Honest Closure for Grieving Atheists

by Best Blanket

Two people I love very much died within months of one another. They were father and daughter.

He was ill for a very long time and we all had been readying ourselves for the worst in one way or another, but she was killed first by a cancer that spread quickly after its diagnosis. We learned she was given 2 weeks to live while we were at a hospital here in New York awaiting a surgical procedure on her father. She lived in Florida and hadn't told many people about the diagnosis, but she had assured the few in the know of her doctor's confidence in there being a remedy. I don't think a month passed before she was terminal.

Her mother and I flew out to stay with her until she died. One of her sisters went a day or two earlier and her other sister stayed in New York with the father and the rest of the family. It was chaos and I could never put it in the most accurate and effective perspective. Hours before and moments after she died, everybody at her bedside was encouraging her to go towards the various family, friends, and pets that had died in their history. Everybody around me has always consoled one another that way. "She's with so and so now." "Oh, they must be having a ball up there!" I bent over, embraced her, and held that position. I may have been crying and I may have been trembling, but my head was perfectly clear. I knew this was the last time I would see her with my eyes and be able to feel her against myself. This was goodbye. We will never meet again, but I will remember her fondly for the rest of my life.

The father's death was precisely the same. The sister that hadn't been present for the daughter's death was there this time. She looked absolutely empty and said "they're together now" in a tone of voice that made it sound like a question. "They're together now, right?" While very prominent in this instance, the absence of closure in that sort of statement is always there. When applied to deaths that invoke nothing more than an "aw really," it's something like "he must be so happy to see everyone" with an undertone of "yes, yes, because that's what happens when you die, now let's move along." This time, uncertainty was loud and clear.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in an afterlife. I am very confident in my belief given that there's no evidence to the contrary. To believe otherwise would require faith. Faith can be challenged. Faith can be defeated. Faith can be lost. Faith can be delicate and faith can betray somebody. A bridge to closure built with faith can break when you try to cross it. I am very sad because two people I love are gone, but at least I can accept it. I am nowhere near the end of my bridge, but I have the benefit of knowing that it isn't going anywhere.

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Anonymous said...

Studies have shown that atheists are less afraid of death than religious people are.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful.

Seeing reality for what it is makes it that much more powerful too. The "afterlife" is just a cop-out on everything in this life.

"They're all together now, right?" i.e. "they're not really dead right? they just took a trip to heaven-land, and they're all playing baseball"

It's some bizarre Disney-esque method of discounting the fear of death. It reeks of cowardice and self-flattery.

We all come and we all go.

Anonymous said...

I feel I fear death less than my religious friends, so I agree that athiests fear death less than religious people. However, I was wondering if anyone could provide links to these studies/articles.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had to go through that, for real... It's always tough to watch the hypnotized "we know what the truth is, because it's always what's nicest" responses of many Christians to death/pain/etc...

It's good that you were able to keep a clear, stable head throughout this. That should say a lot to your family! Should get them thinking...

But, speaking of all of this, the timing of your post is actually quite relevant to something I've been thinking about recently.

What are some good responses when people start talking about brief-death/near-death experiences that include visions of lights/flames, peace/fear, etc?

A Christian friend of mine and I were talking about that recently, and he even gave me a book that talks about it, with "testimonies" and such from people that have supposedly had these experiences...

I'm trying to think of good responses, preferably some that address the idea itself, and not just "religion" as a whole, but I don't know how... It seems to always come back to that, for him. So far, all of my responses sound something like:

"They were delirious/confused."
"They were practically DEAD, for cryin' out loud... how can we expect a clear testimony from that?"
"They're lying."
"That in no way proves God, much less a specific God."

Does this kind of sum it up, or can you help me out with some better responses?

(By the way, anyone can feel free to chime in on this, just please don't give any pat "Sunday school" answers... been there, done that.)

Thanks all!


- DoesItFlow

P.S. The name of the book is "One Heartbeat Away," by Mark Cahill... He's a traveling Christian evangelist, and gives out the book for free)

Anonymous said...

There is a doctor in Canada, (sorry I don't have the link, but I think you can find it using Google), who can reproduce "near-death" experiences at will by stimulating areas in the brain with electrodes. It is just more evidence that all we are and all we experience is a function of the brain's activity. You might find this useful to bring up when people claim otherwise. There is also a study I saw somewhere that indicated that epileptics have more "religious" experiences than others; this is consistent with other findings.
I have always been an atheist, and I do not have any exaggerated fear of being dead - but I hope when it happens, I shall not linger, as my dear husband is most likely to do. He has ALS, which is one of the more unpleasant ways to die, but he is facing his future with remarkable grace. But whether it is because he is an atheist, or because he is no longer young and we have had decent lives and have no unfinished business, I cannot say.
Lee Picton

webmdave said...

Here's one link, Mizlee: LINK

Anonymous said...

WOW. VERY interesting...! I've got to run right now, but I'll DEFinitely be back to talk/read/think more about that video!

Thank you, MizLee and Webmaster! You've been a big help already...


- DoesItFlow

Anonymous said...


I'm an atheist but my husband is not. This subject about the NDE or OBE are some of the reasons why he still believes as a "theist" and the "supernatural" thingy. I found a site that has some interesting info on the subject, here's the link:



Mary R.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss, for I too have lost someone I loved dearly less than two weeks ago. I have faith that I will see her again, that is my shield.

Yes, faith can be broken, tear down and defeat but it can also mend, rebuild, and prevail. It depends upon how you look at it, half full, or half empty?

I have no evidence to prove my faith, nor can I disprove it. The evidence presented by our power to comprehend what we percieve as reality can be changed, and that what was viewed as preposterous is now viewed as mundane fact.

The earth is flat! Humans will never fly! Microbes, electrons, neurons, personal computers?


See what I mean?

Having said all of that, let me close by wishing you peace and solace. It was an online search for those very things that led me here to your thoughts, and I felt compelled to share with you my own views as well.


Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to this.

I am sure you have heard the saying, "I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is." I take this saying to heart because I wouldn't want to disappoint an all-loving god. I mean, if he really sent his son to die for us, if what he has to say is that important, then we should probably listen.

I am not afraid of death either. In fact before I became saved I often thought of suicide. No one can say for sure exactly what the next life will be like, and if the greatest being to ever exist will meet me when I cross over, why not take the trip now? Then I would know for sure how I was suppose to live, and what was true, and what was not.

However once you cross over you can't come back. And if there really is a God, and The Bible really holds his instructions, then me going against his will, when he has the ability to destroy me, is not a real good idea.

God has a plan for every human being. And when you follow Him and listen to his Word then you will find out what that plan is; and trust me, his plan for you is wonderful! He is an all loving god, and wants you to live a wonderful life. He will take you away when your life is complete, and if you have followed Him to the best of your ability then you are rewarded in heaven. Let me make that clear- Heaven is not the reward, you get rewarded in heaven.

The Bible says that God is pure and he is light. Light cannot abide with darkness. Sin brings darkness. So if you have sin you cannot be with God. A+B=C Water and Oil don't mix, and God can't mix with sin. Soooo

If you are not cleansed by Jesus' blood, you cannot enter into heaven. And where do you go if you do not go to heaven..... yes, hell. It is also a real place, where real torment goes on.

The things is, everyone comes into this world dirty. One, no not one, is righteous. And the only way to get rid of the dirt, the only way to bring light into your life, and thereby make you acceptable to God, is to pray for Jesus to make you clean. You have to admit that you are a sinner (you are dirty) and that Jesus died for you on the cross, then arose 3 days later defeating death, and that without him you won't make it.

Otherwise you can't go into heaven. Not because God isn't loving, not because God wants to punish you, not because God thinks you didn't try hard enough; but because it simply can't be. God is pure and all that is holy, while we are dirty and unrighteous. But because God loves us (you and me) so much, he let his only son be beat and killed for you and me. And if you can accept that, and believe that with all of your heart, then you get to go to heaven and be with God and all of the rest of us that have been made clean.

webmdave said...

To anonymous: *Yawn*

A-nony-nony, in case you didn't notice, we've all heard that rhetoric about a million times.

Now, here's a question for you: WHY do you believe any of that nonsense you just typed? What evidence do you have that anything you've just written is true?

freethinker05 said...

Thanks for the advice nony-ony, I believe i'll accept allah and islam's teachings riiiight now!; or do you disbelieve in allah?; if yes, explain why?

Anonymous said...

anonymous said:

"And if you can accept that, and believe that with all of your heart, then you get to go to heaven and be with God"

Which god/God are you talking about? Zeus, Tabaldak, Quetzalcoatl, Ra, Ptah, Osiris, Horus, Ukko, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Mithra, Izanagi, Jehova, Yaweh, El, Iao, Hunah Ku, Anu, Marduk, Jupiter...? I could go on but the list is almost endless!
When I was a christian, I also believed in the afterlife. But one day a friend of mine gave me a book that talked about the "Egyptian Final Day of Judgment" and believe me, that was a tremendous eye opener. After I read it, started to do a research on ancient Egyptian and Greek beliefs, and discovered that the idea of life after death and the soul going to a place known as the paradise (Field of the Reeds or the Elysian Fields) were ideas from the imagination of those ancient cultures. The Egyptians believed in the soul's supposed immortality. If they lived in accordance with the Egyptian commandments their soul would be allowed to pass through the final gate from the Underworld to the paradise of the Field of Reeds after judgment by the god Osiris.

Christians criticize other religions and their beliefs. They say that the true religion is Christianity and that the Judeo-Christian bible is the infallible word of god. But, WHICH GOD? ...the Judeo-Christian bible is not original, it's an amalgamation of mythical literature, superstitions, legends and stories from older civilizations.

"The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended" (Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnall, New York, 1941, Vol. VI, "Immortality of the Soul," pp. 564, 566).

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