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Coping with loss

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Malcolm
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Coping with loss

#1 Post by Malcolm » November 8th, 2007, 9:20 pm

I haven't had a major bereavement but prior to my deconversion the idea didn't particularly bother me because I assumed I would see the deceased again one day. I no longer believe this. When I read about the tragic death, particularly of a child, I really wonder how if the parents are non-believers, they can ever come to terms with it. Isn't bereavement too much to bear?

What kind of support mechanisms are available to atheists?

Moonbeam
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#2 Post by Moonbeam » November 8th, 2007, 9:43 pm

I'm sure there is no bereavement as terrible as the loss of one's child. I've had some sad bereavements but I've always believed that was the end and somehow I've managed to cope with them. I don't know the answer.

You might be interested in this essay on the Council for Secular Humanism website:

The Gift of a Wise Man

Bubbles
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#3 Post by Bubbles » November 8th, 2007, 11:27 pm

Hi Malcolm,

It might help to consider grief as a natural process. It is a necessary response to allow healing after a death. It produces certain emotional reactions; numbness, denial, guilt, anger as well as physical reactions; headaches, loss of appetite, lethargy.

I once talked to a mum who had just lost her teenage son a couple of days before. She had said something along the lines of ' I hope he likes the music I've picked for the funeral' before adding 'I know he's gone and I don't believe in heaven and hell, but I can't let go of all of him just yet'.

I'm a great believer in 'whatever gets you through'.

I would reccommend reading Elisabeth Kubler Ross (psychiatrist) 'On death and Dying'.

Bubbles

Bryn
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#4 Post by Bryn » November 11th, 2007, 9:16 pm

Very good advice, Bubbles. It must be one of the hardest things about deconverting, Malcolm, to lose the hope of everlasting life.

On another forum today I saw a post from a theist that made me see red:
Do atheist visit gravesites? Why if they do? If you do, do you talk to the grave? Do you expect an answer? Do atheist leave flowers at a gravesite and why? I don't think that the dead will thank you. I understand tending to a loved ones gravesite in the theist perspective, but if you are an atheist why do this. I am not saying that you didn't love your departed loved one, but isn't it an illogical waste of time to be devouted to the dead. If it shows respect, how so? The dead cannot respect you anymore, because they are after all dead.
Fortunately there were plenty of atheists to put him right that grieving and wanting to keep a loved one's memory alive is not the prerogative of theists.



:angry:

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Lifelinking
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#5 Post by Lifelinking » November 11th, 2007, 9:23 pm

Do atheist visit gravesites? Why if they do? If you do, do you talk to the grave? Do you expect an answer? Do atheist leave flowers at a gravesite and why? I don't think that the dead will thank you. I understand tending to a loved ones gravesite in the theist perspective, but if you are an atheist why do this. I am not saying that you didn't love your departed loved one, but isn't it an illogical waste of time to be devouted to the dead. If it shows respect, how so? The dead cannot respect you anymore, because they are after all dead.
what a pillock :deadhorse:
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
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Alan C.
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#6 Post by Alan C. » November 11th, 2007, 10:53 pm

Do atheist visit gravesites? Why if they do? If you do, do you talk to the grave? Do you expect an answer? Do atheist leave flowers at a gravesite and why? I don't think that the dead will thank you. I understand tending to a loved ones gravesite in the theist perspective, but if you are an atheist why do this. I am not saying that you didn't love your departed loved one, but isn't it an illogical waste of time to be devouted to the dead. If it shows respect, how so? The dead cannot respect you anymore, because they are after all dead.
It's been brought up many times I know, but why is it that the faith-heads have such a poor grasp of spelling and grammar? Look at any Christian forum and you will see numerous examples.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Beki
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#7 Post by Beki » November 12th, 2007, 5:24 pm

Hi Malcolm,

I was away to say that I recently had a bereavement, but just as I was writing it I realised that it has actually been over five years now but it doesn't feel that way. It was my aunt who died far too young at the age of 56 and I was very close to her. Of course I still miss her but the way that I look at it she is still 'with me', in that the lessons that she taught me about life, her wonderful attitude of just getting on with things and never giving in despite having some of the worst luck possible has given me strength at times when I have needed it. Her life is one that will not be forgotten by the people she touched in this way, and I think there are quite a few.

In that way I can look positively on her life as a 'successful' one and that, I think, is all you can ask for.

I do visit her grave now and again, mostly to remember her and remind myself how lucky I was to have had someone like her in my life.

Zoe
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Re: Coping with loss

#8 Post by Zoe » November 13th, 2007, 12:32 pm

Malcolm wrote:I haven't had a major bereavement but prior to my deconversion the idea didn't particularly bother me because I assumed I would see the deceased again one day.
When it comes to bereavement and grief, I have never known it make a difference whether someone is religious or not. If we really love someone, we want them to be with us in this life. When my twin brother died, I did actually think we would be reunited in Heaven one day but I didn't particularly draw any comfort from the idea and it didn't help me come to terms with his death one bit. I thought of all the things we weren't going to share in this life...

It was actually this particular experience of bereavement that made me think seriously for the first time about what the religions teach and eventually I concluded it was a load of crap.

Buy my parents remain religious and I can't say I see it helping them. They will never get over my brother's death whereas for me it has brought home to me just how precious life is and we have to make the most of it and try to get along.

Malcolm
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#9 Post by Malcolm » November 14th, 2007, 2:48 pm

Sorry for the delay in returning to this thread - I've been off-line for a few days. I really appreciate your posts, you have given me plenty to think about.

I am still at the stage of adjusting. I have shed my belief in the supernatural and am now perhaps erring in the opposite direction and forgetting that it's actually OK not to be totally rational and hard-headed all of the time.

Thanks for the link, Moonbeam, I explored some of the other articles as well and was dismayed that some people don't appreciate the value in funeral ceremonies even to the extent of forbidding people to have a ceremony for them when they've died. I agree with Bubbles about 'whatever gets you through' but if 'whatever gets you through' is coming together as a family to remember and pay tribute to the deceased you'd better hope the deceased hadn't forbidden it. I found the article by June Maxwell particularly annoying.

Zoe, I am so sorry to learn that you had such a serious bereavement at so young an age. In hindsight I should have engaged brain before posting. The fact is that I have never had a bereavement of any sort (apart from family pets). It's not something I've had to face yet and I couldn't possibly know how I would have reacted, had it happened when I was a believer but I now recall reading an account by the deeply religious Lord Hailsham (Quintin Hogg) of how he was inconsolable when his wife died in an accident. He lost count of the number of people who expressed the assumption that his deep religious faith must be a comfort to him but he said in fact that his faith didn't help him it all.

As you say, it's this life, we miss them in.

silvia
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Re: Coping with loss

#10 Post by silvia » February 3rd, 2008, 6:02 pm

Hi,

This is my first post here, so please bear with me if my style is not quite right yet.

I suffered a bereavement recently - my father died of cancer in 2006, aged 67. It was hard, of course, but I'm not sure believing in an afterlife would have made things any better.

So how did I cope? I cried, I wrote, and I thought a lot. Eventually, I came to accept the cycle of life and death as a natural thing. And I took a long, hard look at what I was doing with my life and the gap between that and what I wish I were doing - and took some steps to close that gap.

I think the most important thing to cope with bereavement is to have a varied life with many sources of fulfilment. Nothing can prevent you from suffering, but if you have other sources of pleasure - and even passion - in your life, you will eventually find your emotional stability again.

Does that make any sense?

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Alan C.
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Re: Coping with loss

#11 Post by Alan C. » February 3rd, 2008, 6:24 pm

silvia
Does that make any sense?
Absolutely.
Welcome to the forum :wave:
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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xman
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Re: Coping with loss

#12 Post by xman » February 4th, 2008, 6:22 am

Thank-you for sharing, silvia. That's exactly how I've felt at losing someone dear. These days I also try to remind myself that my dear ones will one day be lost to me or I to them and that that day may come sooner than I could imagine, even suddenly and at any rate will come too soon in the first place so I should truly cherish my moments with them.

A close friend of mine shared a story about a family friend of his who was dying of cancer, with just a few days to live. The man's wife was distraught beyond function and unable to make the funeral arrangements. When my friend went to visit the dying man he was told that he had arranged for a one day leave from his death bed for the next day so he could coordinate his own funeral. He fulfilled his tasks that next day and was dead within the week. the dying man also shared with my friend on his own death bed that he still felt that heaven was lark. He knew he would die and have no life after this one.

Also ...

I have a dear friend who passed away six years ago now. Annually a group of us gather to raise a glass in his honour. Our friendship with him remains one of the bonds which unite us even after his passing. We were roommates, comrades and confidants of the closest degree he and I. I still love and miss him terribly. He was a great man.
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jaywhat
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Re: Coping with loss

#13 Post by jaywhat » February 4th, 2008, 6:24 am

My dad is in my head.

Firebrand
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Re: Coping with loss

#14 Post by Firebrand » February 4th, 2008, 9:51 am

Thanks for your post Silvia and welcome. My father was of a similar age to yours and he also died of cancer in 2006 and I can relate to what you're saying. The biggest single thing that helped me though was that I conducted his funeral myself. It felt like a last act of love that I could perform for him and a great privilege.
xman wrote: I have a dear friend who passed away six years ago now. Annually a group of us gather to raise a glass in his honour. Our friendship with him remains one of the bonds which unite us even after his passing. We were roommates, comrades and confidants of the closest degree he and I. I still love and miss him terribly. He was a great man.

X
That's a wonderful thing to do. People do live on in our memories and our lives are enriched for having known them.
jaywhat wrote:My dad is in my head.
Ditto.

Nick
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Re: Coping with loss

#15 Post by Nick » February 4th, 2008, 10:10 am

the nearest people I have lost were my grandparents. Though they led long lives, their death came as a shock to my emotions. I never felt tempted to believe in heaven though, it just seemed too implausible.

On a lighter note, on The News Quiz one of the panellists said that he had tried to live each day as his last.....so spent it in bed, slipping in and out of consciousness...

Atheists4Jesus
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Re: Coping with loss

#16 Post by Atheists4Jesus » February 4th, 2008, 10:46 am

I may well be a cold hearted bugger but the way I see it, when you're dead, youre dead. I cope fine with loss. Grandad died when he was oooh I dunno, 80 odd. To be expected I suppose. Coped fine and he remains to this day in the standard maroon felt bag and plastic urn handed out at Morton Hall.

This was the end of October. 10th of Feb, a mere 3 months later, my old man decides to inconvenience us all by having the old exploding blood vessel thing in his brain. He was 42. Can't say I coped well for the first couple of weeks but the whole afterlife thing never entered my mind. I've coped great after the first couple of weeks went by. He's dead, also in the standard urn/felt bag from morton hall which would no doubt make him a very happy man cause he was a stinking big Jambo.

Anyway, coping with loss is the title of the thread. I cope fine with things as long as I have my family. I don't need an invisible sky daddy to prop me up. And one thing that always bothered me, why do christians cry when someones dead? Surely a party is the order of the day to celebrate a family member/friend going to spend eternity with jebus no?
I'll never understand Christians against capital punishment. Without it there would be no Easter.

Maria Mac
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Re: Coping with loss

#17 Post by Maria Mac » February 4th, 2008, 1:47 pm

Nick wrote: On a lighter note, on The News Quiz one of the panellists said that he had tried to live each day as his last.....so spent it in bed, slipping in and out of consciousness...
:laughter:
Atheists4Jesus wrote: I cope fine with things as long as I have my family.
What if you don't? What if they were all wiped out in one fell swoop? How people respond to the experience of bereavement depends on a lot of things but their personal circumstances at the time is certainly one of them and the nature of their relationship with the deceased is another. I can certainly understand how people whose loss leaves them alone in the world can't cope with the thought that they won't see their loved ones again.
And one thing that always bothered me, why do christians cry when someones dead?
Because they'll miss them in this life? I cried bitterly when my daughter left home to go to university because I knew I'd miss her!

Obviously Christians do have parties after funerals. Ones I've attended have been invariably turned into jolly occasions even for the most tragic bereavements.

Atheists4Jesus
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Re: Coping with loss

#18 Post by Atheists4Jesus » February 4th, 2008, 2:08 pm

Well if you don't have family then you have to find some other way to cope. I've always thought the God crutch was a bit weak to be honest. My mum likes to think my old mans "up there" somewhere until she starts to think about it. See, papa was no saint and if we're to believe any of the major god myths, he's burning in the lake of fire right now. So, it may be a comfort to some thinking their loved ones are "up there" but if they ever took the time to think about it they'd be even more distressed because if a God myth is to be believed then 99% of those who've died will be in Hell.

See, it cuts both ways. An evil man, Dr Shipman say, will burn in hell for his evil ways. Tibbets will be "up there" because he was a good man apparently. You only want to think you're loved ones are still living somewhere because letting go is hard to do. They live on only in memory. If you're family is wiped out in one go then you'll find a way to cope, those who don't cope either fall into a living hell called depression or top themselves and I've been there. Not being able to cope and not being able to come to terms with things is different. My mum can cope but shes not came to terms with it.

RE Christians crying, I ask simply because I've never had an answer from a christian, they seem to draw a blank on that one.
I'll never understand Christians against capital punishment. Without it there would be no Easter.

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Fran
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Re: Coping with loss

#19 Post by Fran » April 7th, 2008, 10:17 am

I've just come across this thread and found it very moving indeed. Very best wishes and super-positive thoughts to all of you who have contributed, especially those who have coped with bereavements.

My only contibution is to remark that I'm now of an age where several of my friends have lost their husbands, and I am constantly amazed by the strength and resilience of all of them , 'believers' and non alike. The human spirit is extraordinary, and sometimes seems to be strenghtened by sorrow and disaster, after a grieving period of course.

Sillycat
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Re: Coping with loss

#20 Post by Sillycat » April 8th, 2008, 1:39 pm

There is a conflict between my emotions and my logic when it comes to this topic. A part of me has always wanted to believe in God, to believe in the answers that religion gives, particularly in the comfort of meeting your loved ones again after we are dead. My brain, however, tells me that this belief defies logic and that once we are dead there is nothing.

The idea that there is nothing after death is quite appealing, no pain, no sorrow, no conciousness, just peace. Though this is little comfort to those who are left behind and have to face the void their loved one has left in their life.

That is the downside of being a logical thinker I suppose, you can't fool yourself into believing everything will be alright, which is how I feel about religion, it's like lying to yourself. Yet part of me would like to have faith, because it seems easier than facing the stark truth of life and loss.

I think it takes a special kind of person to face the truth head on without flinching, those who cannot manage it either avoid the truth completely or like me, see the truth but still wish it wasn't so.

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