As an Atheist, how do you deal with it?

It's definitely, definitely the hardest thing for me. I think about how crappy it is to have a mother who is hurt by my religious decisions, but how much worse would it be to realize that when I lose someone in my family, they're gone forever?

A lot of the Atheists I speak to don't think about it, or don't seem to mind. What do you think?
(Hopefully this isn't a duplicate thread.)

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For those who haven't seen it yet, the new Disney/Pixar film "Up" tackles death-of-a-loved-one very, very well (established in the first few minutes, so I hope that counts as not really spoiling any plot points). While it tugged a little too hard at my freshly wounded heart strings I think that element of the film would be very healthy for children who will soon have to deal with the death of grandma or grandpa.

Awesome movie besides!
Teaching children about death is very important. I can't stand when I hear people say they wont take their young children to funerals, or wakes. Both of my children were taught early on about death. And they aren''t thrilled about the prospect of mama and daddy being gone ( whew), but they understand the life process and the importance of living a full life.
Now I must confess the thought of out living my wife is a terrible empty thought. I'm not sure how I would go on but there will be the kids so I'm sure I would turn to them quite a bit.
My three year old son's father was murdered on September 24, 2008. It has been really difficult for me, because I know one day I am going to have to discuss it with my little boy. I'm not sure how to handle it, other than just being as truthful as I can. He was shot by a shotgun....he's dead, he's not asleep or in heaven or in a better place or any other lie. His life has ended, ceased to be. His energy is gone. I plan on telling this to him as soon as I can, or as soon as he asks. He has an older brother who goes to his dad's house very often, and I just know questions will come soon. "Where's Chase?" "At his dad's"...."Where's my dad?"'s sad, really. But, I intend to be honest as I can...and loving to my lil BoopBoop!! Death is something all children should be able to discuss with their parents...and no one should be afraid of it.
Leslee - huge, huge hugs and many comfort-vibes your way. I can't even imagine what you're going through but you're right, best not to fudge the truth with your son. No matter what he hears or how he hears it, it will be hard. So that hardness might as well be truth and honesty.

SGecko (and everyone else) - I will say that the hardest part of Mom dying was seeing my Dad go through that grief. High school sweethearts, married nearly 66 years. I'd seen my Dad cry a few times before but never break down sobbing. When I arrived for the funeral I walked in the door of the house and went straight to Dad. He was in the phase of Alzheimer's where he tells the same story over and over again and the story he told over and over for the next 4 solid hours was how he awoke Sunday morning to find Mom dead. All I could do was sit and listen and hold him and wish there were a higher power to give me the power to take his pain away. (It's what made "Up" both a very cool movie but also too painful to watch again for quite a while).

And yet he and Mom had those 66+ years. Far, far better than feeling nothing at all.

Whew! Didn't mean for my posts here to get so heavy. But it's a good topic. I've never thought much about how you explain death to your kids without a convenient god-heaven story to make death sound like some happy, happy journey. It sucks for us here in the mortal coil but it's part of nature. From stardust we come and into stardust we will be recycled!

Heh - as I finish writing this the next song that came on my Sirius is The Beatles: "All You Need is Love."
Jezz you have put up the emotional button pusher. No matter how we deal with it there will be emotional pain and grief. That hollow empty loss. It's a part of who we are as a species.
Grief and pain are imprinted in our gray matter like happiness and joy, and time will not erase them, but we learn how to live with them. That makes us who we are as individuals.
O I hope some day some of us will be able to meet face to face some of you got bear hugs comin your way. You to Jezzy.
I believe many species grieve for the loss of their loved ones. Elephants are a prime example, in deed.

And Mary thanks for the good vibes!!
Very good point Sydni. I didn't mean to imply that we were the "only" species. And this brings up the point that nature can also be used to teach children about death, and the return of our "stardust" to the cosmic system. The footage of lions, etc, feeding on the plains is a great example of this.
It all depends on which religion you turn away from. I was born a hindu and to this day I still dont understand the hindu stance on what happens after death! There is no heaven or hell, I believe most of hindus believe in reincarnation, but you can come back as ...any living thing (I think). So , what difference does it really make to my thoughts on death from being a hindu to being an atheist? Not much. Many hindus have pictures of deceased loved ones, and 'pray' to them, but I dont think, in general, they believe that they will reunited after death.
Lately, I have this feeling that we need dead some how. No that I´m depressed or something, but I just have this feeling that I wouldn´t like any kind of afterlife, that I wouldn´t be myself anymore if afterlife would be true, because most of what we are has to do with the way we feel the world (with just mean our bodies), and that I would like neither to live forever, even when I want to be old and all. I mean death can made us pay attention to what be have now.
Personally I have had a lot of loss recently, I lost my mother to cancer 4 years ago, then my grandmother two years ago and now I am loosing my wife to cancer. The loss and the grieving are universal whether you are a theist or not. For me as an atheist I celebrate their lives and the times we had together. I am not afraid of my own death although I would love to enjoy a long life when the time comes for me to stop living I simply will not exist so there will be no sense of loss or feeling.
I am at the stage of life where death becomes a very real possibility. The number of friends and relatives who have ceased to exist has excelerated. For some of these the loss was very hard for me to cope with while for others it was relatively easy. Sometimes the pain was eased by the persistent feeling of unreality. Sometimes it is difficult to come to grips with the fact that someone you had not seen for a while was never going to be seen again. On the other hand, the death of those who have been a very important part of my life has been devastating.

I live every day now with the possibility that I will not make it to the next day. I have found no easy way to deal with this fear of terminal non-existence. It is terrifying at times. My best efforts involve making my life as busy and meaningful as possible.

It has become very important to me to leave something of importance behind me, something that will positively affect the lives of others who come after me. This is a very grandiose idea and I regretfully accept that this may just not be possible to achieve, at least on the scale I would like.

I do, however, have a child and a much younger husband whose lives I have indelibly affected. My hope there is that my dying and my death (these are different things) will not cause an indelible pain which will cancel out the good things that I have given them.
You wont know when your gone. Thats what comforting about death.




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