I was on the bus a week ago and a woman about forty or so started talking to me. She said it was the anniversary of her husband's death and she was just started on a drinking spree that would probably last the night and into the next day. Her husband had been shot to death in a meth deal done bad.
She asked me if she was wrong to want him back...to be willing to do anything to get him back. I told her 'No, she wasn't wrong to want him back.'
And I listened to her as she poured her grief out to me. I realized I had no defense against her grief, that I just had to let it pour into me without giving some glib response like 'he's in a better place.'
After she got off the bus, I couldn't just shrug off the encounter. It has stayed with me, and will probably always we with me. I realized how easy it is to Christians to say "he's in a better place" even though they would be lying. They teach and preach that this man, killed in the commission of a drug related crime, would be burning in Hell forever and ever. But they would lie to her and try to get her to come to their church.
What kind of bastard would use this woman's grief to proselytize for their religion?
So often I hear from atheists how religion offers comfort to those who are dying or have lost loved ones.
I don't understand how they can say such a thing.
I have no protection, no easy way of dismissing her demand for something comforting.
It hurts, inside of me.
What can an atheist say to such a demand for comfort when we know there is nothing beyond the physical existence?
Help me. She haunts me like a ghost and I don't believe in them either.
Even though everyone understands the finality of death, it doesn't strike home until you lose someone close. Religion and popular culture lead us to believe death is not the end, that it is not total oblivion. Even though we know otherwise, the wish to believe something remains after death is strong and occasionally overwhelms common sense.
"Religion and popular culture lead us to believe death is not the end, that it is not total oblivion."
The verb many people use illustrates this. People don't die; they pass.
As someone a long time ago told me,
"Death is a very strange thing. All of a sudden they" - waving arms - "just AREN'T THERE any more".
This could be described as "passing away" just as anything temporary passes away.
The expression "this too shall pass" doesn't mean that "this" has an existence in some other world. So "passing" doesn't have to imply any metaphysical statement about death -
just that from our perspective, people pass. Become past :(
Or :) depending on how you felt about them!
I really feel for you, a stranger caught you unprepared and you are living with a kind of PTSD, many people who experience second hand trauma feel this way (seeing a horrible accident or someone getting murdered) and you are in that fallout zone. Be kind to yourself, you will heal just as you have healed from every other thing before.
The dielemma of what to say when it really matters. e.g. death is so very hard. Speaking what feels right to you from your heart is all you could have done, and for whatever it is worth, that probably helped her in some way that you will never know about.