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Ok, be sensitive because I am talking about someone I love very much. My mother is dying and I am taking it very hard indeed. I understand that as an atheist death of a loved one is exceptionally hard. There is no comfort in an afterlife, no belief the person will be in a “better place” and no notion I will be with them ever again. How have other atheists managed the death of someone they loved so much?

Livia 6 May 30
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60 comments (26 - 50)

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4

By dealing with my own death and coming to grips with it. I will cease to exist and be unaware of what it going on, just like it was before I was born. I will live on in the lives of others I have touched during my period of awareness. My dad died 31 years ago. I still miss him and think of him often, which to me, keeps at least his memory alive. My older brother, who is very religious, once told me he had no idea how I coped with dad's death without God, because he couldn't imagine doing it. I thought (but thought it would just be cruel to tell him), "Dad was not a believer. According to you, he is now in hell. How is that comforting?" I'm sorry about your mother. No matter how we deal with it, grief is a sure thing while we cope with the loss of a loved one. The more the love, the greater the sense of loss and grief.

4

For many years now I have seen death as one of the most important parts of life. Part of us lives on in our DNA, and the impressions we made on others. Only that which dies gives birth.
A starfish can be cut in half and each half grows into a new starfish. Has the original died and 2 new ones born? If I lose an arm, it is gone. Yet my cells were the beginning f the lives of my children. When I am gone, that DNA, part of me is still here. When I am gone, peoples memories of me remain. Don't know if this is of any value, just part of the way I see it.

4

My deepest sympathies. It is hard when your parents die. My father died first, my mother more than a decade later. My mother went slowly, over the course of weeks, so there was no sudden surprise. In the time leading up to her death I found myself asking the same questions you asked in your post. Basically, how to find some way to cope with the pain and the loss when the delusions of religion are unavailable. The only answer I can offer is that she still lives in my memory in some way. That, and the fact that the pain eases over time.

3

Both of my parents died of lung cancer. While I don't believe in an afterlife, I'm still a product of their union, so parts of them still live through me. I can see parts of both of them when I look in a mirror. Also I'd look for a support group because the grief can be pretty overwhelming to deal with, especially by yourself.

3

Take peace in knowing that you are brave enough to deal with facts, and not hiding yourself in fantasy. At worst, death is a return to the state of pre-birth. The accumulated love a person leaves with those still between birth and death is bonus.

3

I’m so sorry. I’m sure this is a very difficult thing to reconcile. I have no advice and can't begin to know what you are going through but I truly hope you are able to find peace.

3

"Familiarity breeds contempt" - Aesop. Animals feel loss. Do they believe in an afterlife? Don't know. Someone in our neighbohood dies just 3 blocks away. Did we care? No. We didn't know. Familiarity makes us view death contemptuously because it took something away from us that we were very familiar with. I watched both of my parents die and strongly believe that there comes a moment when we're ready to go but remain for the sake of others. I've learned to view death as an escape rather than as something bad. It may be hurtful but you should believe that they want you to be strong and move on with life and continue to be who you were meant to be.

3

Trying to show empathy, although sometimes shared pain doesn't help...

I expect to lose my dad within a year and while my mom is in excellent health she's 76, so she could die before my dad or the shock of losing her soul mate might kill her.

It sucks bc I'm close with both parents, they accepted my rejection of Christianity with extraordinary maturity and love.

IMO we should cherish the time and love shared while also knowing life is transitory.

Not our business, but if there's lingering issues try to resolve it. I don't think anyone regrets saying, "I love you" a million times, but many regret not saying, "I'm sorry".

I'm certain no religion is trie, but I'm not sure what happens when we die. It's plausible our energy becomes something new and the journey continues, but even if there's nothing I'll respect my parents honorable lives and be thankful for them.

3

My Mother, Sister, and all four of my brothers suffered from prolonged illnesses before they died, I am glad that the are no longer suffering, but I miss them dearly. I remember them by taking the lessons I learned from them and putting them to good use, I felt lost after my Mother died, It was like I truly had no place to go anymore, but as long as I put one foot in front of the other at least I was going somewhere.

3

There are some beautiful and helpful comments here. I hope you find some comfort in this community. Personally, I believe that our loved ones are always with us. We don't need a heaven or other place to find them because they never really leave us.

3

When someone you love dies, a part of your heart dies with them,no longer will they be there to tell stories to,do things together,share experiences with,even the simple enjoyment of shopping has lost all it's appeal. Where I live in Missouri,are many eating establishment's,I've not been to any since my wife's death,too many memories.......

3

I lost my mom just over two years ago and it still hurts. I wish I could tell you that the pain goes away but it really only just recedes.

Make the most of the time you have left with her. Find things that are meaningful reminders of your relationship with her, especially the times she was strong and vital, the times that were good that you shared. Understand that she lives on in your memories, and hold on to those reminders.

And know that you aren't alone in the pain and stress; accept the hugs and support others offer you.

3

My late husband passed away unexpectedly about 5 years ago.. so I understand how hard it is to find comfort amidst something so sad. But, I do think its possible to take comfort in other things besides an afterlife. In my case, my husband was a real life genius with a twisted sense of humor. So, as strange as it sounds, his autopsy gave me some comfort. It showed major arterial blockages in his brain, which explained a few things I had noticed (leaving the stove on, behavioral changes etc), he was so proud of his intelligence/humor that I knew he would never have wanted to live with the effects of those blockages. His death prevented him from having to live with those indignities. His death was quick and apparently painless, so I found that was comforting. Another thing that comforted me was the fact, that he had a lived a relatively good life, and was loved by me and our son along with many others whose lives he touched. So there is comfort to be found..

3

Tough issue. We come from the universe, live a while, and return to the universe.

3

I have experienced it as a theist as well. It wasn't any easier. Either the comforting stories don't help or they just didn't help me.

Friends held close. Favorite passages read aloud. To at least try and savor the work, worth, and beauty of a day. And of course the passage of time. Those things helped.

3

I lost my mother suddenly three years ago. I know it is not easy of course. Most of her family are from the Ky. bible belt. I was confronted many times with the "she is with jesus" more times than I can count from relatives. I just remained silent and nonconfrontational. She made prior arrangements to have her body donated for medical research and be cremated afterwards. Some of her family were unhappy about that. They have this whole absurd "resurrection of the body" belief system. If you encounter any of that when the time comes, I think it is best to just be silent and let it go. None of us are getting out of this life alive.

3

My way to deal with it is to think on the ones that are still here.
If I had unfinished business (guilt, debts, not enough time), I tried to look for other relationships that were having the same problems and fix it.
The only tribute I can give to the one that is gone, is to use his death to be a better person, and make the most with the time I was given.
So remember her, remember how she wanted you to be better, and be, or be closer to be the person she would be proud of. Not because she is looking or waiting for you, but because is a good thing to do, and when you achieve this improvement, that will be a piece of her that will continue living.

3

No reason she couldn't be reincarnated, or even move to another dimension.

There are many books of research done on children ages 2-6 who remember past lives, and a few children who led even police to their past life bodies, if they had been murdered, and pointed out their murderers, who confessed.

The details of the children's memories were carefully checked by researchers, and I know also about this by experience, since my sister and I could both remember a past life when we were born.

According to Einstein; all matter is a form of energy, so since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, we have always existed and will always exist in some energy form and quantum physics already tells us different dimensions exist.

"For physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." -Einstein.

“I regard consciousness as fundamental and matter as derivative from consciousness." – Max Planck, theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics

Great post, Plank was a visonary.

2

I've not had someone that close pass on but did lose both my grandparents some time ago and an uncle who was like a father when I was young. I'm so sorry for what you and your mother are going through. I can tell you how I tried to frame it for myself. I think it helped me a little back then.

I would consider all the moments of their lives and think that, undoubtedly, the wonderful outweighed the awful for them and I would remind myself that I was, more often than not, part of the wonderful times. And I would remember all the pieces of me, ideas and attitudes, even mannerisms, that I got, at least in part, from them. That these would live on in me and, through me, effect others. That I carried a piece of them with me and that others would carry pieces of me. And I would try to notice these things in myself when they came up and realize, not that the person was gone, but that this idea, attitude, mannerism, whatever, was still alive.
I'm sorry if that sounds like a platitude, but it was my strategy. Although it wasn't someone as close as a parent.

2

My dear wife died one year and one month from her lung cancer diagnosis,fate would have it,we were told on our 26th wedding anniversary in August 2016, and she was gone on Sept.13,2017,passing away in our home. A slow,gradually decline even with Radiation and later Chemotherapy.

2

I am not an atheist, but I don’t believe in an afterlife either. What I think is that the sense of self as a separate individual is just an illusion, and that in reality we are all a part of something greater. Time is part of the illusion. The entire chain of organisms can be thought of as a single entity.

After your mother is gone, you’ll miss her of course, but every second of conscious awareness will sustain you and make your life joyful. She, along with all of us will be with you. We are all in heaven already.

1

My mother was also an atheist. She lived her life with courage and passion because she did not believe in an afterlife. She believed that we were our own "gods" and had the power to create a happy and decent life for ourselves with whatever we were given, whatever we chose to do , whatever time we had in this existence. When she was dying, just knowing that this was a final closure simplified things between us. There was no anxiety over seeing each other again...of where she would go...it truly felt like we were reading the last pages of a book together and then it would be done...forever in my memory, passed from her to me. I grieved for my loss, but not for her ending a wonderful life by returning to the dust from whence she came. There is comfort in knowing that there actually is an end. It makes you truly live as you must now. It doesn't matter what you believe...you will still grieve and the pain will seem unbearable...time will lessen the pain, but it will never go away nor should you want that. Honor her by living your life.

Thank you.

1

I am sorry for your mother and the turmoil you feel. We should pride ourselves that we share with every living thing on this earth the gift of death. Death makes sure that our influence on the next generation is finite. That evolution can proceed. That ideas and human sociological interaction remains the fabric of our humanity and keeps progressing. We grieve for the ones we lost but it is such a short moment when compared to the lifetime they imparted on our own life. Take the time to grieve when the time comes but promise yourself to be grateful and keep alive the unique memories she has imparted to you.

Lukian Level 8 June 27, 2018
1

I was very religious and lived in a very strict and conservative monastery in France. I am now an atheist. I believe now nothing really "dies" as energy only shifts. What that really means or how, I do not profess to know. I believe that what is called a soul has been verified by science to be an actual, verifiable and tested force in us. A body actually weighs less after death occurs. So where does that energy and consciousness go? Who knows, a poet once wrote "one short sleep past and we wake eternally and death shall be no more, death thou shalt die". He of course was thinking about traditional heaven or hell but I believe we do not die but live on in another form of energy. Just like electricity was not known or how it worked but is now used and understood one day we will understand death.

That’s how my mum thinks too!

1

I cannot thank you enough, when I am in grief I will read your comments over and over. They have real and practical wisdom. Love you all for the time and thoughts you have given me.

Livia Level 6 June 2, 2018
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