In a recent New York Times column, Stephen T. Asma claims that religion can help people to deal with grief much better than science can. His case for religion over science has four flaws. It depends on a view of how emotion works in the brain that has been rendered obsolete by advances in neuroscience. It underestimates how much science can help to understand the nature of grief and to point to ways of overcoming it. It overestimates the consoling power of religion. Finally, it neglects how science can collaborate with philosophy to suggest ways of dealing with grief.
The scientific opinion often seems to be that we are nothing but our bodies, that conscious awareness is just the firing of neurons and that emotions are nothing but chemistry. The universe just sort of fell into existence on accident. There were some protein molecules lying around that accidentally turned into DNA and presto! Here we are. Tell that to the bereaved: You are nothing really. Your so-called feelings are just some chemical reactions. All your thoughts are nothing but neural activity. Your children who died were worth nothing anyway and you are nothing so get over it. That’ll be $200...NEXT.
There are better ways of looking at things, but a psychology founded in the materialist/reductionist view of reality doesn’t know those ways.
After reading the article (but not the study), it sounded more like an argument against faith as a way to handle grief, not religion. I also got the feeling it was focused on Christianity. Though I have no faith, I find the Jewish and Hindu practice of grieving with family over several days (often only for dinner), to reflect, share stories, or just be with others, to be not just lovely but a great way to support each other.
With that said, you can do that without religion, but having the structure for it probably helps.