I have a problem.

As of two weeks ago, my mother found out that her exboyfriend of 2 years had purposely not taken his necessary insulin for his diabetes and killed himself hours after she told him once more that there was no chance of their relationship renewing itself. She's in terrible shape and calls me every few hours for comfort, which I am happy to do for my mom.

She blames herself and talks about negative spirits, God's will and so on. She knows I'm an atheist, but I'm not going to sit there and tell her to stop opening up to me because her way of grieving offends me. I'm not sure what to do. I want to comfort her but the way that she copes with these things is different from me. I detach from the situation, I deal with my emotions and what I'm thinking/feeling one by one.

Everything from cosmic power of The Secret down to traditional Roman Catholic writings, she's finding solace in them all and through that "Pretend you still believe in something..." stuff. I want to help her, but I'm not sure how I can. I try and I get argument and "proof" and why I should come back to the church. For right now all I can do is listen but she needs more.

Has anyone, as an atheist, dealt with family members or friends who are mourning a deceased loved one but not known what to do? How do you help them? How do you help those who you love who are religious and/or spiritual?

Any advice would be greatly, GREATLY appreciated.

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Short term: Listen. Listen and hug. Do not argue. Listen. Make her a cup of tea, get the biscuits she loves. Put on music she likes.

Long term: More difficult. Self-blaim is arrogance - that is difficult to convey delicately. It is not her fault. Drag out the photo albums. Focus on a life well spent. Focus on the good. Then focus on the reality - he chose, a right few of us have. He chose. Diabetes coma is relatively nice as an exit. He chose it, rather than being an experiment in a hospital to see how long they can keep him alive. He chose. Ask her, would she like the right to choose ? I don't know if I'm coming across harsh, but I have only 2 wishes - a lottery win, or a painless death. He got one of my wishes.
I completely agree...frankly, there doesn't seem to be much more that I CAN do. I bite my tongue to avoid the religion thing. I sent her some flowers as she's more than 400 miles away. Have you gone through this situation before, Felch?

Thanks for the advice. :)
No situations are the same. Yes, I have friends that OD'ed, killed themselves, died in car accidents. I had a great grandmother whose catheter I had to change die in her sleep, quietly. She was cold in the morning, she just looked like she was resting. I've had SO's miscarry when they actually were joyous at the idea of a child. My favourite grandfather, who at age 14 I used to smuggle cigarettes and vodka to because of the nursing home Nazis that thought it was bad for his health, died with a smile on his face.

Death is death. Its your life. I can't help, neither can anyone else.

A suggestion: If you've never watched Six Feet Under, maybe you should rent it. It is the most beautiful and sane treatment of death and mourning. Ever. I would bet it may help you deal with your feelings. All of America's funeral directors can't be wrong - they gave it 2 thumbs up.

Hope you can find a resolution and some peace without the poison of religion.
What Felch said. A way to go through the mourning process is to be there as a support by be open whenever she wants and need to talk. Right now she is in the first mourning phase, it usually passes after the first months and then you can start to look at the loss more objectively and see the good etc. All mourning is more or less the same, you can read it up in psychology if you want. Discussing the loss is the most effective way of getting over the mourning the quickest.
When my fundamentalist brother in law was killed in a car accident a few years ago I found it very hard to be supportive to my sister. Her saying that she was rejoicing in Matt's death because it meant that he was finally taken home to 'Our Lord', that this world doesn't matter, it is only a dream...and God doesn't put more on you than you can handle (love that one!)...Yeah, it was really hard to keep my mouth shut and not slap the stupid out of her. But some how I did...I sat and listened to her read me Bible passages that she said Jesus had shown her and listen to why the passages made perfect sense. (LMFAO!) I was by her side in the moments after she pulled the plug...She said, maybe I need to re-think this whole god thing?...why would god do this to us?...aren't we good enough?...I wasn't able to say the words that were in my head, stuff along the lines of 'Yeah, No shit Sherlock!' What I said was what she needed to hear, that abandoning her God would not solve the problem, that Matt is dead now and her 'Faith' was the thing that would get her through his passing and that everything happens for a reason (the most hollow of all statements). In my mind, at the end of the day, though I was also grieving, it was her grief, the remaining partner of this dead person, with whom she had bore five children and shared the last twelve years of their lives, that had the right over all others to have her grief acknowledged. And so, my advise is to keep your comments to yourself. They will not help and in the long run may actually cause a problem. Right now, she is very confused as to why a loving god would kill someone special to her and an atheist will never provide the right answers to her because your entire world view is a smack in the face to hers and probably feels quite threatening. IMO the best way for you to be there for her is just by listening. Good luck.

~Stef
My deepest sympathy. This can be a very difficult situation for an atheist as I learned first hand within my own family.
My sister's husband suffered a fatal seizure in the middle of the night, my sister (who is a nurse) tried CPR and an ambulance was there within minutes but he did not survive. She went through such deep self-doubt..asking herself..could I have prevented this?..did I do something wrong? It was so painful to hear her blame herself for his death. She reached out for comfort through her church and family and we were there for her in her time of need.
Personally, I listened and tried to comfort from a place of were she was..my views here were irrelevant and potentially damaging to her.
It's been a few years since this happened and she has told me that one thing I said made her feel more secure and eased her 'guilt' at that time and it was this; after listening to her blame herself and question what she could have done different to save her husband, I said; You've told me that you believe God is the only one who can appoint a persons death, it's only God who determines the time to reclaims His own...so, if you truly believe this and I believe you do, then is there really anything you could have done to trump God's will here?
It's all about profound pain/sorrow... ideology can wait and your mother is fortunate to have someone such as yourself who recognizes that.
I wish you and your mom strength and peace.
I think you need to focus as much as possible on just being there, allowing her to talk, and being as supporting as you can. Grief is something we all do differently, and it sounds like she is doing what she needs to do. If she needs more support than you can provide, you might help her find a competent counselor in her area to talk to.
There's some great advice there.

A couple of things. It is better to be unhappy with the truth than contented with lies. Your mother isn't going to see her boyfriend again. My father died when I was 7 and I spent a good 20 or so years kind of believing that he would just maybe, one day, just, err... walk through the door. I really did. I got really cut up about it. I knew it couldn't happen but I also thought that the pain I felt was stronger than my rational thought.

Ironically, it was only when I started to accept I was an atheist and I started to read about it (I was raised a christian) that I felt better about the whole thing. For me, atheism put all the pieces into place. I wasn't going to see my Dad again, so move on. And I have a daughter now and to me he lives on through his genes.

We should celebrate life not mourn death.

The case you talk about it is very difficult. But in my experience religion has nothing to offer in this arena. There is no panacea but as a free-thinker you are in a better position than anyone to help. I think you will work it out.
I try to remember the good things about the departed ones. The authentic person in action is the impression they have left in the world. That's what I ask the bereaved to keep in mind.

The problem in relationships is mainly that people will often do and say anything that "gets them over". This makes it hard to find the authentic person- if it's all an act to get what they want.

This is a reason to be authentic so that loved ones will have a substantive represention of you- should your life end before theirs.

The consciousness continuum in my photos is how I relate to where people are coming from.

Cla
It has been a while since anyone has posted to this discussion, however, I have been going through the grieving processes and think that this subject could use more attention. The options are plentiful for someone religious and perhaps more plentiful for an atheist grief councilor. I've seen a lot of atheist who could benefit from this here an elsewhere. Anyone qualified out there will have my support in whatever way I can.
I understand what you mean, Andrew. I recently (much more recently than this post) lost someone very dear to me, my father, a man I was closer to than anyone. What perplexed me about it was that that was when people expected me to turn to god or believed I was angry with god.
"Doesn't it bother you to think he's not in a better place?"
My dad was happy and healthy as a horse when he died, I couldn't ask for anything more. If anything, as an atheist I found more solace in that he has peace, would never worry about me again, would never have another bad moment. It helped a lot with closure, too. I would think it would be harder believing that my departed loved ones are always watching over me, always with me. Being an atheist and not believing in an afterlife has really helped me to understand and accept the fact that he's really gone. Sure, he will never hug me again. He will never make me his famous eggs and grits but having that closure is such a gift.

Okay, so I'm ranting. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Similar experiences?
Hi Kaye,

Just as the loss of your father is immeasurable, and and absolutely devastating event, I am sorry to hear of your loss.

I agree entirely with your sentiment and may understand or relate to that feeling of solace. My dad was my best friend, however, I have learned so much from this experience. I was fortunate to be with him when he died which added to something I have run away from throughout the years - death.

I had a few friends with parents that died in the last year, and I didn't feel like I could relate or even communicate with them. How things have changed. If I can recognize something that I have gained form the ordeal, it would be the emotional knowledge that I have acquired.

I chatted with a company counselor on the phone for the past few weeks. From his words I figure that he is a pastor or minister. When he asked me if I had a spiritual mentor, I mentioned several times that I, and my entire family, for at least several generations have been atheists, he gave a rather silent and disapproving tone while seeming to brush it aside. I was tempted to ask about his beliefs, but after a few weeks of insomnia and multiple family health issues, decided to just let the hour glass empty.

There were many times when I felt like I was being judged based on my lack of belief, but never called him on it so may have just been interpreting incorrectly. even knowing that I am an atheist he recommended that I talk with a pastor or the funeral home to find a grief counselor which makes a lot of sense, but those aren't the avenues I was hoping for.

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