One of the most heart wrenching conversations of my life was when my daughter started understanding mortality:

"Daddy, does everyone die?"
"Yes baby, everyone dies."
Her eyes widen. "Are YOU going to die?"
"I'm going to die, but it will be a long time from now."
Tears filled her eyes. "Am I going to die!?!"

I didn't necessarily raise my kids atheist. I didn't come to terms with my own atheism for a long time. When they asked about things like what happens after you die, I said that grandma believes this, others believe believe that. This is what I believe...

My children are grown atheists now, but both continue to go through terrible bouts of existential angst. So much easier to "protect" them from reality with myth.

Has anyone else struggled with this one?

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Our energy remains as part of the universe, and our DNA too. We talk about part of our ancestors is with us all the time, and when I die part of me still gets to live on in my child, and that she carries part of her parents, grandparents, all her ancestors with her all the time, as she is made out of her ancestors.

We also quote from the Havamal, (as a cultural & poetic rather than religious text - I hope it's OK to put this)

Cattle die, kinsmen die,
Everyone is mortal
But I know one thing that will never die
The name of one who has done well

Cattle die, kinsmen die
You too will die one day
But I know of one thing that does not die
The glory of great deeds
I'm 13 and I have the same problems as your children but I think you are doing the right thing by telling them what you think is true. I'm glad that I was able to make up my own mind about what I think happens after you die. I think that if I'd been told that everything was going to be alright and I was going to heaven or I was going to live for a million years then it would have been much harder on me when I realised I wasn't. Also acknowledging my own mortality helps me value my life rather than speeding through it thoughtlessly until I hit 40 or something and look back on all the opportunities I missed.
Once when i was a little younger I asked my dad why people die and he said to make room for beautiful young people like you. I've always thought that was a great answer.
Maggie, you are one wise 13 year old!
I think too much hehe. Sometimes I do wish I was as carefree as my peers though (only sometimes). Heres something someone posted on another forum that might make your kids feel better. They said the universe is so bizarre, impossible and wonderful that maybe anything is possible.
Ya never know ;-)
yes I have. And the rest of it goes, "where is Grandma?" After my mother died and I had to tell my kids. Although I suspect the answer to that one is a little easier, since there is no hell for grandma to go to, or heaven.
I went through my own personal angst in my late teens. This was a year or two after I became an atheist. I went through a period of wishing I could live forever. This was kinda bizzare since I was struggling with depression. Although, at that time, I blamed my depression completely on my crappy home life and I was sure that I would feel wonderful once I got out on my own.

My oldest son has also gone through this dilema. He had a hard time accepting that he would just cease to exist someday. I tried to comfort him with the idea that he would live on in some way, through others' memories and possibly through his own children.


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