A former coworker of mine just lost his sister to cancer after years of riding the rollercoaster of hope and fear. His love for her inspired me, and it reminded me acutely of what it was like to watch a family member die from the disease.
I have only experienced fresh grief as a Christian. My father died in 2003, and I sought comfort and peace in the hope that he was “in a better place” and free from pain, experiencing the joy and bliss he always desired in life. He was a very passionate believer, and he would always tell me we’d “be together again” when my time was up. I found this to be very soothing and helpful, because I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted more time with him, and I desperately wanted him to be healthy again. I was so fearful of being separated forever. Magical solution? Heaven. Duh.
I’ve never lost a loved one as an atheist, so I honestly can’t speak to what it feels like to say goodbye to someone knowing we will never be together again. I imagine this could be a healthy, helpful way of letting someone go, processing the loss, and moving forward. Is that so?
What matters most to me now is understanding someone’s role in my life and how that helps me be a better person. That way, they live on in me, through me. My father is part of me down to my very DNA. He’s gone, but he has a legacy that affects me and every single person I encounter. I am very fortunate to have had such a great life with him while it lasted. Isn’t that what grief should be about?
What about you?
We can all can talk a good game about how great it is not to be oppressed by the burden of hell, yada yada… but only someone who has actually experienced a loss can talk about what grief is like.
Has anyone out there experienced intense grief as both a faithful religious person and as an atheist? How did your experiences differ on a personal level? Could you share with as much transparency as possible (as you feel comfortable)? Were both healthy experiences? Was one more comforting than another? When someone says “It doesn’t matter if so-and-so has faith in Heaven if it comforts them,” do you agree or disagree?