My grandmother died last December.
Now, I’ve never felt grief before this. I’ve been sad, sure. But grief is a completely new emotion to me.
I thought I grieved when my cousin was killed. And then again when my grandfather died. And even more when my cat died in February 2014.
But nothing before has punched me in the gut like the death of my grandmother.
Before I lost my religion, I always hated the idea of death because you never knew which version of which religion was right, and if your particular view was wrong, there was the possibility of an eternity burning in hell.
It didn’t comfort me a bit to think that I would see my loved ones again.
Now that I’ve been an atheist for a few years, I look at death totally different. There’s a great piece, written by Aaron Freeman, that perfectly exemplifies what I believe now.
“According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.” -Aaron Freeman
But my grandmother is gone. Her laugh. Her loving arms. The smell of her clothes.
It’s been 8 months since I lost her, and it still hurts like the day I received the dreaded phone call.
So how do atheists handle grief when they don’t have the reward of Heaven to look forward to?
It’s hard. Just as it’s hard no matter what your religion is.
But, contrary to popular belief, atheists don’t fall back on religion when things get tough. We use our rational brains to remind ourselves that it’s all just a part of the cycle of life. We remind ourselves that, like Aaron Freeman stated, the particles that originally made up our loved ones are still in the world.
We turn to those that surround us to celebrate the memories and receive comfort in our time of pain.
If we begin to fear that our loved one is suffering in the afterlife, we remind ourselves that death is nothing more than post-life. Just as you can’t remember what it was like before you were born, you will neither be conscious of what it is like when your life ends.
And if grief turns into depression, we get help.
It still hurts. I still miss her. I probably will until the day I take my own last breath.
But no god has any place in my grief.