My father died today. I have gone through this before but at that time I was religious. This, I think, made coping easier. But now that I am no longer religious I believe I may have more difficulty coping and moving on. Is there anything from an atheistic view point that would help? I would really love to get a good grasp on this situation.
Not repeat what T.A. says but yes your memories of your father. Thats your best coping mechanism. Our loved ones will always be with us in some respect, especially in our minds. And the pain you are feeling now will become more bearable. You will always miss him, but as time goes on you will learn to deal with it. For now...cry. Take the hugs from friends and family members, from those who are hurting also.
As for me personally, I always feel that they have gone back to the natural system from whence they came. Same thing will happen to us. His atoms back into the natural system.
You always have friends here Lydia, dont hesitate to look us up.
I am saddened by your loss. My mother died middle of 2008 and the pain was unbearable. I cried for months even in my sleep. It is alright to grieve. I have a lock of her hair which I keep with me and some of her most valuable possessions. It took me almost a year to adjust and move forward. I lost a girlfriend to cancer when I was in my 20's but the pain of losing my mother was very deep. The passage of time heals. For now, it is alright to grieve. Pour it out. My sympathies.
I agree with TA, sharing memories of your father with others is crucial. For healing, we atheists can still have meaningful rituals regarding deaths of loved ones. May I suggest doing something that you would find meaningful, perhaps this is driving to a special place, sitting quietly somewhere, going on a walk or journey that you two did together, writing about memories so that you can share them.
Cry, it's okay- this is something I've had to learn how to do, to cry. Find simple ways to comfort yourself, be kind to yourself. It's okay to be sad, embrace it for a while, there is beauty in that pain, for without the love that you have for your father, without the love he gave you, there would be no mourning. So mourning is a special time, and what I've found is that it's okay to be sad, to cry, for as long as you need. I think we try to rush things in our modern society, and it's not healthy. As long as you are not becoming depressed and can function, it's healthy to be mournful.
Writing works best for me, to purge some of the pain. My heart goes out to you, you can do this. I hope you understand what I mean when I say: how wonderful it is that you have the opportunity to mourn this man. Not everyone has a father that they care to think twice about after death. Smile, you were loved by someone who chose to love you.
I feel for you.
I tend to focus on what they did in their life.
Did they find happiness?
Did they do something admirable?
Life is allot like a book. There's no point wondering if it has an end, it does.
The point is whether you enjoyed the book or not.
So? How was it?
Clearly he meant allot to you...
... must have been a good book. Yes?
Remember his story, and pass it on.
Good memories are always worth passing along.
The most we can hope for when we die is to be remembered favorably.
Your fond memories of him are exactly that.
I'll tell you what, if you want relief, this works for me.
Remember back to your fondest memories with him. It will likely make you cry a bit as you do this, but that's good.
Tell us your fondest memories of him.
We wont judge, we won't intrude, and we WILL listen.
Put him in our memories, put him in our hearts,
Immortalize him to us.
I am so sorry, Lydia. Losing a loved one is always very painful, and nothing other than passage of time can really take any of the pain away, although the things mentioned by the others here can definitely help.
I lost my Dad before I admitted to myself that I am an atheist. And it hurts me now to believe that I won't see him again in heaven, that he is really and truly "gone" (except in my heart and memories, of course). But on the other hand, I don't have to worry about whether he was "good enough" to get in heaven or worry that he will burn in hell forever and ever. He was here, and now he's not, and the pain was almost indescribable for awhile, but by sharing the love I had for him and my memories of him with others, the pain has gradually dimmed to where I can now think about him and smile - although occasionally I still get the sniffles and watery eyes because I miss him, and always will. Sending you hugs, and hoping that you get many in real life over the next few days and weeks also.
First off, let me add my condolences and best wishes for you in dealing with the loss.
Although I am very much an atheist, my thinking has been influenced considerably by Buddhist thought, which seems to be good fit for my temperment and worldview. Several lines of teaching and stories from that tradition were as comforting to me as anything really can be in the face of the death of a loved one. First is the acceptance that everything is always changing, there is no permanent, unchanging state in existence. One of the well-known stories is the parable of the mustard seed. There was a woman whose child became very ill and finally died. She approached the Buddha and asked for medicine that would cure her child. He replied "sure, I can help. Go into the town and bring me a handful of mustard seeds. But they must come from a household that has never known death." The woman went from house to house and almost everyone offered her the mustard seeds. But when she asked whether the family had experienced death, they all had. Eventually, she recognized the truth that death is an unavoidable part of life for everyone, and found a measure of comfort in this.
I have found some comfort in doing my best to face that even though this is a difficult, painful time, death is like birth and happened eventually to everyone who has ever lived. It isn't anything personal- something targeted towards your father, your family, or anybody else. The typical theistic statements about everything happening for a reason, part of a divine plan make it that much worse for me, the assertion that it was something personal and deliberate.
I'm so sorry for your loss. I also find coping with death to be the hardest part of atheism.
Like the others have said a good support system greatly helps. Friends and family are your best assets at the moment. There is also something to be said for funerals and memorials. They help us realize the finality of death and signal the beginning of moving on.
When a friend of mine committed suicide I found the thing that helped me move on the most was sitting next to his tombstone and telling "him" why I was upset, how much I missed him, and that while I was angry with him I understood. As much as talking to a tombstone sounds like prayer, I don't think it's any more strange than keeping a diary. Just getting all of the feelings out helped a lot.
I'm sorry for your loss - both my grandfathers died within a year of each other while i was going through my transition. At my first grandfather's funeral, i did a reading from "The Little Prince" which I held onto through my second grandfather's death. It goes:
That night I did not see him set out on his way. He got away from me without making a sound. When I succeeded in catching up with him he was walking along with a quick and resolute step. He said to me merely: "You understand . . . it is too far. I cannot carry this body with me. It is too heavy. It will be like an old abandoned shell. There is nothing sad about old shells . . ."
Clearly this leaves a lot of bits out, but I found it comforting to think that that spark, what made my grandfather who he was, isn't there in that body any more. That body will go on and decompose and its bits will go on to be bits of other things. There's nothing sad about that because he's not there anymore. What made my grandfather my grandfather lives on in me, in my memories of him and the things he taught me.
I'm sorry for your loss Lydia, I hope you can find strength and support with your family to help you and those involved to get through this. The loss that you feel and the memories of your father will probably be a part of you forever, which means that coping with these feelings is indeed very important.
Theists can fool themselves into believing (hoping?) that their loved ones are not really gone, but that they are in a better place. This can provide comfort, but this does not make it true. Life is short, vicious and unfair and to accept this is to realize that everything that you hold dear will be taken away from you eventually.
I've lost some people close to me, and I too had a lot of difficulties coping with the feelings associated with the realization that they were really gone. I still have my moments of grief and I don't expect it to ever go away completely.
Some people say that people live in the heart of others, so as long as the memory remains in your heart some part of who they are still exists. I'd like to think that because it gives me some comfort and in part it's true. The people that I lost which were close to me have had a huge influence on my personal development, and this resonates in the choices that I make.
A part of my lost loved ones is always with me, the wisdom that they taught me and the love that they gave to me partly makes me what I am today.
I didn't read through what everyone else said, but to add to the first few replies. I tend to think that religion supplies little that wasn't already there, it just shrouds what is there in superstition and gives credit (to god/s) where it is not due.
What I mean by that is that if some religious person prays for god to help them through a rough time and they get through it, the fact that their is no god simply means that they did it on their own and are giving credit where none is due (not to mention short-changing themselves of rightful credit toward their own inner strength and ability to cope). So what I'm saying is that if you've coped with death before when you were religious, perhaps just thinking about what you did then vs what you can do now will help. Is any of it really that different? Knowing god isn't there now to help shouldn't matter, since really he/she/it wasn't really there before either.
If you feel down because your loved one isn't "living on," don't, because as I'm sure others have said already, they live on in our memories. If you felt, when you were religious, like a passed loved one was "watching over you" or "helping you" perhaps in a way you were right. (Don't take my Atheist card just yet! Let me explain what I mean.) I think that when you believe a loved one is "helping you," really it's just that you've created in your mind a sort of virtual copy of that person using your memories and experience as a base. Then really, you're just playing a sort of "What would so-and-so do/say/think?" in your own head. So it's not their "spirit" but your memory of them that is "watching over you" in a way.
I hope that makes sense, and I do hope you find good healthy ways to cope with what is no doubt a difficult time in your life. Remember that you've got a lot of godless support right here if you need it.