I got the call from my dad that I was dreading.  My Aunt Linda had passed away yesterday after a three year battle with an aggressive form of breast cancer.  This is the first death of someone so close to me that I've had to deal with as a newer atheist and I'm struggling.  I've already had several calls and messages on FB trying to ease my pain by telling me she's in a better place and is with God.  My response has been that she will always be alive in my heart and in my memories.  This sorta brings me comfort, and I'm holding those memories close.  I've now been invited to a memorial service at her church in a couple weeks and to a prayer vigil for breast cancer to honor her.  Not sure I can handle hearing all the stuff about heaven and her being there when I know she's not.  I want to be there for my family, and don't want to seem selfish by not attending.  I'm so hurt and so confused right now.

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So sorry to hear of your loss. we all go through a grieving process when we lose our loved ones, with or without religion. Not knowing Linda I can't say how she handled her suffering, but for many the suffering with cancer is great, and with death there is at least some closure. Some people find it a relief to know that death is near, to know that suffering will also end.

I'm still working through my Dad's death from 2 months ago. It's getting better but I know it will take a while. He was fortunate in many ways to have a long life and have people who he loved in his life, that's better than many people in the world.

I hope that the same was true for your aunt Linda, that she had people in her life who she loved, that the good outweighed the bad, and that having people like you who cared for her was a source of joy and comfort for her.

here is the Atheist Nexus discussion group on grief. I don't know if it's active, but you might give it a try. I hope there will be other responses here for you as well.

For some people it helps to take some tome for themselves. For others it's better to be among friends and family. Just do what you need to do. Take care.
Thank you, and sorry for the loss of your father. There is relief, she really suffered for a long time and was on hospice for months before her passing. She really seemed to hang on to make sure her husband would be cared for, even though he's only in his early 60's he suffers from chronic illness as well. His niece is going to care for him which is also a relief to my family. I did read a couple of the posts in the discussion group, thanks for sharing it is helpful. My dad requested that we not come up right away because he needs some space and time to deal with it. I suppose I could take the same approach, I could also attend the memorial but not the prayer vigil. My aunt was the mother hen type so she was active in everyone's life. She will be deeply missed. Thanks again.
Hi Janelle,

My deepest condolences to you. When I lost my mother in '93 to kidney failure, I was a believer. I have to tell you, I wasn't any more relieved from grief than if she had died in the present. To be honest, I'm still not over it. I don't think with love for someone that close, does anyone every really do. What does give me comfort is telling stories about my mother to my daughter. My daughter gets to hear that a lot of her strength is a family trait. She seems proud and amused, as my mother was a smart aleck and we share that kind of humor as well.

I also lost my best friend 2 years to a violent crime. Without going into details about her death, I'll just talk about my experience without her since. Most of it is as the same as my mother's, never getting over it but with my best friend, I take comfort in feeling fortunate for having known her. I talk about her a lot as well. She was a very quirky person, so unique but also well liked by everyone. I was lucky to have her as a friend and confidante. I've had many dreams about her and its funny, in my dreams about her, her life goes on as if she had been alive. She's alive with life's problems and good times. So for me, the key phrase you used is "alive in my heart" because that is the testament to your aunt's life. Her legacy will be the love you have for her.

In regards to the upcoming services, it wouldn't do you good to get too worked up about it. Deal with what you can and step out for when you can't. No one should fault you in your time of grief. Your grief is personal and hopefully your family will respect that. Personally, I would go because I would want to hear people talk about her and share stories about her. I would ignore the religious stuff and take solace in the collective tributes and outpouring of love for her. I did this for my daughter's grandfather last year. I love him as my own and apparently he was a devout catholic. I'm glad I went, I never seen so many people at one funeral. When it came time for the prayer, I didn't bow my head as I recall but if I did, I'm not bothered by it. This is apparent because I don't even remember. What I do remember was being amazed by how many people were attendance and the stories about his service to family, friends and community. I felt proud to be his granddaughter. So if you do go, try to focus on why you're there, for your Aunt Linda.

Best regards,

Denise

Thank you Denise, I also lost my brother back in '96 to a car accident, and ironically I am more at terms with his death now that I'm an atheist, I've let go of that horrible place called hell. I think you are right about going to the service to be with family. I'm planning on attending the memorial so I can see pictures and enjoy memories of her. I'm greiving but today is already better because of kind words on here and talking to family over the phone and on facebook. Thank you.

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