many in the venue in which the memorial service was held. Ironically, it’s the same building in which Charlie and I celebrated our wedding reception nearly five years ago.


The local school bus drivers donated their time to drive people to and from their cars to the venue because there were SO many people that cars were having to park quite a ways away. The state DOT made their roadside sign flash between “heavy roadside traffic” and the sign you see above. Local restaurants donated food for grieving people to eat after the service. People came from far and wide to support this family in their time of greatest sorrow, and that was pretty cool to see.

I never actually spoke to his parents – the receiving line was a mile long, and honestly, I just felt like I needed to get out of there after spending an hour listening to the people who loved Axel the most tell stories that made us all laugh…and cry. I’m glad I went though. It was good to hear all of the wonderful words that people had to say about this little boy and his family and the community he grew up in. What an amazing life of travel and adventure and love he experienced in his short two years on earth.

Afterwards Charlie and I had a long discussion about Faith… our own Faith and our desires for Stella. She was splashing around in the tub, oblivious, while Charlie sat on the toilet and I perched on the edge of the tub, and we cried together and talked about God, and love, and the importance of a spiritual upbringing. We talked about how we know that some people say that they don’t “believe” in a higher power… but how it is truly incomprehensible to us that anyone could truly not believe in God in their heart of hearts, because it is such an integral part of us and our families.We talked about how we want to start going to different churches in the area to find the one that’s the best fit for us as a family (he grew up going to one church, myself to another, and it’s time to find one that works for both of us). We want to start learning about their Sunday School programs, so that when Stella is 3-4, she can start learning about God and Faith and Love. We won’t “force” it on her, but we do want to expose her to it and give her a good basis of education about God, so that some day she can make her own decision about what to believe in. We want to continue to pray with her before meals and before bedtime. We want her to realize how important it is to have faith in a God who is there to support us in our times of joy and our times of sorrow.

I love this article written by a Pastor about grief and what you should/shouldn’t say when there is tragedy involving children. Please take two minutes to read it, it’s important. Hint – never say it was “God’s will” for a child to die, capisce?

Don’t forget to hug the people you care about and tell them you love them. Remember what is truly important in your life.

Love & Peace to you and yours,

(ETA – Here is a newspaper write up about the memorial service if you’d like to read more about it.)


  1. This has been weighing so heavy on my heart and I just haven’t been able to find the words to express how very sorry I am for what this family and your community are going through. Love you, Jos.

  2. Good for you! We go to church and Sunday School every Sunday. I used to teach on Wednesday nights (which I’m starting again) and I used to go on Sunday nights. After E was born, I used her as a reason not to go. I HATE leaving her in the nursery/her class BUT I’m getting out of the box and starting back more faithfully more than just Sunday mornings. It’s a huge part of my life and I need it to be a huge part of hers. I’ll be forcing it on her for sure though. I want her friends, her entire support group to be her church friends. That foundation made me who I am today. Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Ugh, I can’t even imagine having to leave her in a classroom yet. Ignoring that part thus far. 🙂

      I’d like for her to have a lot of faith based friendships, but we live in an oddly non-secular area. Both C and I grew up in the midwest where EVERYONE we knew when to church and believed in God, and now where we live, ppl tend to be more agnositc or “worshippers of nature” – which we both find to be..odd.

  3. I don’t know how any of you are getting through this. I think of Axel a lot and last night, when thinking of him and praying a little, I told him that I will continue to think of HIM, but not of what happened to him. I just don’t know how the parents, family, and community of this child is supposed to move on from it. I’m a stranger and I can’t handle the thoughts of what happened to him – I can’t imagine having known, and loved, him.

    Oh faith… a recent topic in our house. I am not religious, but I am spiritual and choose to believe in a higher power (God, fate, whatever you want to call it). I just do. B does not. I believe we all go somewhere after death and live eternally with one another. B does not. This is causing some strain in our house when it comes to picking a preschool for Matthew (most are faith-based – and the BEST ones in the area are definitely faith-based). I applaud you for knowing how you BOTH feel about it, and knowing what you want for your child. I want religion to be presented to Matthew in an unbiased manner, but I just don’t know how that’s going to happen with a husband who is almost scared of religion.

    Good luck finding your church. I think it’s great that you both are searching together for what fits for your family. I am on my own here, and even after finding a great one (unitarian – all about nature, etc.), B is still not convinced.

    Hang in there. This is a very hard time… and I hate saying this but it’s going to take a long time for things to get easier. Take comfort in one another 🙂

    1. Your husband definitely isn’t the first person to be scared of religion. Have you tried getting him involved by going to an adult-based “sunday school” class where he could learn a little more about it? It’s hard when you want to teach something pretty important to your kid and your spouse isn’t on the same page. I can’t imagine. It was actually a pre-req of mine that any guy I was serious with in my 20s had to have faith, just in case he was the one! 🙂

  4. I haven’t stopped thinking about Axel and his family and have continued to pray for them and for peace with this nightmare. Which leads me into the faith part. Both Babe and I are Catholic, but for the record, we’re not the “best” Catholics. We believe in the faith base our parents have set down for us and most follow along with the Catholic religion. Knowing you and Charlie have this common faith base and know what you want for Stella is wonderful. We have chosen to raise Raegan in the Catholic faith as we were, but want to provide a base on which she grows. My sister is dealing with my nephew who has chosen not to be confirmed in the Catholic faith as he doesn’t believe in organized religion. Best guess, he’s being a rebellious teen who’s following the his idol’s beliefs. But she and BIL have set down a base for his faith and he can always come back to it.

    I hope you find a church that is just right for you. And I will continue to hold Axel and his family and community in my heart and prayers.

    1. Exactly – we want to give her a base to grow from. What type of religion she chooses as an adult is up to her, but we want her to have the base of Faith in God to draw from. Charlie grew up Baptist and then Presbyterian, I grew up Lutheran…so we’re pretty much in the Christian realm, but as long as she has faith in some sort of God/Allah/whatever, we’d be fine with that.

  5. mcmissis · · Reply

    I have sooooo much to say about faith and raising children, but nothing too coherent at the moment. We, too, are having to deal with it right now due to preschool selection. A long, wordy, rambling post is sure to spew forth soon!

    I was raised religious, and McMister was not. He says he doesn’t believe in God, but when our discussions get REALLY deep, he sometimes admits he believes in SOMETHING. I hadn’t told him about Axel because he hates it when I tell him about horrible things I read online that aren’t connected to us. But after your post yesterday, I had to tell him about all of our similarities. I did end up telling him about Axel, and he immediately said, “There is no God.” and he really meant it when he said it. He’s said it before when something terrible happens, and it breaks me.

    1. Wow – it sounds like you and I are in the same place right now (even down to the DH who doesn’t want to hear the bad stuff that we’re not directly connected to). Good luck! This is SO tough!

    2. Ugh, that would break my heart too, Sheelah. It’s hard to explain to a non-believer that God never promised to take away all of our pain – just to be there with us through it. The sadness and tragedy in the world is awful, but i can’t imagine not having my faith to help me work through it all.

  6. It’s just so sad. We are also looking at visiting churches in our area to find a good fit. Exposure is important for young kids. When A is older she can choose her path.

    It’s weird IF made me better understand how to talk to someone who is grieving. But great article!

    Sending out a prayer.

    1. Totally – that whole article could be applied to IFers as well in a way!

  7. I really like the way you are going to teach Stella about faith and let her figure out her faith. I just want to give you a hug over a beer x

  8. St. Elsewhere · · Reply

    Axel has been on my mind.

    He was on my mind today morning too, as I lit an incense stick, and thought of him.

    It’s horrific. And to know how the bubbly boy was snatched so cruelly from a life he deserved…I have no words.

    There is no comfort.

    And I know that words can often hurt a person more than bringing solace. I have read that article before.

  9. That is a great article, thank you for bringing that to our attention. I’m glad to hear you went to the memorial. It’s just an unbelievable nightmare. This news hit everyone so hard, and as a parent now, took my breath away and made my heart break into a million pieces.

  10. That was a great article. I know that people mean well, but sometimes they need a little guidance in the “what to say” department. Hugs to you and your community during this time.

    1. Thanks Jen – that means a lot coming from you. ((HUGS))

  11. just gutted for the family and everyone who knew Axel. my heart is so heavy for the family, for the horrible ending to a wonderful life Axel had. Sending hugs.

  12. My heart is so so sad for this family and I just cannot stop thinking about them.

    We definitely have some thinking to do about faith and God in our house. We definitely want Lids to choose whatever path she feels is best for her. Anthony and myself are both in the ‘we believe in a higher power, just not sure what/who/how exactly’ category so we are prepared to do a bit of exploring with Lids as she learns, grows and decides.

  13. elizabethkbaker · · Reply

    My heart hurts for you and for that precious family who lost their son. I can not imagine going through something like that without faith and the assurance that that little boy is in Heaven. You know, in my situation, knowing my son will die young, that is the ONLY thing that gives me hope that life will be bearable when that happens. He will go to Heaven, and I will see him again, for eternity. We are really involved in our church, and it’s such a good thing, not only for the faith part of it, but just to be involved in a community of people who believe the same things as you and are raising kids in a similar fashion.

  14. What a beautifully written post. I think somewhere deep inside of me I *do* believe in God, because I do experience moments where I can see God clearly. But most of the time I feel too analytical to connect. One of my greatest wishes is that I can feel God more.

  15. Elizabeth · · Reply

    I have thought of little Axle and his family many times this week. It breaks my heart to no end.

  16. I’m so sorry for the family that is going through this, for you and your grief, and for the whole community. This is such a terrible story and it still takes me breath away to even think about. I am glad that you went to the service as i think you might have regretted not (I would have) but I can’t imagine the strength that it took. If there is any good to be had, it’s this conversation that you had with Charlie and the resolve to find a place of worship that fits your family. I hope that your search is fruitful and that you are able to begin to create the base you want for Stella.

    Sending all the strength and happy thoughts that I can to your neck of the woods and to all those that are suffering. I know it’s a small consolation, but you’re in my thoughts.

  17. I too have been thinking about Axel and his family constantly since I first heard. I pray and pray and run out of things to pray for and try to distract myself and then feel so guilty because this family can’t…will never be able to…distract themselves from this tragedy. I’m so glad to hear that the community is coming together to support those who are grieving. Burdens can be lighter when we hold them together.

    About faith…we have a church and try to attend as regularly as possible, but sometimes it’s tough to make it (Harriet often naps through part of both Sunday services). But when we go, she LOVES it. She plays like crazy with the kids and is all tired out afterwards. Sometimes we bring her into the sanctuary for the music and she just soaks it up, bobbing her head to the beat. I know that she doesn’t understand why we’re singing or what we’re singing about, but I like the fact that church is becoming a comfortable place for her so that someday she will feel comfortable worshiping there (or somewhere else) in her own way, so that she will feel comfortable to ask tough questions, make faith-filled friendships, pour her heart out to God, and learn what it is to trust something (Someone) we cannot see.

  18. I believe and going through IVF/holding this baby only strengthened that. It sounds like your town came together and wrapped this family in love and support during tragedy, they will need that to carry on. Hug and hold our loved once close every minute of every day.

  19. I am catching up now on blogs and was stunned to hear this news. I’m sorry it was so close to you… I cannot believe that humans are capable of doing such horrible things to innocent children. I pray for Axel’s family. I’m sure you are hugging Stella tighter these days. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your community as they grieve the loss of this little boy.

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