Help for a friend - atheism & death of a child? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 10-07-2007, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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An online friend's daughter recently passed, she was only six or seven years old. Her mama is understandably having a very hard time dealing with her grief, and she is also an atheist which means that the usual comforting words simply aren't comforting. I've tried googling websites to give her but haven't found anything. Are there books or websites she could read? I know nothing will make her stop grieving, but I'd love to find some resources that would help her cope.

Thanks mamas
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#2 of 9 Old 10-07-2007, 12:47 PM
 
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I don't know their stance re:religious beliefs, but

http://www.compassionatefriends.org/

is a national support organization for parents who have lost a child at any age, and I am sure they would have something to offer.

to your friend. And to you for trying to help.

~*The days are long, but the years are short.*~
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#3 of 9 Old 10-07-2007, 01:14 PM
 
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't some athiests believe in an afterlife? I'm thinking specifically of Buddhism, which is an athiest religion, but believes in reincarnation and karma, etc.

I would also say that while you are a really nice person to want to comfort this woman, you cannot take on the discomfort that her beliefs leave her with.

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#4 of 9 Old 10-07-2007, 11:27 PM
 
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I think all you can do is say what any grieving parent would want to hear -- I'm so sorry for the loss of your child, I am so sorry for the pain you are going through.

I'm an atheist, but although I am very fortunate not to have suffered a devastating loss like the loss of a child, I know from reading and talking to other people who have suffered huge losses that -- even if they are religious -- words like "she's in a better place" or "God needed another angel" or "you'll meet again in heaven" are not necessarily sources of comfort and may even be extremely upsetting. Because no matter someone's beliefs about an afterlife or lack thereof, the truth is that NO ONE wants to lose a child even to a "better place." It hurts here and now on earth and even people of faith aren't necessarily going to take comfort in religious platitudes coming from outsiders, KWIM?

I am very sorry for your friend's loss. : You are very sweet to try to look for resources for her, but maybe the most comforting thing you can do for her is tell her how sorry you are and try to be there for her in the weeks and months ahead to listen to how she feels and how she's living with/through her grief.

(and FYI, Buddhists are not necessarily atheists -- there are lots and lots of gods/deities/supernatural figures depending on which form of Buddhism you believe in!)

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#5 of 9 Old 10-17-2007, 08:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quirky View Post
even if they are religious -- words like "she's in a better place" or "God needed another angel" or "you'll meet again in heaven" are not necessarily sources of comfort and may even be extremely upsetting.
I agree entirely. I have a very religious friend who lost her daughter and who gets very upset when people say these things to her. She knows that they are trying to comfort her, but she finds them dismissive, not comforting.

I'm an atheist and what I believe I would want in this type of situation is for somebody to acknowledge/validate what I'm feeling and experiencing. Often when people offer "comfort" they're trying to change the situation, but the grieving person needs to feel what they're feeling, not have somebody try to make them feel better.

The friend I mentioned above feels similarly. It has been two years since the loss of her daughter and she still values it when people acknowledge her loss or remember her daughter.

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know  - e.e. cummings
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#6 of 9 Old 10-17-2007, 08:59 PM
 
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I am an atheist, and I agree with the others. Just let her grieve and acknowledge her grief. And continue to remember her daughter and allow her to talk about her in the future. Don't expect her to get better and stop talking about her or thinking about her.
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#7 of 9 Old 10-17-2007, 10:50 PM
 
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I agree completely with quirky - I think that for religious people, often the "usual comforting words" about a better place and meant to be ring really hollow, and can lead to *additional* pain as they begin to question their belief in a loving god.... I think the best advice is the advice they always give to any concerned friend - be there for her, listen, be available to talk about how she feels.

I also think it's incredibly kind and thoughtful of you to have asked that question. I'm sure you'll be a great comfort to her.
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#8 of 9 Old 10-17-2007, 10:53 PM
 
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I'm so sorry for your friend's loss. What a tragedy. And as a heaven-believing Christian, I would probably want to punch anyone in the face who recited those patronizing platitudes to me in the midst of grieving my child's death. You've gotten some wonderful advice, I've heard from those who have suffered losses that are unexpected that the worst part about the grieving process is that people around them seem to be afraid to talk about it, to name it, that they are uncomfortable and so skirt around the issue. I've been told that direct, simple words of sorrow and sharing grief, simply being there and present and willing to listen and do and be with in the moments of silence can be the most comfort.

Again, I am just so very sorry for the loss of what I'm sure was a precious child.

Mama to H (6) B (3) : A (1)
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#9 of 9 Old 10-21-2007, 01:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry I haven't come back to the thread sooner - thanks for the words of advice, everyone.

I think what I'm struggling with are that there are lots of websites, and some books, about dealing with the death of a child but I don't want her to find that the only comforting thoughts they give are religion-related, kwim? Or at least, afterlife-related. I honestly don't know what could possibly comfort someone who doesn't believe that there is an afterlife for their child I mean, I have no religious beliefs myself, but if I suffered such a loss tomorrow I'm sure I would find myself believing in *something*. This isn't a knock on athiesm AT ALL, just thoughts.
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