Are There Resources for Atheist Widows?

I received an email from a recent widow — my heart goes out to her — and I’m hoping some of you might have a better response than anything I could come up with:

I’m 44 years old and was widowed this month. My husband of two and a half years died of an infection. I would like to find secular online conversation with other widowed people.

So far, I’ve only seen chats that consist mostly of a lot of blather about how ones “soul mate” “passed on” and is “in a better place.”

I’m fortunate in my friends and grateful for my atheist family (3 non-believing generations living, at last count!), but would like to be able to hear the thoughts of other widows — well, the thoughts of other widows who are not ridiculous.

Have you any ideas?

In case anyone has other questions about dealing with death, I’ve opened a new thread on the Forums about the topic.

There are also several past blog posts about the subject here.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    I can offer some godless comfort for her:

    “Your husband’s dead. That’s life. He’s now rotting in a fancy box in the dirt. There’s nothing more to say. Stop being such a whiny baby, get over it and move on.”

    Good enough?

  • http://gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com Dea

    My condolences to the widow. I don’t know of any resources, but Perhaps even discussing grief with other athiests might be a support, so I’m glad you added this to the forum. I recently discussed atheism and grief on my blog, if she wanted to connect with me – although i am not a widow.

  • http://gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com Dea

    @ jinx – that is so rude. No one just “gets over” a dead husband. And just because athiests believe the first part of your statement, doesn’t mean that death doesn’t have an impact and that the life of the deceased didn’t have meaning and impact. What? An athiest isn’t allowed to grieve because they don’t believe in heaven? Obviously you’ve never had someone close to you die – or you would know why connecting to others can be very comforting when someone close dies. Unless you are of the opinion that only christians need community when someone passes?

  • http://www.dwnomad.com Dustin Williams

    I checked Atheist Nexus but didn’t find anything. She could always start a group there. Out of the more than 22,000 members there I’m sure there are some who can relate.

    She has my condolences. While she has a long road ahead in finding closure, at least without delusions of an afterlife that closure will be complete.

  • Mindy

    @Jinx I looked at your website, and you are apparently a pretty devout Christian. Not very Christian of you to be so mean. You should be ashamed of yourself. How heartless and hypocritical.

  • geralyn mott

    @Jinx McHue you are very rude and lacking in compassion and tact. you’re a christian, right? typical

  • Kerry

    Jinx, you’re an asshole, plain and simple.

    My heart goes out to this woman — we’re the same age, and the thought of losing my husband (especially with people like Jinx out there working overtime to be cruel to anyone who doesn’t believe) is terrifying. Wherever you are, LW, I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and, in the process, find solace. Peace to you.

  • Kim

    “Your husband’s dead. That’s life. He’s now rotting in a fancy box in the dirt. There’s nothing more to say. Stop being such a whiny baby, get over it and move on.”

    Whoa there. “Godless” is *not* a synonym for “rude and insensitive”. Atheists generally don’t believe in an afterlife, so when a loved one dies, we have to face the fact that they really are gone. Many religious people could be comforted by the belief that they will rejoin with their loved one again in the future (even though there isn’t any evidence for this), but to an atheist, any comments about that possibility would just seem ridiculous.

    To the widow: I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope the memories of the great times you shared with your husband, the company and support of your family, and all of the amazing things and people this world has to offer help to comfort you in this difficult time.

  • FunnierOnPaper

    Hi there. I’m an atheist widow. He passed on in 2005, just 5 days before I turned 30. I’m now 35 and remarried. I’m the person who wrote the essay “Widow Island” back when I really needed a place like that to reside in. When my husband first passed away, I accepted any sort of condolences that people would offer. I lost a lot of friends who didn’t know how to handle me without being us. I appreciated when people said he was in a better place because, despite what they believed, he was no longer in pain which is a better place for anyone to be in. Take heart, you are not alone! It’s difficult to find a place to express your grief without being offered words of religious consolation. I joined a couple of bulletin boards for consolation, most notably Young Widows and Widownet. Everyone there was very understanding because they’ve been there with you too. Don’t try to go it alone. It’s too hard. I was not only young, but I had no kids and no income so online and hospice was my only possible resource at the time. If you have the means, find a good grief counselor. Any counselor not from a church setting should respect your beliefs. Good luck in your journey.

    Oh, and for Jinx who says my husband’s in a pine box rotting… you’re wrong! He was in a ceramic container on my mantle until I gave him back to his parents, in a little necklace which helped me on my worst of my worst days, and sent to space. So, nyah. Also, I hope you never experience that level of grief. With your current attitude towards someone else’s you’re liable to turn suicidal.

  • Digitus Impudicus

    @ jinx – WTF really? Uncalled for completely. Were you raised by wolves?
    I am not surprised. Jinx runs a conservative religious “blog”, that appears to spend most of its time reviewing a “Left Behind” game. This is the sort of behavior we have learned to expect.

  • Teera

    It’s not a support group, but I recommend reading “Love Is A Mix Tape”. It was written by a man who worked for Rolling Stone and lost his wife after only a very short time when they were in their 20′s. I don’t recall there being any religion in the book, but it was a beautiful love story, about him being able to treasure the time they had together and also deal with the situation of being young and grieving. 44 is far too young to lose your life partner!

  • Justin

    Don’t feed the troll, folks.

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com CycleNinja

    My condolences to the bereaved. http://www.bandbacktogether.com is an excellent group blog for people of all walks who are going through difficult times.

  • http://www.atheistrex.blogspot.com Rex

    I hope that she comes here to read that we feel for her in her time of grief, and that the path of the rational is very difficult at times because we are without the comforting crutch of religion and the ubiquitous delusional belief in an afterlife. We know that it is over, and that we will never see our loved ones again. Those things are hard to bear at times, but to see things as they are instead of how we would like them to be is a reward in itself.

    ….. and @Jinx: How would you feel if someone said the same thing to you when you have just lost your significant other? If that is your idea of spreading religious love, you are doing it wrong! You should really take that comment and look in the mirror. If that sentiment is really okay in your book of ethics as a human being, then I am really glad that I don’t know you IRL, because we would not be able to be friends.

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    The first post prove that you don’t need to have a religion to be pompously evil. What a piece of work.

  • Price

    Jinx McHue is a CHRISTIAN being an A**HOLE on this website because that is what he does. He states he is a family man and all that rubbish. He is just here to make Atheists look like rude, insensitive people. As it turns out, Mr. Jesus Freak is the rude one. What an A**HOLE. I would love to beat you, about the head and neck, with your precious bible, you piece of SH*T. A woman is truly grieving and all you can think about is your right wing, conservative agenda. A**HOLE!

  • Claudia

    There was a Thinking Atheist podcast on that very subject.

    Though not very active, the Atheist Nexus has two atheist grief groups, that can be found here and here.

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    Ohhh.. He’s one of “those”…

  • Kate

    I am unaware of any established group or site with this sort of context but writing can be very beneficial, as such I would advise her to consider perhaps starting her own blog. If she chooses to share it with others or keep it for herself, she could really find comfort in the process and the thoughts and feelings that it inspires.

  • Kate

    Jinx McHue
    Gender: Male
    Industry: Marketing
    Occupation: Retail data collection
    Location: My secret underground lair : Somewhere in Nevada : United States
    About Me

    Husband of 11 years. Father to three very adorable and rambunctious kids ages 9, 7 and 2.

    REALLY? Your children are so lucky to have a monster like you as a father. Religious affiliations aside you are a complete piece of trash and a waste of what was once perfectly good oxygen. I hope that when your wife dies someone treats you so callously. Tell the maker we all say “Hi” when you pass him on the way to Hell

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    Good advice.. my blog has helped me voice a lot of the things that has even helped other fathers.

  • Gabriel

    There’s no need to feel bad about feelings. Whether that means sad, annoyed, or moving on or just about anything–don’t let others dictate to you what you “should” feel.

    If you’re wondering where the hell I get that from, it’s because nobody likes being told “just get over it” or “you must be so miserable.”

  • Price

    My apologies for the curse riddled diatribe earlier. To not be sensitive to the pain of a fellow human being, to me, is horrific. Then, to be an absolute monster, in a post, is just inhuman. My heart goes out to the woman who wishes to find a group to meet with about her suffering. I find this website to be a sanctuary for non-believers, like myself. When it comes to finding sincere, thoughtful people, with differing opinions, from different walks of life, all with the seeming intent to be the best human being possible… I see it nowhere else on the net, the way I see it here, on this site. I don’t always agree, but I am always impressed with the respect this community has for one another. It is disappointing the first post was from someone who is in direct opposition to the humanity and thoughtfulness I typically associate with, not only Hemant, but the community as a whole. I hope she finds what she is looking for.

  • SWare

    @ Dea, that was a wonderful blog and spot on to how my view of the passing of loved ones has changed since my recovery from religious upbringing. I find the most comfort in the memories of those that have passed away than I ever did pondering “what they are doing in heaven”. To be completely honest, when my catholic grandmother died, the room full of people praying the rosary couldn’t have been creepier.

  • PJB863

    I was/am in her situation. I lost my husband of 24 years very suddenly – I went to the store he was fine. I came home from the store 45 minutes later and he was brain dead due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Physical death occurred 8 days later.

    That was two years ago. There were no support groups. The hospice’s grief support effort consisted of sending an occasional preprinted post card with a “thought for the day” type message about every two months.

    The only emotional support I got, and it was substantial, was from the support system I’d always had – family (both sides) and close friends. It sounds like that lady has a support system in place. As far as closure – well, that never really happens. You get to the point where you can function after awhile (the length of time differs for every individual), but you will never be the same again. My sister went through the same thing about 9 years ago, and a cousin about 7 years ago. They’ve been a real help with this. Now my best friend will be widowed in the next year or so, so I will be there for her when the time comes.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    This is what I wrote in the forum:

    First of all I’d say that there is no “right way” to deal with death. Sudden death, as opposed to death following a long illness or through old age, is more difficult to deal with because we don’t have an opportunity to prepare ourselves for it. I’ve never been widowed but, like most adults, I’ve had to deal with death.

    For me I find that celebrating the life of the loved one and remembering the good times is a way to work through the grief that you naturally feel. A humanist funeral or a funeral conducted by an officiant who doesn’t hijack it to spread their religious message can help with this. A good old wake where friends and family offer condolences and talk about old times can also help.

    There are tasks that need to be performed following a death as well. Dealing with probate and wills, sorting out clothes and old possessions, closing bank accounts and insurance policies, notifying everyone that they knew, etc are all things that keep you busy and connected to the person while you are grieving. Keeping busy helps to keep depression at bay and sorting through possessions helps you to sort through your life with them. I’d suggest putting it off for as long as you need to get started, whether that be an hour or a month, but not to turn your home into a shrine for your loved one. That probably isn’t healthy.

    I’ve only seen chats that consist mostly of a lot of blather about how ones “soul mate” “passed on” and is “in a better place.”

    Personally this brings a out a rage inside me that makes me want to scream at them but you must know that they mean well and are trying to express their sympathy in a way that will help. If possible just let it slide as they may well be grieving themselves. Later on when the grief isn’t so intense you can certainly bring them up on it

  • SWare

    @ Jinx…whenever people ask “what would jesus do”, I’ll be sure to point them to this page and share your gushingly-christian commentary. It truly speaks volumes. Thanks, Jerky!

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    Wow. You guys really think I really meant what I wrote between the quotation makes? That’s just… really, really sad. Almost as sad as people who believe that this life is all there is and that once you die, all you do is rot in the ground offering their condolences to one of their own. If this is all there is — if we’re just really advanced animals — then what’s the point? Animals get over death very, very quickly and find the “other fish in the sea.” Why should we be any different?

    Of course, the reality is that, once again, atheists are using borrowed capital from Christians when offering condolences to people who’ve lost loved ones. Deep down, you know that as atheists you don’t have any reason to do so.

  • Claudia

    I’m not debating with myself whether I’m right to feel relieved that the absolute asshole on the thread is actually a Christian. On the one hand, of course there are absolute atheist assholes out there with the sensitivity of a chainsaw. On the other hand, it’s an understandable relief whenever you see a piece of shit like Mr. Trolly McAsshole to know that he’s not a particularly ugly member of your own community.

    Anyway the issue of grieving within the atheist community is an important one, as people are even more likely to pile on the religion when you are dealing with a tragedy, a time when you are obviously pretty vulnerable. The nasty theists do it to try to exploit your weakness in the effort to get a trophy convert or just to be assholes (see above). The nice theists do it in an honest attempt to make you feel better or because they likely lack the vocabulary to even discuss death outside of the religious worldview. So it’s important for us to learn to talk about death before the time comes, so we can be there for or secular brethren when they need us.

  • Claudia

    May I humbly suggest (after blatantly doing it myself) that we not devote our thread to the Christotroll and his obvious attempt to bait us?

    We have been asked to help a grieving widow. I think she’s MUCH more deserving of our attention that his “man” (I use the term loosely), tempting as it might be to pwn him into dust. Cheers.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “Marks,” not “makes.”

    Anyway, the fact that this woman has to go seeking advice is pretty indicative that its just not out there to be found or given. That’s very telling.

  • Rabid

    Ironic that though Jinx claims to be offering “godless” comfort, he’s most likely a fundie troll.

    That and a total cunt.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    @SWare:

    “@ Jinx…whenever people ask “what would jesus do”, I’ll be sure to point them to this page and share your gushingly-christian commentary. It truly speaks volumes. Thanks, Jerky!”

    Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

  • Kate
  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    It’s very sad to lose a loved one, especially when you’re both young and you’ve only been together for a short time. There needs to be more types of support groups like this though – perhaps one thing Christianity has an up on us.

    @Rabid

    Avoid gendered insults, please :)

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    @Kate: exactly what am I trying to hide?

  • Brian

    Greta Christina has also written several articles on the subject of death/grief that I’m sure will be helpful. Someone with board access please post these links on the forum.

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/06/comforting_thou.html
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/the-meaning-o-1.html
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/12/the-meaning-of.html
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/02/the-meaning-of.html

    This blog may also be helpful. It was created by an atheist woman who lost her two babies in a miscarriage. It chronicles her diary both during and after the pregnancy. http://livingwithoutthem.com/

  • Kate

    Losing a loved one is a tragedy no matter the religion. The Christian majority like to use their scare tactics and bring on the Hate Parade (IE_ Jinxy). The real issue here is that are innumerable facets of antheiest’s life and believes that simply have not been addressed and thus there is no support for…yet. People like Jinxy come here to comment because they are so scared. They’re scared that our voice is getting louder and they’re scared that if not EVERYONE believes as they do, then where do they fit in?

    The fact that I’m an athiest will not make it any easier for me to lose my husband should that day come. But knowing that he stood up for his beliefs and we’re raising our child to be a free thinker and someone who questions this world and the hateful religious biggots in it, WILL bring me comfort. That’s the best advice that I have for this widow. Yes, physically your husband is (as Jinxy so eloquently pointed out) not here. But he will become part of the Earth and this big beautiful universe. And you can take whatever solace there is in knowing that, for a tragically short time, you were part of a loving, accepting relationship.
    Tonight, when you’re looking into the sky, let’s all be thankful that we live for ourselves, stand by our convictions, and know that we are part of a very elite, hardcore group of people. How sad to waste this perfect life we have on a zombie deity and hateful words.

  • http://agoldstardad@wordpress.com Fozzy

    Well.. you cannot hide the fact that you and most other trolling Christians are just beneath contempt. There is a reason that there are days where I practically root for the Islamic crazies to really start the final push..

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    @Kate: “They’re scared that our voice is getting louder and they’re scared that if not EVERYONE believes as they do, then where do they fit in?”

    You’re a very poor mind-reader. In any case, getting louder doesn’t make you right. It just makes you more annoying.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue
  • Kate

    Cheers @ Fozzy & Claudia

  • PJB863

    Hoverfrog wrote:

    There are tasks that need to be performed following a death as well. Dealing with probate and wills, sorting out clothes and old possessions, closing bank accounts and insurance policies, notifying everyone that they knew, etc are all things that keep you busy and connected to the person while you are grieving. Keeping busy helps to keep depression at bay and sorting through possessions helps you to sort through your life with them. I’d suggest putting it off for as long as you need to get started, whether that be an hour or a month, but not to turn your home into a shrine for your loved one. That probably isn’t healthy.

    This is very good advice. And these things don’t all need to be done at once. About six months after the death, I felt a need to get rid of his clothes. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. The thing that was unexpectedly difficult was getting rid of his cologne. The scent got me extremely emotional. You can expect to be overwhelmed with emotion, often unexpectedly and without warning for the first year or so.

    Another thing that was strange was when I sold his van. I did that about a month after he died because I didn’t want to keep paying insurance on a vehicle I wasn’t using. I sold it to a young couple in the neighborhood. But after that, every time I saw it at the store or driving down the street I’d get a little sad. Music was another thing that could trigger me, so I had to try to avoid listening to certain songs – that didn’t always work too well. I broke down in tears at the grocery store once because they played “our song” on their sound system……

  • Amanda

    Almost as sad as people who believe that this life is all there is and that once you die, all you do is rot in the ground offering their condolences to one of their own. If this is all there is — if we’re just really advanced animals — then what’s the point? Animals get over death very, very quickly and find the “other fish in the sea.” Why should we be any different?

    Being only sixteen my argument won’t to be very good, but we do have a point. It’s to breed and keep the species going. Now, forgive me if that’s a little too bleak for you. I’m sorry that all we do is rot in the ground when we die. I know it’s not very exciting and that’s what leaves you grasping for something ‘better’, but it’s true.

    Second, animals have to get over death very quickly to keep their species going. This doesn’t mean they don’t mourn their dead. I’m sure you know of elephants doing it, and of mother chimps carrying around their deceased infants for days and acting upset. I’ve seen dogs grieve for long amounts of time over the loss of their owner, and sometimes they don’t recover. Animals aren’t mindless machines, and neither are we.

    Anyway, I don’t understand why you’re bringing out all your anger on this woman. She just lost her husband and you belittle her? And we’re supposed to be the immoral ones…

  • T-Rex

    My condolences to the widow. And to Jinx, fuck you and your imaginary friend. What a typical fundie Xian dick. One can only hope you’re rotting in a box sooner than later.

  • Kate

    LOL TRex. Well, he will be “If there’s a God…..”

  • Angie the Anti-Theist

    I know there are a few “secret” Facebook groups (designed to keep out theist trolls) that deal with bereavement and loss. There’s a good atheist/agnostic women’s group I like there, as well. I’ve never really encountered sexism at ThinkAtheist (but can’t say the same of AtheistNexus, which I’d never send a woman in pain to. Those people are ruthless.)

    I know a few other women’s resources that are designed to open & friendly to both theists and atheists, but I’ll wait to find out if you think she’d be interested in those before posting more.

  • Angie the Anti-Theist

    I know there are a few “secret” Facebook groups (designed to keep out theist trolls) that deal with bereavement and loss. There’s a good atheist/agnostic women’s group I like there, as well. I’ve never really encountered sexism at ThinkAtheist (but can’t say the same of AtheistNexus, which I’d never send a woman in pain to. Those people are ruthless.)

    I know a few other women’s resources that are designed to be open & friendly to both theists and atheists, but I’ll wait to find out if you think she’d be interested in those before posting more.

  • PCE

    Loss is loss no matter what you believe. Not all Christians are dicks. Sorry about jinx.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I also recommend the widow start a blog. It’s usually free and from what I’ve seen from the atheist blogosphere I’m sure some compassionate bloggers would be happy to share your site to a wide range of people so you could have the opportunity to connect to people.

    Perhaps this could be a good push for a centralized atheist grief-aid website? I would offer to help but I don’t know much about programming or maintaining a website.

    I would, however, recommend a restricted commenting form like Hemant’s or even slightly stricter (maybe have to tell the author something about them and their first 3-4 comments are held in moderation) so assholes like Jinx can’t come in and try to make people feel like shit.

    @Jinx

    Fuck off and go meet your imaginary friend as soon as possible you miserable excuse for a human being. I truly feel sorry for your mouth-breathing children. I hope when you lose someone close to you an islamic troll can tell you that you should get over it because they are suffering from infinite torture and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    @Hemant

    I hate seeing people ask for people to be banned, but I think sniping at people who are going through legitimate emotional pain is possibly the worst thing a human can do. Jinx should be banned.

  • PJB863

    AngieThe Anti-theist, be aware that it’s not only women who suffer when widowed. It happens to men too!

  • Karen

    Losing someone you love deeply is enormously painful. It’s been 5 years since I lost my father and I still grieve sometimes. I’ll be a basket case when/if I lose my husband.

    I wish our dear widow the best, and hope quite earnestly that she can find some fellow atheists who’ve gone through the same pain. I’d also like to say that time does bring some healing, though it may never bring closure.

  • Annie

    I don’t have any resources to offer, but if the woman who wrote this email is reading, I just wanted to say I am so sorry for your loss and hope you find the support you need to make this very difficult time a little easier.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was JUST having a ‘decency’ conversation with a Christian friend. Just because a ‘Christian’ troll expresses his lack of understanding of humanism doesn’t mean all Christians are assholes.

    +1 Claudia.

  • http://twitter.com/LogicallyYours Jen

    There is a quote at the end of this really great interview with Ann Druyan in tribute to her late husband, Carl Sagan that has always resonated with me:

    “When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance. . . . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind. . . . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. . . . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful. . . . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.”

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    damn, Jen. that was beautiful, tears in my eyes right now. thank you. i will always hear his voice, talking about how we are all made of stars, and never worry about death for that reason. /sobs/

    AngieThe Anti-theist, be aware that it’s not only women who suffer when widowed. It happens to men too!

    perhaps i can clarify. i’ve always like the use of “widow” vs “widower” for men. why? because being a widow is different than being a man who has lost a female partner. men, in certain ways, become more desirable as they age, to women. it’s not true for women, however, in most cases. a woman, esp a young woman, who loses a husband loses more than just her partner. she also loses social and economic status, and possibly more. it’s not that no men experience that, so much as men can more generally remarry after a loss like that, or function without a female partner easily after their loss. emotionally, i don’t think there’s any difference between the genders. but socially, economically, politically? there’s a huge difference.

    it’s funny. one of the first Sumerian law codes i ever translated in a class was headed by laws that related to “widows and orphans.” not “widowers and property owners who recently lost a partner.” and it’s not so different today.

  • Stephanie

    Wow, I really hope the widow isn’t reading these because of all the pain that christian is trying to heap on her while she’s already hurting. Some people will to anything to promote hatred.

    I have no advice. It would be presumptuous and egotistical of me since I have never been widowed. I can only offer my sympathies and and a shoulder and my hope for her that the crushing pain give way quickly to more bittersweet memories of their time together.

  • Kate

    Thanks Jen!

    That hard part, I think, for a lot of people to realize is that – just as there are things about Christianity and the afterlife that Christians fear, a lot of athiests fear similar things. Christian’s believe that they will eventually see their loved ones one day. For an athiest that’s a very different belief set and can be devastating. I would LOVE to live in a world where I get eternity with my husband. That is not our reality and thus, losing loved ones can be ESPECIALLY painful for us because we don’t have the promise of “someday again”. I hope that the heart of this young widow is touched by the love and support that we give one another. Religious extremists casting their hatred is second nature. Athiesm isn’t for the weak at heart, if it were, it’d be Christianity.

  • mike

    When I was a christian, I dealt with death and loss (though I am not a widower) by trying to move on and forget. I didn’t want to forget everything but I fled from the pain of loss, with promises of heaven or fate or god’s plan, which conveniently didn’t require me to feel or do anything.

    Now as an atheist I want to remember. I don’t fear the pain. When it hurts the most, I know that it is because I was next to the best person, and I am happy for a moment.

  • PJB863

    Chicago Dyke: I didn’t mention it, but I am a man and it was my husband who passed.

  • SamG

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Does your community have a crisis center? They may not have a support group for you, but I’ll bet they’d know where you can find one. Or, at the very least, they’d have a counselor’s name.

    Sam

  • PJB863

    At the time I was living in rural Florida. And the answer is no. I’ve since relocated to my Midwestern roots, but the answer is still no. I do, however, get angry when people assume that because I am gay, or male, or younger, if you can call 51 young, that my pain is not as accute. I think this post shows a desperate need for compassion and empathy, both in our community and in the general population at large.

  • Karl Otterson

    I am so sorry for your loss. My father died in 2002. It hurt deeply, and I have difficulty imagining what losing a spouse must be like. For myself I have found it helpful to seek therapy, and to learn to let myself feel the grief when it comes, letting it wash over me and pass through me. Over time, it has gotten less painful. It still sneaks back sometimes though, nearly nine years later, often when I least expect it. One thing that helps me is to remember that he lives on through me. All the people that touch your life, the ones who change who you are, they become a part of you, and in that sense, they are with you always. I hope that you find the comfort you need.

  • JB

    I was widowed at 38 by a plane crash. It hurts a lot, and you will start crying for no apparent reason, often in a most inconvenient situation, but as time goes on the intervals get longer.

    At the magic 2 week point, usually to the day, you will go crazy. Even if you know it is coming, a meltdown is very likely. Don’t let that burden you–it seems to be universal whether the widowed spouse is religious or not, and it will pass.

    You will have to find a way to continue, and if you depended on him, you will need learn to provide for yourself those services he supplied.
    He will live on in your heart and memories, as a ghost or the spirit of the pattern that the body and mind were when he lived, so there is an afterlife in that sense. Then you can talk to him, and in having known him well, your mind will be able to answer as he would have. It may merely be accessing your subconscious, but it can feel like and work like prayer.

    If he lived well, you can celebrate his life and all he accomplished by ensuring that his work doesn’t die with him. If he wrote on the computer, print it out or if he kept a journal, put it in your bookcase in a place of honor.

    Find pictures of the good times, and put them away for a while. They will make you sad at what you have lost until you have grieved for a while. Then in a few months, bring them out and remember how it felt to be with him. If you have a shirt he wore, don’t launder it. Keep it in a plastic bag, and later the aroma of it will remind you of him and bring his presence to you.

    If you loved him deeply, as I am sure you did, you will need time before you can love again.

    It has been 28 years since my husband died, and I have had a marriage to another since then, but I still have the memories, and they are a treasure that did not die with him. He will live on, for as long as I don’t forget and he will also live in the anecdotes I share with my friends.

  • JB

    As a practical matter, if you own a home and can in any way afford to continue the payments, it would be prudent to not sell it for at least a year.
    Waiting for your mind to clear will add wisdom to the decision, when the time comes.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    Sorry for your loss.

    Whenever dealing with death, I remember the lesson I learned from a story told by one of my college professors. I no longer remember the story, but the idea behind it is that the people who remain alive when someone dies actually save the deceased person the pain of their passing. Think of how your husband would feel if you had died first. By allowing him to die first, you are accepting the pain that he otherwise would have to go through. It may be painful to be the one who has to go on, but you taking on this enormous suffering is the greatest gift you could give your husband.

  • PJB863

    I too kept a shirt, JB. It was one of his favorites. It’s the only article of clothing I hung onto of his. Now that two years have passed, I’ve put out a couple of pictures of us/him, as well as a couple of other things we picked up on vacation, etc. I couldn’t bear to stay in the house anymore. I moved ten months later. Got rid of most of the furniture too – it was his from before he knew me and it just didn’t suit me. That whole exercise was strangely liberating, while sad at the same time. Where I seem to be stuck now is waiting for the next chapter to begin. I just keep waiting and waiting, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Maybe I’m being impatient (a fault of mine).

  • Hugh

    I hope people don’t mind me mentioning this, I know it’s not in the same league as losing a spouse, but my dog had to be put to sleep yesterday. He was with me for 12 years and was the best friend I ever had, and the sweetest, most beautiful and loving dog you could imagine. I try to console myself that he led a full and happy life. He hiked lots of mountains, traveled with me all over the Southwest, and gave me lots of love and laughs. The end came suddenly, and I wish I could have had him for another few years, but he was in so much pain, letting him go was the only option. Of course, living in Phoenix – the bible belt of the desert – the vet staff were all telling me he was in doggy heaven, he was my new guardian angel, etc. etc. I don’t need to believe he is still around somewhere. He had a good life and brought joy into mine, and now he is gone but I will always have my memories of him.

  • Rich Wilson

    Loss is Loss Hugh. Pain is pain.

    And the fact that we know we’re all worm food eventually doesn’t change the fact that we mourn those we’ve lost. I think the only things that approach a ‘cure’ are time, and the comfort of others- sharing our tears and our memories. So share. It’ll do us all good.

  • PJB863

    It is still dealing with death, Hugh. Your companion animal was a big part of your life and now he’s gone.

    About a decade ago, I had a black cat who always knew when I was coming home! About 15 minutes before I would get home, he would sit in his spot by the china cabinet where he could see the back door when I walked in. My husband always knew by that when I was on the way home – and it was a “never miss” deal. If I got stuck working late, the cat seemed to know it, ditto if there was a delay on the train I took to and from work – which stopped about two miles from our house every ten minutes and was inaudible to the cat and humans.

    We could never figure out how the cat knew, but as soon as I changed clothes and sat down to relax, he’d be on my lap, purring up a storm and ready to take a nap. After about 20 minutes I was “allowed” to go about my business for the next hour or so until it was time for another lap-sit. When he died after 15 years, I was devastated.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    PJB863

    You can expect to be overwhelmed with emotion, often unexpectedly and without warning for the first year or so.

    This is so true. Our memories can be so rich and we naturally want to hold on to them even though they may cause us pain. Over time that pain becomes more bearable and the good memories remain.

  • FunnierOnPaper

    I remember I wanted to keep something that had my late husband’s scent, but my cat decided that our hamper was her litter box, so that really didn’t work out. I created an online memorial for my husband at memory-of.com and made arrangements for a larger memorial (some of his remains were sent to space) instead.

    I also remember that turning 30 didn’t phase me much because it was overshadowed by so many other factors. I mean, he died 5 days before my BD and by the time of my BD I already had his remains back. I remember wanting to keep anything that reminded me of him. I even had the flowers I bought for his funeral preserved (I could only afford 1/2 dozen roses). I wished I could’ve afforded to preserve everything that had been sent (now I’m glad I didn’t try)! I also got so angry at a (no longer) friend who was trying to convince me to sell all of my late husband’s electronics ASAP. I mean, yeah there was a lot of money to be made, but who does that in the middle of picking out a person’s funeral clothes?

    It was about a month later that I had the breakdown. For two weeks I stayed with a friend, so this was two weeks after I went back to our apartment to live. I called another friend who said the best thing ever to me. “You’re trying to do too much. Put the photos away for a little bit. Move forward from this point and see how you feel in a few weeks or months.” I thought she was crazy! I mean, how could I honor his memory if I put all of his photos away? I followed her advise and surprisingly felt a ton better. I didn’t even put the photos away, I just flipped them down. After that, I was able to go about what I needed to do for the day. It was amazing.

    There was a lot that I needed to take on for myself. I had never created a budget before. I was in an overpriced apartment that I couldn’t afford, but if you break a lease in TX you’re practically doomed from renting for life. I had quit my full time job to go to school full time. I couldn’t concentrate on school any longer, so I found a job through a temp agency right away. Fortunately for me, the job was a no-brainer.

    Like I said before, it’s been over 5 years for me now. I’m remarried and have a beautiful little boy that my late husband wouldn’t have been able to give me without medical intervention. Since I didn’t have kids with my 1st husband, the one company down here in my area that offers bereavement help wouldn’t bother with me. I wasn’t too fond of going to hospice grief meetings because everyone there was older than me by a long shot with family members hanging on and slowly dying. My husband went so fast there was never time for hospice. I found support online and that helped so immensely!

    I’m sorry for your loss, OP. The suggestions given here have been great. I hope some can help you out.

  • SWare

    As a reasonable person, when I die, I most certainly do not wish for my loved ones to cease living. Therein may lie a valuable bit of truth that we need. Always remind yourself if your loved one who has passed was reasonable at all, they would want you to go on living. Perhaps honoring what you could safely assume would be their wishes would be a means of picking yourself up when it gets difficult.

    I’m no widow but have lost family and friends since my departure from religion and I also find a bit of comfort through giving in some way to causes that I know my loved ones supported. Just a positive way to remember the life they had and continue some of their good work.

  • Adam Morva

    Jinx, you are a douchebag troll.

  • ChicagoJo

    Abel Keogh (at http://www.abelkeogh.com) has some wonderful resources. His support and information does not include religious influence, and it’s an active community of people in all stages of the window/er-ness.

  • http://gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com Dea

    @Sware – thank you very much for your compliment. Although I’ve been an athiest for a while now – about 7 years, it has only been a few months to be “out” on the internet – whenever I write posts related to atheism, I expect backlash, but then I don’t have a very big readership so I rarely see it. But I appreciate your words.

  • http://gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com Dea

    @ amanda – for one so young, you express yourself very well and you make excellent points. I know my dog mourned her pups when we gave them away, she used to drag our pound puppies out of our toy box and line them up and then lie down in front of them as though they were nursing. It was really sad.

  • Earl

    My father died in Feb 2006 and for the next 6-8 months before she died, my mother would sit in his Lazy Boy. She claimed it was more comfortable than hers, however we knew that she missed her husband of 65 years. We think that she died more of a broken heart than anything else.

  • Dark Jaguar

    As an American kid, we memorized the pledge very young, and eventually came the class that taught us the meaning of it. That is, we were taught what all the individual words mean. We also got the “general” meaning, but it took years before I realized that from the perspective of legal consent, it was really strange to have kids constantly chanting an oath of loyalty. At that point, I stopped bothering. It’s pretty easy to just pay a little lip service without actually saying anything. In fact, to anyone from another country, try watching a recording of a pledge (find a video of kids first learning it, then kids later in high school, try to get videos that aren’t specifically about the pledge so the kids aren’t putting on a show for the camera, so to speak). I can’t say if it will or won’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out you’re creeped out by it. Little kids are always excited and shouting it, while getting words wrong without a care in the world. Teenagers stopped caring and are just doing it by rout at that point. Teachers, now that’s the fun one. Teachers are excited to teach it, but as time goes on they seem to really just want to get it over with as much as the kids so that everyone can get to work.

    Having been mired in it my entire school life (college, notably and mercifully, doesn’t bother with it at all, and not a single person thinks that is strange or demands that they start), I’m still creeped out by it now, but I would love an outsider’s view because I bet there’s observations about it I never would have considered (yeah don’t go for the Hitler angle, that’s been done to death).

    So yeah, slow self awareness makes me realize just how odd it is. No kid can be legally be held to an oath they took before reaching adulthood, and once someone is an adult, the reciting stops anyway. I could see this in the military, or even for taking a government job (I would at least “get” it, not that I’d think it’s necessarily right). Also, it’s really weird how it’s phrased. Pledge allegiance to the flag? Why the flag? Why not “I pledge allegiance to The United States of America”? The spacing is always EXACTLY just so as well, another thing I’m just noticing, and that spacing is really odd too. There’s a big gap between “the flag” and “of the United States of America”, and then another one between that and “And to the Republic for which it stands” (Why not use Democracy here? I know America is not a pure democracy but a representative democracy, but still, it’s an odd phrasing if the goal is to keep kids from going “commie”.) And then, another oddity, the word “stands” goes up a little in pitch, like it’s about to add a little more to the sentence, and then suddenly out of the blue “One nation *pause* under god *pause* indivisible *pause, then all in one quick breath* With liberty and justice for all. *Everyone quickly sits down and the day goes on like nothing happened, because that’s how everyone feels.* The cadence of the whole thing is just… off, and it’s ALWAYS the same, across the whole country. How exactly did the exact way to pronounce the thing get so perfectly ingrained? One would think there would at least be some regional variation.

    Note that I’m focusing on all the little details there. Back on topic, the fact that there’s an oath at all is probably the worse offense. Taking “under god” out is probably missing the forest for the trees. Yes, kids mindlessly chanting about a god they may not believe in is wrong, but mindlessly chanting a loyalty oath at all is what the big challenge should be I think. Where exactly are the lawsuits over the “oath” in general? Would there be any grounds? Something about it just seems off, but I can’t think of any particular amendment that covers this.

    I can say one thing though. Legally, people can’t be held to oaths made before adulthood, and certainly can’t be held to oaths they were being compelled to take. Certainly there are some grounds on THAT level if not at the constitutional level. This particular issue just seems to be bigger than atheism to me.

  • Dark Jaguar

    I want to apologize. I accidentally responded to the wrong thread. I am reposting the above in the right one.

    To make up for it, my thoughts on this. Loss is loss, no matter who it is. The pain will lessen in time, but from my experience, never completely goes away. However, and I hope I’m not being presumptuous here, I think we can all say that in a way we don’t want to lose the pain completely. To me, it has value, and helps me remember the love I had by reminding me of it. No Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for me, the pain is mine as much as the memories. I don’t know if that’ll help you, but in the past, the thought that my pain had value to me helped me get through it.

  • ash

    Dear OP,
    Virtual hugs from a random internet stranger.

    The pain will probably never go away, but, callous as it might sound, you will get used to living with it. Eventually, it will probably only catch you at you at odd and unexpected occasions, and most people are able to mutate this pain into soft desire, longing and a real but detached heartache.

    I hope you find a point where the hurt of what you missed turns into the pleasure of what you had.

    Best wishes.

  • Rike D.

    Does it seem like the Rapture DID come and Jinx must be one of those left behind?

  • Kristen

    Hi, I’m the widow who wrote the original mail that Mr. Mehta was kind enough to post. Thanks, everybody. I’ve got lots of useful and compassionate input from you. I’m not an atheist because of people like Jinx….but it makes me more glad that I am.

  • Drakk

    Jinx is one of the guys banned from pharyngula, if that’s any indication of his character.

  • Hugh

    Hi Kristen,

    Hugs and best wishes to you.


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