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fizzyclare1

Grief, Loss Of A Loved One And Atheists

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fizzyclare1

So, how, looking at bereavement and loss, does an atheist cope?

 

I'm pondering this cos Mr Cox (ya know the dishy physicist) has argued that the main role of religious belief is to help us cope with death. E.g. Mexican day of the dead.

 

So how? In the absence of such things as ritual or ceremony do you, i dunno come to terms with mortality etc

 

...I think i may now run and hide behind the sofa...

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

 

 

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Fortuna

I won't even attempt to speak for other Atheists here as grief is such a personal experience. So how do I cope? I don't...... not at first. My beliefs give me no comfort whatsoever around death. I know some people emphasize the beauty of life and death and the cycles of nature, but I find that view far too distant and cerebral to help me when I have lost a loved one and my heart feels broken.

 

In my work over the years I have supported many people experiencing grief and, although you are not supposed to say this, time really is the only healer. My personal experience is of transition from horror and disbelief, followed by anger......... but this dissipates to a sad longing and coming to terms with the fact that I will never see a loved one again. I guess my lack of belief in an afterlife makes this tough as I cannot believe my loved ones are playing harps, drinking mead or living in the Summerlands. My belief is that they have ceased to be and that the same will happen to me.

 

Eventually, though, the pain subsides and I find myself being able to think about those I have lost with a smile on my face. In truth, I just don't think a human mind could cope if the first agony of grief didn't slowly soften. My mind is simply not that strong.

 

Every loss eats away at me a little and there are some losses I know will be part of me until the day I die. Ten years ago I lost my beloved sister to whom I was very close........ my only sibling. Even though I no longer feel the loss in the same way I once did, it can still pounce on me. Just this morning on the way to work, I listened to Bach's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring", and found myself crying........ remembering my sister and how she loved beautiful music. And I'm crying now. And that is ok. I don't ever want to be "over" my grief....... so long as it doesn't dominate my life as the living really should live.

 

I know I have been very personal in this post and hope I have not brought anyone discomfort to anyone.

 

Mike

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Maeve

You know, Mike, it doesn't really help to have a belief in the afterlife for after all, that "belief" is so much hope and wishful thinking because we cannot really know! Oh, I have had experiences when I am 99% convinced, but there is always a small doubt ... it is just as heart-breaking and grievous and - you are right - it never really goes away and can pounce long after the death of the beloved .....

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Moonsmith

Beautifully put Mike.

 

I'm not an Atheist but my belief that my atoms will return to the less organised state from which I collected them results in very similar views on any existence beyond life.

 

As I get older I care less and less about my own non existence, It certainly won't be me that's grieving or worrying about my departure but I still sometimes end up thinking the exact reverse of Maeve's view. I'm certain in my view but as no one can know anything absolutely there is a tiny chance that I'm wrong. There just might be something going on after I'm dead. I shall be one very confused cadaver!

 

As to grief, I think that that should be separated from "regret" and "missing someone".

In my opinion grief is biological whereas regret is more cerebral. Handled properly grief can pass quite quickly. Regret and "missing" tend to last a lifetime in the memory.

 

Again in my opinion - Grief is best managed by familiarity with death. I would encourage anyone who has lost a close friend or relative to see and/or sit with them for a while where that is possible. In my experience and that of others in my extended family this helps enormously with the gut wrenching incredulity that is grief. An open coffin for those who can accept it, should serve the same purpose were it not that many funerals must take place far too long after the death.

 

Regret? Well I have held my view on afterlife for long enough and am sufficiently certain that it is what happens that, where I have time to anticipate the death of a loved one, they're ceasing to exist is part of that anticipation.

Please don't think of this as heartless, it isn't but it is a natural rationality which believe it or not I find very comforting.

 

edited to make sense

Edited by Moonsmith
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fizzyclare1

Thank you for such heartfelt responses

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

 

 

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Moonhunter

So, how, looking at bereavement and loss, does an atheist cope?

 

I'm pondering this cos Mr Cox (ya know the dishy physicist) has argued that the main role of religious belief is to help us cope with death. E.g. Mexican day of the dead.

 

So how? In the absence of such things as ritual or ceremony do you, i dunno come to terms with mortality etc

 

If Brian Cox said that, then he's strayed into territory where he's talking from the wrong orifice. :P

 

The Mexican Day of the Dead is probably a syncretic belief assimilated into Christianity as practiced in Mexico. Celebrations of the dead occur in Europe (Estonia and IIRC Lithuania and possibly other Baltic states and surrounding countries). The practices in Europe were universal (as far as I know) within the pre-Christian countries of the heathen religion. The early church issued a number of warnings against eating with the dead, and may well have had the main part in imbuing cemetries with danger and fear, in order to stop people talking to deceased realtives.

 

OK, so it's all religion, so who cares? Well, it's not that easy. Pre-Christian Heathen beliefs weren't comforting about death. Yes, some folk had a happy afterlife but others didn't. The same thing with Christianity - if your relative isn't a believer, then you won't see them after death. So, if we're talking about a form of belief which has comfort as its main purpose, then we're talking about what academics call 'folk religion'. It's extremely plastic. In other words, 'folk religion' what people believe when they feel the need. Different forms of folk religion contradict each other. That doesn't matter, because those who use it don't examine their own beliefs. once they do begin to examine their own beliefs, they stop using folk religion and start on the path towards engaging with theology (in whichever religion). So - folk religion is held by many in order to give comfort in a way that "real" TM religions don't.

 

Ritual and ceremony is not confined to religion. Atheist funerals still use ritual and ceremony. I have helped conduct Quaker funeral ceremonies, which depended on no religion and were there to enable relatives and friends celebrate the life of the deceased.

 

Grief isn't any less for those who are embedded in a religion and knowingly assents to its theology. One of the most profound publications on the subject is a slim volume written by C S Lewis when the wife he married late in life died. It expresses the agony and emptiness of grief. It also demonstrates that even someone intellectually and emotionally embedded within Christianity, still has to deal with grief on the same footing as anyone else. In that sense, one could say that we are all atheists in grief. Some stay there - "I can't believe in a God who does this!" - and some return to the faith they had before the death. some take a different faith, or a different form of the same faith.

 

I tend to feel that folk religion is there for those who either can't cope with their grief or don't know how to express it. Folk religion offers words and phrases to ease awkwardness for those who encounter to grieving relative. Folk religion exists just as much in paganism - it's just that some re-label 'heaven' as 'summerlands'. It's the same idea, whatever name one chooses. that 'heaven' doesn't exist within Christianity and 'summerlands' is (as far as I know) a part of the 1950s construct of Wicca in order to provide some form of counterpart to heaven, possibly to demonstrate Wicca was a genuine religion. As most people engage only with the folk religion version of their chosen faith, vagueness is preferable, in order not to alienate people. ;)

 

Sorry - none of this is practical. On a practical, personal level, then Heathenry offers a number of potential afterlives, none of which really engages me. So, on a practical level, I have no knowledge of what happens after death. And that doesn't worry me. So I have no idea what becomes (if anything0 of those I love who die. I grieve the loss of them. The pain is because they are gone. If someone says "religion helps give them comfort" it annoys me, not merely because of the above, but because it seems to be saying "those with faith suffer less than the rest of us".

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fizzyclare1

Thank you my for teasing some of the complexities apart :)

 

Also I apologise for not giving a link to Cox's assertion about the role of religion. It was a TV episode of one of his documentaries and did, iirc, refer to the Mexican day of the dead.

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

 

 

 

Thank you my for teasing some of the complexities apart :)

 

Also I apologise for not giving a link to Cox's assertion about the role of religion. It was a TV episode of one of his documentaries and did, iirc, refer to the Mexican day of the dead.

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

*thank you for teasing... Autocorrect playing up I think

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

 

 

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Moonhunter

Also I apologise for not giving a link to Cox's assertion about the role of religion. It was a TV episode of one of his documentaries and did, iirc, refer to the Mexican day of the dead.

 

Yes, I watched it. I love Brian Cox as a presenter - his enthusiasm makes him a brilliant teacher. But not infallible. ;)

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Roots

I won't even attempt to speak for other Atheists here as grief is such a personal experience. So how do I cope? I don't...... not at first. My beliefs give me no comfort whatsoever around death. I know some people emphasize the beauty of life and death and the cycles of nature, but I find that view far too distant and cerebral to help me when I have lost a loved one and my heart feels broken.

 

In my work over the years I have supported many people experiencing grief and, although you are not supposed to say this, time really is the only healer. My personal experience is of transition from horror and disbelief, followed by anger......... but this dissipates to a sad longing and coming to terms with the fact that I will never see a loved one again. I guess my lack of belief in an afterlife makes this tough as I cannot believe my loved ones are playing harps, drinking mead or living in the Summerlands. My belief is that they have ceased to be and that the same will happen to me.

 

Eventually, though, the pain subsides and I find myself being able to think about those I have lost with a smile on my face. In truth, I just don't think a human mind could cope if the first agony of grief didn't slowly soften. My mind is simply not that strong.

 

Every loss eats away at me a little and there are some losses I know will be part of me until the day I die. Ten years ago I lost my beloved sister to whom I was very close........ my only sibling. Even though I no longer feel the loss in the same way I once did, it can still pounce on me. Just this morning on the way to work, I listened to Bach's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring", and found myself crying........ remembering my sister and how she loved beautiful music. And I'm crying now. And that is ok. I don't ever want to be "over" my grief....... so long as it doesn't dominate my life as the living really should live.

 

I know I have been very personal in this post and hope I have not brought anyone discomfort to anyone.

 

Mike

 

Oh Mike. I'm with you and shedding a tear reading that right now. The parallels with my own thoughts and experience is uncanny. I feel the power of nature, history, human experience and place but still cannot overcome the logic in my mind that says that when we end, we end but that offers no salve for the pain of losing those close to us when it happens. I strongly believe that we do live on after our death in one way though....in the hearts and memories of those we leave behind. Whether that generates smiles or tears (or indeed anger!) probably reflects our deeds in life and quite rightly so I suppose we should think about that legacy before it's too late!

 

I, too, lost my sister and only sibling, twelve years ago now. Sheesh it's gone quick Nut like you say that time has helped me learn to deal with the pain but I still have my moments. Guess we all do, eh?

 

All the best

Roots

Edited by Roots
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Ellinas

It may be relatively unusual, but it's not impossible to find an atheist who believes in some form of post mortem survival.

 

It may be relatively unusual, but it's not impossible to find a theist who does not believe in some form of post mortem survival.

 

As to those who do so believe, it strikes me that the theological and mythological positions are ultimately just pictures, created by those who knew no more than anyone else, but in the context of enforcing a social and religious conformity.

 

The simple fact is you pays your proverbial money, and takes your equally proverbial choice. I am a theist. I choose to accept post mortem survival. Will I ever see - if that word means anything in terms of some sort of disembodied existence - my parents again? I simply don't know.

 

How, then, do my beliefs make a difference? I'm far from certain that they do.

 

Of two things only I am certain, on this one:

  1. If my beliefs on post mortem survival are correct, some here will be very surprised (even confused, Moonsmith);
  2. If my beliefs on post mortem survival are not correct, none of us will ever know,

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Moonsmith

It may be relatively unusual, but it's not impossible to find an atheist who believes in some form of post mortem survival.

 

It may be relatively unusual, but it's not impossible to find a theist who does not believe in some form of post mortem survival.

 

 

Of two things only I am certain, on this one:

  1. If my beliefs on post mortem survival are correct, some here will be very surprised (even confused, Moonsmith);
  2. If my beliefs on post mortem survival are not correct, none of us will ever know,

 

First - I am a theist who does not believe in a post mortem awareness. Awareness is for me the test. Were I to believe in such, reincarnation in which I have no memory of me as I am in this incarnation may as well [in my view] be annihilation. Another thread please reincarnationists????

 

Second - you propose an interesting variation on Pascal's Wager.

One cannot lose by anticipating post mortem survival and it removes the responsibility of facing the alternative. I could almost envy those who have a certainty of salvation! Oh yes, salvation please in that strange universe that contains Devil and hell.

 

Me, I'm a Pagan. I take personal responsibility for my spirituality whether I enjoy it or not. [Mostly I do :) ]

 

 

Fizz I wish you a quick end to your grief and joy in your memories.

 

 

edited because I always do.

Edited by Moonsmith
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Xalle

Well...

 

First of all we do have ritual. We have funerals just like the religious, without the religious trappings. In fact, I'm in the process of training as a Humanist Funeral Celebrant. (I already conduct humanist weddings).

 

Humanist and Atheist funerals tend to be a celebration of the life of the person who died. The best description I can give you is a "sending off" or goodbye. Unlike religious funerals (and I'm speaking specifically christian) they are not an entreaty of how good the person was in some sort of weird bargaining to get them into heaven and they aren't (what I find to be) a hollow "dont worry they aren't gone they're in a "better place". I get shudders when I hear things like that, all I can think of is the lie we tell children, "Rover has gone to live on the farm!"

 

I will tell you something I've observed about humanist/atheist funerals. They are far more personal than religious ones (christian). They offer far more comfort and closure. I, in the last few years have sat through some horrific christian funerals. Hell fire and brimstone or twisting the knife over the loss, it was those that inspired me to train as a humanist celebrant.

 

The other thing that humanists offer is "pastoral" support. We have grief counsellors, and general pastoral volunteers. I'm one of those too. I go into our local hospice and talk to atheists, non religious and even religious patients and offer support, an ear to listen, someone to just read the paper to them or a book, sometimes I'm asked to speak to the families about their funeral wishes and sometimes, regardless of faith or none, they just want to speak freely about how they feel, their anger, or fear, or worries to someone they wont burden with it or someone who wont try and comfort them with prayer.

 

How do I cope with loss? The same as everyone else I suspect. Badly at first. But when time has healed the direct pain, I'm also acutely aware that the people I have lost are never really gone. They are always with me in the memories they have helped me create, in the things I do... in who I am. My grandmother, who practically raised me I miss desperately at times. But every time I do long division I remember her (it was her that taught me how to do it) every time I write a 7 lol (i write them like her german style). In my baking, in some of the phrases I use. I see her in my sister, my mum...

 

Regarding Cox. I dont actually think he is entirely wrong. I cant think of a religion that doesn't try and provide a "cure" for death.

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fizzyclare1

I think loss is never ending really, thank you for your kind words

 

Sent from my XT1032 using Tapatalk

 

 

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Ellinas

That's a novel thought, Moonsmith. I hadn't thought of my post at #10 in terms of Pascal's wager - primarily, I think, because I'm wagering nothing, it seems to me. There are no odds stacked in support of a given outlook. My premise is that one believes what makes sense to one's own mind, and accepts that knowledge is beyond us. In that context, I merely agree with you that you will be surprised if my beliefs are correct, and assert neither of us will know if I am wrong.

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Veggie dancer

Ive been to a humanist funeral and it was really nicely done. It was a gathering to celebrate the life and legacy of my friends dad, i think most people there felt they learned more about him at the funeral and seeing all the people there whos lives he had touched in some way was really special. It was also very inclusive and gave time for people who wished to pray that opportunity too.

 

Ive been to a C of E one that was more old fashioned and there was prayers and drab hymns but a good portion of it was also people speaking about the life of the person and storys about her so it was also quite a good celebration of her life.

 

Ive been to a couple of catholic ones, one was packed, it was a teenager at my school who had died, the music was modern and people talked about her life. Though there was a bit more focus on the after life.

 

The last catholic one, was really impersonal, there was almost no talk about the persons life and it was mostly a load of prayers. The only bit i did really like was at the cemetary when each of us put a handfull of soil into the grave. For me that was very symbolic of her retrning to the earth.

 

I think it is great that there are non-religious ceremonies available now and it is also great how religions do seem to be allowing people to tailor the ceremonies to what they want all be it within their framework.

 

I believe that nothing ends only changes, i dont believe in an afterlife as such but that our spirit will be dispersed and recycled just like our body will so in a way that is the same as ceasing to exist, but not quite. I find it comforting that i will become new things rather than just be gone. I also find comfort in the thought that horrible people who lived have ended, their ingredients are still here but have been re-made anew into something else, every life is a fresh start.

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