(Closed) Dealing with loss as atheist or agnostic.

posted 8 years ago in Emotional
Post # 17
850 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@GrannyPantiesRock:  Processing loss as an athiest is a lot about the emotional experience for me. I try my best to acknowledge all feelings, no matter how painful or confusing. I accept that I will have (and have had) devastating experiences and supremely joyful ones. I don’t push myself to heal before I am ready. I allow feelings to rise to the surface naturally, I give myself the time and space to feel it all. Talking with those close to me about my feels helps enormously. Then begins the intellectual process of evaluating what I’ve learned and where I am going next and once I’m in that place I am starting to heal. It’s not about the absence of faith, I just have a different way of making my way through life and I find this so much more fulfilling for me personally. 

Post # 18
3551 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

When someone dies is the only time I wish I believed in something, well I also sometimes wish for the community that churches can bring. Death is hard to process, but even as I go through it I know that in time it will be better and I will always have my memories of the ones I’ve lost. When my grandmother died I tied a black string around my wrist and whenever I looked at it I’d remember her. Eventually it frayed and fell off and by the time it did the loss didn’t hurt anymore. It was kind of a suprising relevation both that I had lost the string and how much less it hurt. It’s still sad that my grandmother is gone, but it’s what is and what will be for all of us.


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@LoggerHead91207:  If you don’t want to be grass plant something else with the ashes. My granfather is an oak tree now, it suits him.

Post # 19
1146 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

@GrannyPantiesRock:  I have very similar beliefs to you and for very similar reasons. I too struggle with this same issue, and even almost “wished” I believed because it seems like it might be easier. Like you, I will not allow myself to believe for that reason though.

The thing that has really helped me (and maybe really the only thing) is to focus on honoring them. I’m not talking memorials or mentions, while those can be nice. Meaning, remembering the things I loved about them, the ways they lived their lives that I admired about them, the things they valued, and what kinds of things they would have wanted me to do and experience in my life in effort to live well, right and to the fullest.

I think as an agnostic or athiest, it’s easy to feel like death is an end and a finality and nothing else, and in a religious world that looks to what happens post-death to validate and give meaning to what happens pre-death, it can be especially hard to cope with the end of life. So, we have to really live life to the fullest and work extra hard to give our best every day.

When our loved ones die, yes, they are gone and their bodies are in the ground. They are not “with” you. But, in addition to the memories, the ways they added to your life, the values they instilled, the love they gave you and the ways they inspired you all still remain. I believe that the best way to go on is to become even MORE open to their good influence and make sure that through your life, you are continuing the best of theirs.

For example, my grandmother, one of the most loving and giving people I have ever known, would buy about 200 birthday cards every January. She kept a special planner with everyone’s birthday and made sure that no one she cared about ever went a year without a birthday card. Now that she is gone, I do that. My grandfather valued education and hard work so much and was part of the reason my family has enjoyed so much prosperity in our lives. He never missed a report card (a dollar for every A) or let a grandchild go on a trip without giving them a special book about the location or activity to do while on the trip that would help them learn and get something a little more out of the experience. Now, I try to give extra thoughtful, unique and relevant gifts to children when the opportunity arrises, hoping that they too will have their horizons expanded just a bit.

Those are obviously two small and rather trivial (in the scheme of things) examples, but I like to think that I am able to continue to make the world a little better in some of the same ways my loved ones did. It makes me feel like none of their efforts went to waste and that if by some chance they are out there, they feel honored that the values they espoused did in fact make an impact and continue to do so. I also always think about them and what their advice would have been whenever I am making a big decision, and try to live in ways that would have made them proud.

that got really long, but your post resonated with me. hope that helps 🙂

Post # 20
1646 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2015

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@Eckle:  Lol! Sorry, I was just using it as an example. I was really saying it sucks that people have to die. I have no issue with grass. Smile

Post # 21
9916 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

I’ve never believed in heaven or an afterlife or anything.  My grandmother died when I was 10, and it was AWFUL.  No one said those silly things like, “Oh she’s in heaven smiling down at you.”  My mom is an atheist, too, and she was like, “Grandma is dead.  I’m so sorry.  We’re all going to miss her.”  And we still DO miss her.  But it’s not worse because we don’t think she’s having a party up in heaven.  It’s just…she’s gone.  The loss is ours — we do not have her in our lives.  

I do think we have links to people from the past, though, and those who were with us while they were alive.  That’s part of our human culture.  And really…it’s not unique to humans.  Elephants have graveyards, right?  So mourning and remembering the dead is organic and doesn’t only come from belonging to/believing in an organized religion.  


And to those who mentioned those statements people make, like, “Oh Jesus wanted him back” or whatever…I find them offensive.  

Post # 22
3551 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

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@LoggerHead91207:  I meant it to be kind of tongue in cheek, but I felt bad about putting any kind of smiley thing on OP’s post. Glad it made you laugh.

Post # 23
1166 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: January 2015

Athiest here.  

The best way (I’ve found) to think about death is to realize that no one is ever really “gone,” every part of the person that once lived is still in existence, it’s just a little less, well, “ordered.”  

Most importantly though, remember that even though you don’t believe there’s an “afterlife,” at least not in the traditional sense, that now that the person you loved is no longer alive the world is a little worse off than it was before.  So, in a way, they’re still in a better place than those they left behind.  

*Hugs*, loss is never easy.  


Post # 24
1486 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

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Great way of putting it and coping.

OP I totally get it. My last big loss was over 10 years ago and at that time, when my aunt died a horrible death from cancer, I believed in the afterlife…at first. Very soon after I stopped believing and when my family talks about feeling her spirit near them, I stay silent. I’m afraid of how I’ll handle a big loss again (my parents) without that comfort. 

Post # 25
8570 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

Agnostic borderline Athiest here, and I totally understand where you are coming from.

I do, however totally believe in reincarnation and the spiritual world, so I find comfort in that. My beliefs are basically that heaven & hell were pretty much made up on the spot to explain the impossible, and used as a form of control for all of those who believe.

My own personal belief is that there are only so many souls, the idea of there being an unlimited amount is unfathomable for me, therefore, each soul is recycled – reincarnated into another beautiful being. If for some reason a soul has unfinished business, it will be stuck between the spirit & present world.

I don’t know, I’m probably a little crazy but it helps me deal.

Post # 26
9679 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

@GrannyPantiesRock:  Religion isn’t something I respect or value and I don’t think about it in my everyday life. I would bever turn to it in times of need because that’s one of my biggest pet peeves (people using religion as a crutch…and to be a jerk, but that’s another story).

I have a family member who is dying and because I don’t believe in any religious principles, i.e. the person will always be there, it never even occurred to me to consider it when it becomes relevant to me. If I don’t hold stock in something, I don’t consider it at any phase of my life. 

I’d focus on dealing with it how you usually deal with terrible things. For me, that’s writing and I am creating a memorial for my family member. He won’t always be with me, that makes no sense, but I can certainly make it easy to access the memories and reflect on our time together whenever I want. 

Post # 27
275 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

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@MrsTywinLannister:  This. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, so the energy that is our self is still there in some way, shape or form.  No idea if it’s sentient or not, but it’s still there nonetheless.

Atheist heathen child here. I can totally empathize with wanting to believe in some sort of higher power and/or heaven when a loved one is lost.  I’ve lost many that were and are close to me.  It’s difficult to fully understand the finality of it all.  After all, the only thing we know (unless you believe in reincarnation) is this life, we have a hard time understanding non-life.  

I like to take solace in how those people touched my life and affected me.  Like a little bit of them shows in my own self, and thus the good they impacted on the world isn’t all gone.  It lives on through everyone they’ve touched.  

*hugs* Keep your head up and allow yourself to feel whatever you need to.  One day at a time…. 

Post # 28
1610 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

@GrannyPantiesRock:  In my mind, it is far more horrifying to believe in a god who would kill babies. Better your loss be explained by simple biological function rather than an evil or cruel deity. I find no comfort in the idea that someone is “in heaven” because the logical implications of that idea are horrible. 

Relious people struggle with their faith sometimes for the same reason, e.g., asking “why is god doing this to me?” That’s a much worse position to be in. Plus it puts all sorts of confusion and guilt on you — it could be your fault that you lost your baby (I actually had a friend say those words, because she does believe in god and therefore thinks her miscarriage is a lesson or a punishment — which is sickening and certainly hasn’t helped her). Really, why would you ever want to believe your life is at the whim of a god? IMO that cheapens your joys and successes and deepens your pain. Besides, who’s to say your loved one isn’t in hell, if you believe in heaven? 

There’s much more to say on the topic, but I’ll just stop and say, if you really think things through, you might come to the same conclusions: there is no solace in religion. A logical world is a far, far more comforting notion. 

Post # 29
3051 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

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@jenilynevette:  I’m similar to you except christian/agnostic at the moment. I was raised christian, my SO is christian, I’ve “felt God” at times in my past and I used to have a very strong relationship with him but it’s since faded significantly into a whirlwind of uncertainty. I believe a bit in reincarnation…not exactly how others believe in it but I think some people have past lives. I’m not sure everyone does though. I also cannot get myself to think that we the people on this planet are the only life forms out there. It sounds insane but really, out of the millions of other planets, galaxies, groups, solar systems blah blah blah (I know nothing about space lol) we are the only thing to ever exist. I’ve thought up some crazy possibilities over the years but I’m still undecided overall.

That came out not very similar to you at all lol But I mean the spiritual worlds, that hell is made up (though I may believe that as a coping mechanism to be 100% honest), unfinished business, reincarnation, etc.

Post # 30
566 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I’m not sure if religion would necessarily be that comforting anyway. When someone you love dies, it sucks. It sucks whether you believe it was just a failing body or an accident or an act of God. The person is still dead. If you’re not religious, then they’re just dead. If you are religious, then maybe there’s hope that the person is in heaven or there is a greater plan, but it’s not like you’re in heaven with them or you know what the greater plan is, or even would approve of the greater plan even if you knew about it. For religious people, sometimes a tragedy like that can be just as bad or worse than for an atheist because they feel betrayed by God. They have to question everything. So now they’re dealing with loss AND questioning their very foundation AND feeling alone and betrayed by the deity that is supposed to love and protect them the most. Yes, if they can get through that, there imay be comfort. But it doesn’t come without struggles, and there are rarely answers. it’s not like a mom who loses a son thinks “well, God did it and he’s in heaven so it’s all ok.” It’s more like “I don’t understand why God would do this and I’m not sure I even want to believe anymore because I feel so hurt and betrayed, but I will put my faith into God that this is part of a greater good, because that’s all I can do” That’s HARD. People of faith don’t blindly worship and thank God for tragedies. They/we struggle just like anyone else, just in a different way.

Death sucks. Whether it’s “just” death or it’s part of something greater, it sucks to lose someone. There are many ways you can try to cope, and religion is one, but it’s not the only one and it’s not always easier.

I’m sorry for your loss. I hope time will help. Time, other loved ones, good memories, maybe a new hobby to take your mind off of it. It’ll get better. But I’m sorry that you have to go through this.

Post # 31
30 posts
  • Wedding: March 2014

When Fiance and I got engaged almost a year ago in Feb 2013, we soon picked our date (March 2014) and it meant so much to me that my grandpa would be there on my big day since my grandma wouldn’t– she hasn’t “passed” but she has advanced alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home and therefore could never really be present on our wedding day. I was so close with them growing up and I never thought that one of them might not be there when I got married.

My grandpa’s health deteriorated over the summer and before we knew it, he was gone. That was in October. The closer we get to the wedding, the harder it is to acknowledge that he won’t be there for me. It made him so happy to talk about the wedding plans and he even left us a parting gift to pay for the DJ. Even after he’s gone he is still going out of his way to make me smile. 

I have never been religious– I was baptised and confirmed Catholic, but I never accepted the idea of a God or Heaven. This has made dealing with my grandpa’s death really difficult, especially since I can’t console myself by thinking that he will be there in spirit, or watching over me… I wish I could believe that. Like some others have said, sometimes all there is to do is to cherish memories and relive them by talking about those who have passed not with religious wishful thinking, but with honesty. My grandpa was a real person who died but that doesn’t mean he didn’t leave anything behind. He had a whole life that deserves to be celebrated. But sometimes I find it comforting to put on a playlist of songs that make me feel nostalgic, wear one of his old flannels, and just cry. It’s okay to be sad and to mourn. 

There’s no easy answer, especially for the godless heathens. 

I’m sorry for your loss and I wish you the best!

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