Grieving The Death of The Man You Thought You Knew
April 12th, 2022
Hi blog readers, Meeting House Family, and general church family,
This post is some thoughts I have had as we grapple through the refining process that God is currently at work doing within my church. In particular, I want to explore the elements of grief that are present in these kinds of situations. (For those unaware Bruxy Cavey has had his pastoral credentials revoked for what the report has claimed to be abuse of power and sexual harassment – in my opinion a soft choice of language for what actually occurred; see footnote at end for further details.)
Everyone is having different emotions about the news that has come out. I stand with the victim and hear her heart in all of this. This was sexual abuse and should be labelled as such (please see explanation at the bottom of the blog post; especially if you disagree or want to know why I choose this term and how choosing different terms may reveal where an individual is in their own process of grief). I myself have faced sexual abuse from 5 different individuals over the years in addition to facing other forms of emotional mental and physical abuse from additional individuals. It is extremely hard to speak out and use your voice to break the chains of violence. This is especially true for so many of us women who have grown up in an evangelical subculture that continually reinforces silence as “being a good Christian woman” – which to be clear is quite anti-gospel whatever spin you may choose to take on it.
Having faced so many instances of abuse it has become clear to me that each and every circumstance is unique in addition to the fact that every survivor of abuse themselves respond to it differently. It is also clear to me that in most cases of abuse it is the secondary wounding that often does more harm than the abuse itself. Secondary wounding is a term used to refer to when how others respond to the abuse causes further revictimization, blame, feelings of being misunderstood or any of the other yucky things that may occur. In every circumstance of abuse the best practice is to ask victims/survivors what they prefer the approach to be and do everything in your power to walk alongside them in that exact approach. It saddens me that our board chose to take the route of legally safe language and use the exact terms from the report, against the victims wishes. The moment we start to put protection of a legal entity over love of a human soul we have missed our mission as the church. Do we really believe that our God is so small that we need to protect the legal entity of the church ourselves? We should make the loving choice and choose the most loving language and leave protection of the legal entity of the church up to God.
This action does not feel akin to biblical moments like David standing before a giant with a sling shot and some stones or Shadrach Meshach and Abednego choosing to step into the fiery furnace and refuse to bow before an idol. Have we made a legal entity our idol here? We should be willing to step into the furnace knowing that even if God does not keep us alive it was the right call to make. I’m ashamed that our faith is too small to walk forward boldly in trust of the miracles God is capable of. In my opinion at the very least if we were not willing to take that step of faith then from the start both that legally safe approach and a statement from the victim should have been shared hand in hand from the get go. When we were called to step out onto the water like Peter, we instead looked around and retreated further into the heart of the boat at the fear of the waves. We can do better.
This sadness has been mixed with anger tied to my own experiences with abuse and processing some of my own past pains of secondary wounding. And of course within the swirl of emotions is also great grief. It is this grief that I want to address now.
I have had a lot of experience with grief over the years on this planet. But I want to draw some comparisons to one instance in particular that brought a lot of confusion as to the different elements of grief that were present and teasing them apart. I think there are some clear parallels for the lessons learned that can be applied here.
When I was 20 years old my brother was arrested for first degree murder. I had faced years of physical abuse at his hands prior to this, but had often been told by social workers that he was not at that level of dangerous. That his anger was in the moment, was never premeditated, and would never get to a place a violence where my life was truly at risk. That I was never really in that deep of danger, despite my silenced voice continually trying to scream to the world otherwise.
I was in shock when it happened. In total disbelief. I did not think first degree murder was possible. I was fearful of anger but truly thought inflicted pain was uncontrollable. And yet despite shock and disbelief I also relieved to finally be safe. And angry that no one had believed me. And I felt like my perception was finally validated and that I was not crazy after all or over anxious in how unsafe I had felt after all. But over riding all of this I was grieved. Grieved that someone could cause so much pain. Grieved that this could be possible. Grieved that someone was no longer on this earth. Grieved that it could have been prevented if only someone would have listened and taken things seriously. Grieved that we had kicked him out of the house and that it wasn’t me and someone else had had it directed at them. Grief is a complicated emotion and there are several layers to it. I could go on for a long time exploring endless elements.
What I want to address is how despite all my anger towards my brother, despite feeling it the right decision for him to be behind bars for what he did, despite the relief of finally being safe, I also grieved his loss too. Who I had thought him to be was not who he was (part of me always wanted to believe the social workers were right). I grieved that the person I thought I knew, the one I grew up with and was friends with, wasn’t who I expected him to be. Grief involves morning the marred past and recognizing how shattered our perception of what we thought was and how incorrect we had been.
But it also involves morning the future that we expected to have with an individual. Despite anger and hurt at my brothers actions and being relieved he was behind bars where he could no longer hurt anyone further, I was also terribly grieved that there would be no more family gatherings with him present. No more birthdays, or Christmases, no more Easter dinners or board game nights. Those things had come to a close. I agree wholeheartedly with the decision of my brothers arrest and the justice that led to that. Yet there was also a part of me pained by the realities that come along side that right good and just decision. We are human. We are dynamic and complex with conflicting emotions. And that’s okay. To feel whatever you need to feel is normal and valid. To be brokenhearted about the future you expected there to be, that has now completely vanished from view, is okay and does not necessarily mean you were idolizing an individual. It could be a factor, for sure. But do not assume that your pain that the future will not be as you desired it to be is a sin. It is a normal part of life and a normal part of grief. It does not mean that you think what happened was ok or that you are disagreeing with the victim’s reality or are wishing another decision had been made by the board. It simply means that this is one layer that you wish didn’t come with the package of consequences that deep down you know are the right true just consequences for such actions.
As we head into Easter we morn the loss of our first holiday season without Bruxy. Yes I’m aware he was gone at Christmas, but back then there was hope and we did not truly know what had happened. This is the first holiday where we know for certain there is earned absence and deep grief. It’s okay to agree with the repercussions of the actions and still be grieved at the loss and betrayal of those sacred family bonds. My brother killed someone’s body, but sexual abuse often kills a piece of the victims soul. Praise God we serve a Lord who is in the business of resurrecting! May this resurrecting and rebirthing be in the works for all involved.
As we head into Easter I am also very aware of the reality that from our darkest moments comes the greatest light. The cross, among the most horrific acts in all of human history, was also the moment of greatest love and led to the moment of greatest hope when Christ rose again.
The dark times we are in are heavy no doubt, but as a survivor of several circumstances of sexual abuse over the years I am also aware that this darkness has led to a new collective consciousness of what it means to face abuse. So often in my life there has been this sense that only those who have been victims or survivors understand what I have been through. But because of Bruxy’s position of leadership it was a betrayal not only to those directly involved, but to the congregation as a whole. For the first time ever people who never understood get it, at least in part. They know what it means to be betrayed and lied to and think reality is one thing only to discover that it was something entirely different. And this gives me great hope, because something that was so foreign to many of you that could only be met with compassion, can now be met with empathy and a level of deeper understanding. You have been given a small taste. Please, steward that well.
We grieve not just what was being gone, but what could have been floating away like vapour as it drifts out of our plans for the future. It’s okay to be grieved and it does not mean you are against the decisions that have been made or do not stand with the victim in all of this. I have grieved the loss of connection with abusers in my own life but am completely against the abuse they committed. Be your full dynamic range of human emotions. It’s part of the process.
Praise God that although we now identify with the disciples in the bleakness that followed Good Friday we also look forward to the hope brought by the resurrection. For we serve a God who makes all things new – even the horrors of what we now face.
A Quick Explanation of Why I Use The Term Sexual Abuse It has been said that there are different perspectives on what transpired and why Bruxy Cavey is no longer a Pastor. Some are treating it like an affaire (despite the fact that the board has explicitly stated it was not just an affaire but an abuse of power) while others understand it to be abuse. As a life coach, I fill out paperwork ever year for insurance for coaching that includes options for pastoral counselling. This paperwork makes it very clear that this cannot possibly be an affaire. See, it is understood that clients are not able to consent to such things. Without consent sex does not exist. Without consent there is only rape. Misunderstandings of this in western society is one of the main reasons why there has been such a push on college & university campuses to shift the “no means no” campaign into “yes means yes.” Under Canadian law a 15 year old cannot engage in sexual intercourse with anyone where there is a significant age difference presence because it is understood that they are in a vulnerable position and are too young to give consent or understand the fullness of what is occurring. This is a similar parallel to what has transpired. A client seeking pastoral care cannot consent to sex as they are considered to be in a vulnerable position. Therefore it is rape. We can use whatever policy language we want to attach different terms referring to the same thing, but at its core that is what occurred.
If anyone is viewing it as an affair, in my opinion they either do not understand all of the facts, or perhaps are in the denial stage of grief – a stage some very well may never move beyond from. Because of this I do not hold it against anyone who has misunderstood this reality and if you choose to view it as an affair I understand. I write this to encourage those who have faced abuse to be patient with those who are choosing to view this an affair. It is a protection mechanism that God has designed into our human existence and the denial stage of grief is a completely normal part of the process. It took me over 3 years to recognize my own instance of sexual abuse for what it truly was and to see the full extent of manipulation that had gone on – despite best efforts of friends trying to point it out to be long before then. I simply wasn’t yet ready to process the elements that need to be processed when that reality finally slapped me across the face. I am grateful for that season of protection and for the dynamic way that God has designed our psyche. And I am grateful to those who were patience and met me with grace when I finally realized that had been right along rather than gloating about it. ………..
Hi everyone, life coach practitioner Katelyn Townsend here! A while ago I was cleaning my back bedroom, when I discovered a water leak on the outside wall. The moisture from the leak had caused mold to start growing. It was working its way up the wall and along the floor where the leak had occurred. The mold was slowly overtaking the entire area, an infestation of sporous fungi. I had to evacuate all of my important things from the room and spray down the area with intense chemicals. The make shift “fumigating” process caused me to have to temporarily move into the living room overnight. As a life coach I like to think I’m usually quite open to change, but spending a few nights on a couch is not something I was thrilled about. Nonetheless I thought it may offer a neat change in perspective.
Although I was making the best of the situation my dog could not see the silver linings. He sat outside of the bedroom door whining and crying for hours, begging to get back into his favourite spot! Going about my day I thought he would quickly find something else to do. Soon it was well into evening and the poor dog was still sitting in the same spot, whining, crying and desperately hoping for the door to open up again. He was so confused by what was happening.
Often life closes doors on us when it is unsafe for us to be in that area anymore. When this happens many of us become confused or shocked by the sudden change. Sitting in front of the door won’t do us any good. No matter how much we cry, whine, or beg to get back inside the door is going to stay closed. There is a reason it has been closed. It is closed to protect us and redirect us towards something more beneficial. Here comes the tricky part. How do we turn away from the pain of that closed door? Most of my life coaching clients get stuck at this point, yet it has one of the simplest answers. It starts by taking a step down the hall in a new direction. Rather than focusing on that door we need to shift our focus to look for something new. The first step in getting over the closed door is to simply turn your eyes away from the door.
Eventually if you keep your eyes open to new opportunities you will begin to see them. Once you begin to see them you can begin to take steps in that direction and make those opportunities your reality. If you have trouble seeing these opportunities or figuring out how to take steps towards them book an appointment with me, Life Coach Practitioner Katelyn Townsend, and I can help you get the ball rolling. It starts by knowing where you want to head next. You also have to be willing to continue along that process the next time another door closes.
You can either stop and stare at the closed door complaining, or you can accept what is and move on, knowing that the door is closed for your protection. That area of your life is now toxic. You need to leave it alone, or the chemicals will harm you. Take your hand off the door knob and walk away. Stop wasting precious time. Instead put that time towards something of value. Before you know it you will even find yourself grateful that that door closed! It’s time to let your mind shift from seeing closed doors as missed opportunity towards understanding them to be a source of protection from danger. It is all about the perspective that you have.
Share a story about how you turned away from a closed door in the comments below!
To book a life coaching appointment contact Coach Katelyn Townsend by phoning 1-705-206-6786, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out an appointment form online. Life coaching appointments are offered online or in person within the city of Sault Ste. Marie. You can find out more information about the life coaching services offer by Life Coach Practitioner Katelyn Townsend at katelyntownsend.weebly.com.
Abraham's Fortune Wellness Centre
Helping you find unity with yourself, others, and the divine and get you in the right mindset to achieve your goals.