The women's stories shed light on how people cope with grief each in their own way, even in the face of being misunderstood by religious people or struggling to find a safe, supportive -- and secular -- place to grieve.
Carol Fiore's husband was treated for injuries in a Catholic hospital before he died and was given last rites and prayed over until she actually had to kick the priest out of the room. And people's "reassurances" after he died ("'God has a plan,' ... 'Eric is going to a better place'") were infuriating to her.
Everything I found had to do with God -- putting your faith in God, believing that God had some sort of plan. I found nothing to help me.
I don't believe in an afterlife, and I don't think I'll see him anymore. But I just have to look in Tia's eyes, and hear her laugh; and hear Robin talk about history the same way that Eric did; and know that he is still there.
For Mari Bailey, whose 21-year-old son Michael was murdered in 2004, belief in God slipped away in the face of agonizing questions such as "What kind of God lets a child be shot?'"
She has found healing through helping others who have lost a child to murder, as a support group facilitator for Parents of Murdered Children, for which she also serves on the board of directors.
Still, her struggle with the issue of faith continues, for while she says that "'for the sake of Michael, I just need to believe that there is more to life, beyond death,'" when it comes to believing in God, she also says "'I just can't.'"
Montagne also interviews Joanne Cacciatore of the MISS Foundation, who conducted a survey demonstrating that "religious leaders are really bad at comforting people in grief" (but one wonders if those who judge religious leaders harshly in this regard are mostly people like Carol and Mari, who are not amenable to religious intervention in their grief).
She surveyed more than 550 families, asking whom they found the most helpful during those first terrible days: first responders, doctors and nurses, social workers, psychologists, funeral directors or spiritual leaders. "And of all of those, the spiritual leaders actually came in last," she says.Joanne covers some of the feedback she received from spiritual leaders about her comments in the NPR interview -- along with her further reflections on spiritual practitioners and grief -- in a follow-up post on her blog.