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How to cope with the death of a loved one?

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#1
Storybook

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How do those of you who are agnostic or atheist cope with the death of a loved one? 

#2
Unbeliever

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I don't have any family, but a good friend of mine died about a year ago. It didn't bother me much at all, because I've been thinking about death all my life, pretty much, and I was prepared for his demise ahead of time. I guess it's too bad that I'll never see him again, but I feel like I have to accept reality the way it is. There are a lot of things about reality that I'd rather were different, but I know that I can't change them. I don't fear death in the least, I'll just stop existing, and I'll be just as I was before my conception.

#3
The White Coyote

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It is a difficult bridge to cross when you come face to face with losing a loved one and realize that they have simply ceased to exist. It would be very easy to pretend that our loved ones spirits are in some beautiful place and that somehow they are looking down upon us and we can take comfort in this dream. And so it is. But the place they are in is not in the heavens, nor in some other plane of existence. The place where they are alive is in our hearts and our memories. The lessons they taught you. The smiles they brought you and the love the gave you, all still exist. You don't need some amorphous blob in outer space called God to hold your loved ones. You held them yourself when they were alive, why is it you can't hold them now that they are gone? You can, and you do.

I am older than most of you on this board and as such have probably lost the most relatives. I have seen so much death in some of my former jobs that it is difficult to sleep nights. I have watched as my comrades have slowly rotted away, abandoned by their own government until now,when there are very few of us left. To put it in a nutshell, I have lost too much. Somehow though, I keep going.

My people do not believe in death as an end. (Cherokee) Death is simply another step in existance. When we die we are scattered as ashes or buried in the earth to give back to the soil that which we harvested while we were walking the good red road. Our bodies may decompose and drift away but the memories we left will live on through our children and our friends. That is the part that was important. My grandma, Hazel Redtomahawk use to say "Our bodies are only the pot that holds the flower that is our spirit. It is the flowers beauty that will be remembered, not the pot."

It is natural and healthy for a person to weep when they have lost someone they love. But it is your own heart you are weeping for. You weep for that little spot that that person left vacant in your heart and that pain will subside I promise. Try to focus on that part of your heart where that person still lives, the joy, the fun, the friendship and the love. Those things are still there and you don't need anyone or anything to hold them for you.
                                                    Peace, The White Coyote

#4
TopHat

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My people do not believe in death as an end. (Cherokee) Death is simply another step in existence. When we die we are scattered as ashes or buried in the earth to give back to the soil that which we harvested while we were walking the good red road. Our bodies may decompose and drift away but the memories we left will live on through our children and our friends. That is the part that was important.
                                                 


This made me cry. And it reminds me of something itself. We pass on so little, and written word is immortality. I remember you once saying you wrote your own biography of your life. Although I cannot say my life was filled with the same stuff as yours, for every person is different, but I shall write my life down so it may be passed on to the future generations to teach them how I feel about things life this.

I will have a viking funeral.

#5
The White Coyote

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Post Script; Ever since humans became self aware and experienced the pain of losing a mate or a child or a parent, we wanted to believe that this life here on earth wasn't the end. We dreamed of a place where our loved ones went and lived forever. Immortality.

Since those early days, many of us, not all for sure, but many of us, now realize that immortality is just a dream. The last grasp at life. The need to go on forever.

But immortality is possible. Through words and deeds and kindness and love, we can be remembered forever and ever in the hearts of those we helped, in the minds of those we taught, in the monuments we created.

It is very important to leave a legacy and this is how it's done. Write a letter to all your friends and family to be read after you pass away. Record a cd of all your favorite songs. Create a scrapbook of your favorite things, favorite places and things that influenced your life, good and bad. Make a recording of yourself saying those things which mean a lot to you. But most important try to be at peace every night before you go to sleep. Try to tie up everything that may be undone as best you can. Make sure that everyone you love knows it everyday. Trust me, you'll sleep much better.

#6
Ungodly

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I would be remembered for awhile but as those whose lives I touched passed, I will be forgotten unless I were to become famous (which I won't).  Even if I left a biography/scrapbook, I doubt it would be kept for more than a couple of generations.  However, it doesn?t matter to me if I am remembered or not.  What is still most concerning to me is how to cope with the loss of loved ones without having that heaven-fairytale to believe in.


Eleven years ago I buried an ex-lover who committed suicide. Four years ago I buried my adult first-born son. Last summer we buried my children's maternal grandfather, in September we buried my step-father, and last month we buried my dear mother.  I've had some recent experience at attending funerals as an atheist.

First of all we need to keep in mind that grieving is for the survivors, to help each other, console each other, and share memories of the deceased. At least that is how it is done in my whitey Christian Euro-immigrant family tradition.

I let other people get their solace from religion and I don't try to hassle anybody about their beliefs at such a difficult time.

But you're really asking how I handle my own grief, knowing that the deceased is simply gone. I do not waste any energy worrying whether any Imaginary Pearly Gates

#7
The White Coyote

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Our immortality does not come by anyone remembering your name or even your face. What really counts is the goodness that you pass on to others and they pass on and so on and so forth. That goodness can go on forever, far past the stage where anyone can remember any of us. You are who you are today because of your parents, friends and people you have met. They are who they are for the same reason and back it goes for who knows how far. The important part however is that you remember that loved one who has gone on and honor them by using those things that they may have taught you.

Here in my den at home is a small plaque that my Mom bought for me before she died. It reads; "God forbid that I should go to a heaven, in which there are no horses."

Now my Mom knew how I felt about religion and prayer. She knew that I did not believe in heaven or hell. So why would she give me this little prayer? It took me quite some time before it all became clear. My folks were ranchers, and horses were an everyday part of life. As children we grew up around horses and cattle. Our friends were ranchers and cowboys and looking back, some of my greatest moments in growing up were linked to those hay burners. I rode a horse before I could walk.

What my Mom was saying is that if heaven existed, if it didn't have horses? To her it wouldn't be heaven and she'd just as soon not go there. This was a very spiritual woman, a healer and shaman and a woman that lived her life with conviction. But right up until her death, she still believed that if heaven didn't have horses, she'd just as soon pass.

My point is this. Here was a woman who actually believed there may be a chance of a life after this one, yet she would rather just go to sleep forever than enter a heaven that she knew didn't exist.

Who am I to wish for her an afterlife where she would not be happy? This is the kind of thing that will stay with you and you can pass on forever. Remember, the dead know nothing. They are asleep forever and they are in no pain, they never get cold or uncomfortable. They never thirst or get hungry. We miss them sure but take solace in knowing they do not miss us.

#8
Storybook

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What really counts is the goodness that you pass on to others and they pass on and so on and so forth. That goodness can go on forever,


Ahhhh!  White Coyote, now I understand your point and I agree with you! I enjoyed the story about your mom too.

Remember, the dead know nothing. They are asleep forever and they are in no pain, they never get cold or uncomfortable. They never thirst or get hungry. We miss them sure but take solace in knowing they do not miss us.


This helps me.  Thank you.

#9
The White Coyote

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YUR WELCOME!


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