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Dealing with grief

I recently lost someone I cared for very much, and I'm swarmed by religious family members who find solace in the idea that she is in heaven and they will see her again. I find it difficult to vent my feelings to anyone, and worry about being alienated if I state my beliefs. I also don't want to bring up my attitude toward religion and take away their comfort, but I'm struggling to find my own. What are some good ways to cope with grief when you don't believe in a higher power? So far I've joined a support group on Facebook, done some writing, and just tried to enjoy the memories. But it feels like it just keeps coming.

By WonderLust3
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There is no easy solution to this age old condition. Acknowledge the pain, remember fondly and give it time. Time will help.

^^^ This. ^^^


Every time I'm grieving a death in my life there's a sort of poem that helps me about a physicist speaking at your funeral. Helps put things into perspective for me. I hope it helps you.

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen."

-Aaron Freeman

That was an amazing thing you shared. It definitely brings perspective! It really made me rethink my own mom who passed 6 years ago.


It's helped me to find one or two people who could talk with me (not AT me) and listen to me, whether working through anger, lonliness, the endless "whys"... I avoided those who wanted to throw religion at me. Like you, I did not want to hurt or alienate them, but the empty platitudes felt almost insulting.

There are self formed and moderated grief groups here. Hopefully you will be able to check them out and find someone with whom to connect that might help.

I am so sorry that you are on the painful path of loss. I have been, and am on it again myself. It's awful.

Zster Level 8 Dec 28, 2018

Everyone is different. For me when I lost someone very close to me I had to distance myself from everyone and also from my emotions. I went to work only because it was a distraction to not feel. It might not be the healthiest way to deal with it but I knew I wasn't ready to. A couple of days passed and I dealt with the pain. It was mostly internal, from an outward glanced most people said I looked tired. But any constructive way to vent. It just depends on the person. It's always hard adjusting and continuing on. It's been about 2 years and I still feel like I'm dealing with it. If talking about it helps talk to someone, if you need to cry let it out, it's about finding what works for you. I hope this helps. Sorry to hear about your loss. We're here if you need to talk it out.

CuNguyen Level 5 Dec 28, 2018

As time goes it will get better and better

Jolanta Level 8 Dec 28, 2018

Have a good cry or two and try to think of the good times.


Grief is unbelievably complex. I've experienced all stages of grief within 15 minutes of one another on the same day. You own your grief. no two people grieve alike. It's been five years since I've lost my husband,almost six, and I'm still dealing with it on some level.

Kojaksmom Level 8 Dec 28, 2018

Two weeks ago, a psychologist who wrote a new book on grieving was interviewed on National Public Radio.

She said the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross chronological stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) implies that grief ends. This is incorrect. Instead, grief is cyclical and lifelong. You learn to manage your grief.

My father died from cancer on December 20, and was buried on December 23. I was 24. For six years, I got sick in December. Then I started working on grieving. Dad was a jazz trumpet player in Detroit. So, I:

  1. Buy a trumpet ornament;
  2. Play a jazz flute duet dedicated to my father;
  3. Thank Dad for the gifts he gave me (intelligence, humor, musical talent);
  4. Forgive him for his hurtful criticism;
  5. Light a candle in his memory.

Acknowledging your grief is comforting and centering.

I still feel sad at Christmas ("Oh no, not again." ) But the balance in my heart is shifting. Now I celebrate the warmth of loving relationships instead of feeling only pain.

Kubler-Ross makes people believe grief should happen in stages when that is not true. Good point. I think you go through what you need to and eventually incorporate that person into your memories.


I'm so sorry for your loss.

It would be so much easier to believe that you'd see them again soon in heaven, wouldn't it? When my mom died (a life-long, self-defined "heathen" ), my sister declared that she had been a Christian, and they would see each other in heaven. I had my lifetime of memories and had taken care of her for the last ten years, so I didn't challenge my sister's dillusion.

Grieving is a process that happens over time. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that's happening. Sounds like you are doing helpful things.


GinaKay Level 7 Dec 28, 2018

I am so terribly terribly sorry for your loss. Let yourself grieve, give yourself time and try to remember them. When my Mum died my biochem lecturer told me that energy is eternal that we all share some of the same atoms of Julius Cesear. The physical sentinence is absent but their energy continues. Whats good about this is that it is demonstrable fact. Life continues in their energy and their being in your memory. Much love

Amisja Level 8 Dec 28, 2018

When I lost my mother I tried not to remember or talk about her. I had no photos to see. I made some kind of denial and tried to imagine she was abroad. It helped me go through life with such loss. After two to three years I comfortably started talking about good memories of her and now I remember her when she spontaneously appears in my mind. I can see pictures of her going through my bunch of photos at ease, but still no framed photos on the wall. It worked for me, it's not a good-for-all recipe, but it might work. I am certain she is not in heaven and I will never see her again, but when I pass away, I'll be gone forever too. Just as before I was born. I guess to be in doubt if I will see her in heaven would only create anguish for me. I wish you peace of mind and feeling of calm. I am sorry...


Grief has come to me at different times in my life and never when expected. The grief that I am talking about is physical and uncontrollable, tears, shaking body, a deep feeling of loss. The first time I recall it was when I was walking along a street near the university where I was studying. My uncle had recently died. He was married to my father's sister and I grew up knowing the family. They lived a few homes away from my parents home. I never realized how strong the bond of love could be. While walking, images of him and my life came to mind and the loss started to build. A friend happened to be walking on the same side of the street in the opposite direction and he walked with me to a nearby restaurant and eventually I was able to tell him what happened. It helped to discuss this with him. I experienced grief twice with regard to my father, once we my family agreed that he must go to an nursing home for the rest of his life. The second time was years after his death, as I was driving my truck. There was a Led Zeppelin song on the radio from their album the Houses of the Holy, The Rain Song. Love is supreme.

rodwaara Level 2 Jan 9, 2019

Everyone deals with grief in their own way, regardless of what you believe in or don't believe. I know people who on the loss of a family member, are inconsolable and never fully recover, and yet spout the "better place, will see them in heaven, they are with other family members" mantra, while obviously not fully believing it. I don't believe I will ever see my dad, grandparents, first born child or any one else that dies again. I can tell you, my way of dealing with grief is the remember the good things that person accomplished in life, the happy times we may have had, the less than wonderful times as well. In the case of my infant son, that good time was only less than a year, but he had cancer, so his last 6 months of suffering made his death seem like a release from that. I find that rather than mourn their death, I prefer to celebrate their life and keep their memories alive without condemning myself to misery. Life is precious and short and should be lived while you are alive. Long term grief is not honoring those who pass, but killing your own life instead. Just how I handle it. As I said at the beginning, everyone deals with death on their own way.


My died in June. The only way I found out of grief was to make decisions on who am I rather than continuing to keep thinking about it. One of my recent decision to become a full body donor helped me a lot. Now I know my body won't go to waste. My 8 year inspired me to do so.

OhMyDog Level 3 Dec 30, 2018

Grieving comes in waves,one minute you are fine,dry eyed,composed,the next,a memory is set off by ; Eating at places you used to go with the deceased,perfumes or colognes,music,movies,and the water works begins. Counseling can offer advice,but we all grieve at our own pace.....

Mike1947 Level 7 Dec 30, 2018

This is the one place where I do actually envy theists. I handled death exceptionally well as a Mormon. These days, it scares the fuck out of me and, even though I understand and accept people dying in their elderly years, I can't handle the deaths of young people, especially children. I can't tell you how to feel better about it or how to cope with death, but I can tell you you're not alone and that it is normal to feel lost, confused, and hurt during times like these. Good luck. I hope you find something that helps.


Your profile mentions going back to school; are there campus psych resources available? (I remember applying to UWEC for journalism; I was scared away by its student newspaper's comic of someone sunbathing in snow.)


One must work towards acceptance. It takes time, but if you work it thru the raw intensity will subside. I do this often as I rescue old dogs that no one wants. Some touch me so deeply tears arise to this day. But it has taught me about the process & how to employ it. Heal soon.


It sounds like you are doing the right things... though you may want some support for someone close to you in person too. There is no formula for grief, but 1 thing is true for all who suffer the loss of a loved one on their road to cope.... they need time. You need time. Do the things you listed, but allow yourself to know that it will take time too, and be patient with yourself.

Grenage Level 4 Jan 3, 2019

it is difficult coping read my profile and you will see what i went through,i did find a lot of solace in rrthe atheist debate rooms ie,..sam harris christoppher hitchins (sadly missed and dawkins etc etc it helped me quite a bit but only time will ease grief not completely do not watch or listen to sad things and try if possible to not to linger on past memories ( easier said than done).and never shut yourself away from friends or people as grief is when you need them most.Above all,keep occupied as much as possible.Remember, someone somewhere is always ready to listen to you.


Sorry for your loss. You appear to know what to do. Just remember it takes time. Best wishes.

Mokvon Level 8 Dec 28, 2018

I lost someone 4 years ago I loved more than anyone. I understand the frustration with religious people. I tried and still have to try to just let it roll off me and remember they don't understand that what they are saying to comfort you is the last thing you want or need to hear. I am sorry I don't have much at good advice as I am still struggling to cope. One thing I do try to keep in mind is that the person I loved doesnt want me to waste my life mourning for someone who isnt coming back. So I try to get out and do something to enjoy life and honor their memory in that way. I don't know if that helps..I'm also leaning towards getting some Prozac?


Do you have anyone you can be real and completely honest with your feelings about? Even some family members with different beliefs might be ok with you being real and sharing your griefs and struggles. Or a close friend? Sometimes I find it easier with family closer in age like a cousin because even if we differ, we can still accept the differences and support one another. You all are going through a loss and not everyone thinks the same, but maybe there is someone in your family you feel secure opening up to. Someone should not be threatened by your differing view and beliefs and automatically take it as a challenge to their own. I hope this helps, and I know how hard loss can be. I'm so sorry.

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