Dealing with Death as an Atheist

I recently received the following email:

I have been reading your blog for a few months now and so much of what you write resonates with me. I didn’t grow up Quiverful or quite as fundamentalist as you did, but still very conservative Christian. We went to a megachurch in the DC area, and I was very active in the youth group. Then I studied abroad. Seeing other cultures, especially visiting Muslim countries, I realized everyone believed in their religion just as devoutly and began to think that maybe every religion was a different version of the same basic thing. Eventually, that gave way to atheism, which is where I am today. I appreciate you and your blog so much – thank you for sharing as much as you do.

The purpose of this email is really to reach out and ask you about something that has been troubling me for about 6 months now. I am having an existential crisis. How do you deal with death – mentally and emotionally?
I ignored it for the most part, but one night I was gripped with the realization that everyone will die. Obviously I knew that before, but I had not really grasped it. I have two little children so I think that makes the feeling even more raw. Ever since that night, I think about it often and it is really frightening to me. I kind of have the sensation of being in a plane that is slowly crashing. It is so morbid! I’ve talked to a few people about it, but no one really gets it – they either always thought nothing happened to us after death, or have always believed in heaven. How do you handle the reality of death – and the fact that it is permanent – after believing in the existence of God and heaven? How do you cope? I think this is something I just need to work through, and back in my Christian days, I had mentors and Bible study small groups that I could turn to with these kinds of things.

If you don’t have time for this, I understand. You are just the person that came to mind when I wondered who I would be able to talk to about this.


Just today my husband and I were watching a video of prominent atheist authors talking about their views, and ninety-five-year-old Diana Athill was asked how she handles the prospect of death as an atheist. Her response? “I’m never afraid to fall asleep, I don’t know why I’d be afraid of dying, it’s really not any different.” As an atheist, death is simply nonexistence. I wasn’t bothered by not existing before I existed, so why should I should I be afraid of not existing after I die? Honestly, it sounds rather peaceful.

But Samantha makes an interesting point. Like me, she grew up with the expectation of eternal life. To go from believing that you will live forever in eternal bliss to the realization that you will cease to exist after you die can be rather jarring. One thing I realized early on is that wishing I could live forever doesn’t make it so. It’s like leading your whole life believing that you’re some sort of lost princess or the heir to an obscure billionaire, and one day you’ll be “discovered” and live a life of privilege and wealth. It doesn’t matter how much you wish that were true, if it’s not true it’s not true. I see the idea of eternal life after death in the same way – it’s mere wishful thinking, and while I understand its powerful appeal (who wouldn’t want to live forever) that appeal does not make it real.

How have I handled this whiplash understanding of what will happen to me after I die? One thing I do, as mentioned above, is to remind myself that wishful thinking doesn’t make something true. Wishing you lived in a fairy tail doesn’t make it reality. And wishing for something we don’t have, and can’t have, well, that just distracts from what we do have and promises to make us discontent and unhappy. I may wish I was a billionaire, but I’m not, and spending my life wishing I was would make me overlook the economic security, prosperity, and happiness that I do have.

That all sounds rather harsh, though, doesn’t it? Saying “eternal life doesn’t exist so stop wishing it did” doesn’t fix things. But there’s a pleasant underside to this idea: I find that knowing I have but one life to live makes me want to live this life I have to the fullest. What is the point in holding grudges or focusing on small annoyances? If this is all I’ve got, I want to enjoy it while I’m here. This makes every moment I have with my husband, daughter, family, and friends especially precious and especially fraught with meaning. It makes me all the more likely to tell my husband and daughter that I love them, and to show them my love for them by overlooking the little things and focusing on the good. Weirdly, realizing this is all I have makes me a much more pleasant wife and mother than I might otherwise be, and makes me seek fulfillment in every little moment I have.

Another idea that comforts me is that of the “circle of life.” After I die my body will break down and be assimilated back into the world to become something else. This world, with its trees, oceans, and animal life, will keep going after I’m gone. It is what lasts even as our lives end. Sometimes I like to go out into nature, surrounded by trees and grass and birds, and just feel that. Compared to millions and billions of years and the diversity and ever changing nature of life, our individual lives are really very insignificant. But we aren’t just individuals, we are part of something bigger – an ecosystem, a world, a universe – the circle of life. And to me, that feels empowering.

Samantha mentioned her two young children. I understand that. I would hate to think of losing Sally. A friend of mine from growing up recently had a miscarriage, and she wrote on facebook that she was comforted by the fact that she will someday see her baby in heaven. If I lost Sally, I wouldn’t have that comfort. Sally would just be . . . gone. It would be the end.

I deal with this in several ways. First, I remember that after death strikes there is one person not mourning, not feeling the pain of loss, not wondering how to go on with life, and that person is the one in the coffin. If I lost Sally, I would be the one who would be sad, not Sally. I might think of everything Sally never lived to do, but this wouldn’t bother Sally. Sally would simply not exist, and would experience her nonexistence the way we do a deep dreamless sleep, just without ever waking up. Sally wouldn’t mind being dead, because she wouldn’t be. It would be I who would mind Sally being dead. If I were to lose Sally, I’d like to think that that understanding – that Sally was suffering no pain or regret – would comfort me.

Next, I try to make Sally’s every moment here on this earth pleasant and worthwhile, knowing that she, like I, has but one life. If I ever were to lose her, I wouldn’t want anything to regret. This helps me to be especially kind to her, especially involved in playing with her, and especially grateful for every moment I have with her. After all, if I did ever lose Sally, all I would have is the memories of our life together, and I’d like those memories to be pleasant and without regret.

Finally, I remember what I said earlier about the circle of life. Death is simply a part of life, no matter how much we may wish it wasn’t. People die, people are born, and life goes on. Sally is just a part of that larger cycle, and that is something I have to accept.

But the fear we feel of death, or of losing someone we love, often isn’t something that can be reasoned with. It’s not necessarily a rational thing, it’s a gut-level emotional thing. And so, Samantha, realize that what I’ve said here is simply how I try to understand and rationalize death. It may help your “existential crisis,” and it may not. Sharing my thoughts is all I can do.

One thing that makes this sort of thing especially difficult for people like you and I is that, like I said before, we were raised to believe we would live forever. If we’d never been told those things, accepting that life is limited and will end would almost certainly be easier. It’s sort of like the moment a child realizes Santa isn’t real, except that the idea of eternal life is a whole not bigger than Santa. But just as in that case, holding onto the idea of Santa won’t do any good. We have to grow up, accept reality, and move on. But saying that is easier than doing it.

I’d like to finish by offering some links with other atheists’ points of view, and also by soliciting my atheist readers to offer their own suggestions and their own answers to Samantha’s question.

How Atheists Deal with Death and Loss

An Atheist’s Approach to Death

Grief Beyond Belief

Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church
What Kind of Atheist Parent Are You?
Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech
You Can Count Me out of Atheist Tribalism
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Rebecca

    Really well put. I clung to the belief in heaven irrationally for a really long time, mostly because I didn't want to be separated from Josh. It took me really and truly understanding that after death we won't pine for each other, that it won't hurt because consciousness will be ended, to help me come to a peaceful place with death. My husband is military and so the possibility that he would be taken out of life much earlier than I would gives me a pang from time to time. But for the most part I can know that there is no eternal torment waiting for us and there is no god demanding that we praise him forever after death (yeah, THAT'S bliss alright). With the end of life comes an end of fear, pain, and struggle. And that puts me at peace in a way, I guess.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    I don't normally quote Richard Dawkins because he has a reputation that can be scary to new atheists and on-the-fencers, but his writing on death is just too beautiful not to share.In his writings on death, he argues that the problem is that we're focusing on death, and that we should instead focus on life: "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones." die, you must first be alive. You have been granted this amazing gift that billions upon billions of potential people will never have – you get to be alive. You get to laugh, to smile, to love, and to be loved… You get the opportunity to leave this world different than you entered it. So instead of feeling sad about someday not being a part of this world, think instead about what you want to do with your opportunity. Instead of feeling sad about your loved ones dying someday, think instead of how lucky you are that they were born and that you got to know them.Life is finite, and that's precisely what makes it so precious, and so worth living!

  • Anonymous

    Definitely well-said! I was raised in what you might have called a "lukewarm" Christian family… or possibly getting chilly. We sometimes went to church for major holidays. I was told that people went to heaven when they died, etc. Eventually I realized that I was an atheist, although it took me a long time to work through all of the implications, such as life after death not making any sense. I considered the idea of reincarnation for a few years, but really…One place I found interesting information was on the Open Yale course, "Philosophy of Death".I think that even beyond the fear of death, the concept of "The Meaning of Life" was the biggest issue I had to deal with. If you don't believe in the supernatural, then there can be no meaning imposed from the outside. You have to find your own meaning.

  • Leanna

    Beautifully said, Libby Anne!

  • Sarah

    Another way to think about this is that we do live on after we die, just not in our physical forms. We live on in the memories of those who knew and loved us. We live on in the continuing existence of things we created, whether they be writings or art or physical objects or organizations or programs. We live on in the ideas that we have shared, the people we have influenced, and the actions we have taken. We live on in the children we raise or mentor. And so rather than on focusing on what will happen to me after my death, I focus on trying to leave a legacy that will outlast me. At least in some small ways, I hope that the world will be a different and better place because I lived in it. And as long as that is true, then death is more of a transition than an ending.

  • Grikmeer

    "(who wouldn't want to live forever)"Me! ^_^With the death thing, I've been an atheist since I was about 8 years old, and I don't remember believing in heaven before that. (I've just remembered the first time I heard the word…) I've borrowed a line from Terry Pratchett to describe my attitude: "A man is not dead while his name is still spoken"I don't have any concept of someone surviving their death, but as long as I remember the people I love they will be alive to me, in some way. Not spiritual, but alive in memory. The Cure did a song about that, called Where The Birds Always Sing…

  • Clytia

    I've come across similar questions and blog posts in the atheist blogosphere a few times recently. I find it interesting, because it's something I've never had any kind of 'existential crisis' with myself. Back when I was a (fundamentalist) christian, one of the things that freaked me out the most was the idea of eternal life. Even with all the great stories about heaven, I did not want to live forever (in heaven or hell). I wanted an option to opt out of it all and just die peacefully when my life was up. I still find the idea of life with no end in sight somehow repulsive.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    There are atheists really scared of death. I know it because I'm one of them. The idea of in one second to stop thinking (like I was asleep) but for forever, the disappearance of my personality… all of that is deeply scary for me and has been since I was a small child. I think I have a genetic predisposition (to pessimism and depression) because my mum who was brought up catholic thought like that too since she was a kid. Studying Medicine, students have death in their minds frequently and this gave me the opportunity to quiz a good number of them about if they were scared of death, dying or growing old. It was incredibly eye opening for me at that moment to realise the vastly different concerns people had from being scared of dying in pain but not all of death to people preferring dead to being old and many many more possibilities of course. The fact was not one of us had exactly the same fears so of course a single answer wouldn't satisfy them. I'm still looking for an answer that will quell my fear of death but this fear doesn't change the way I live my life except to live it more fully so I guess it isn't all that bad.. now if only I could do something with my depressive nature XP I hope I haven't been a party pooper because I'm still scared of death. Have a nice day everybody!!

  • boomSLANG

    As for being afraid of being dead(nonexistent), I have no issues. After all, once that happens, I won't even know that I'm dead, nor that I had ever lived. Subsequently, I won't be able to "miss" loved ones, have regrets, or stress over things I could have done better, etc. So, none of that. Thus, my fears aren't of "death", but of what leads up to it. Some of which fears are growing old and slowing becoming "invisible", and/or, contracting an incurable disease that would leave me merely existing with a low, or nonexistent, quality of life. For instance, that despicably horrible disease called cancer comes to mind, or something like Alzheimer's, by which I'd slowly be robbed of my personality to the point that I would no longer recognize loved ones whom I've known all my life. I'd much prefer to die in my sleep, drop dead of a heart attack, or get hit by a bus.As for Samantha's letter, what I got out of it is that she's beyond(or is committed to going beyond) the whole "wishing it were true" stage. I think she wants to know where to go from there. If so, my advice would be similar in that case, which is, to make sure your loved ones know how you feel about them. Also, I'd suggest making sure those who are dependent on you right now are "set"(to the best of your ability) for life, should you die sooner than expected.As for living forever in a perpetual state of never ending, unadulterated bliss, aside from finding this whole idea that my personality can live on after I die absurd and unbelievable, the thought that I'd be awake and self-aware 24/7 for all of eternity, alone, turns my stomach! And then there's boredom! No conflicts or anything to overcome, ever? Ick! In my view, such a state would eventually become a living "hell"('sorry, the word fits, here)That we will simply cease to exist just like every other living organism is so much simpler, not to mention, it makes sooo much more sense, IMO.

  • Rebecca

    Well said, boomslang!

  • boomSLANG


  • praminthehall

    When my brother died at age 20, I contemplated reverting to e belief in an afterlife, but it just didn't feel true to me. He was cremated, and we put his ashes in a swamp where he liked to go–it had lots of wildlife, including treefrogs, alligators, turtles, and many other animals he loved. I felt comforted knowing that his body became part of the life of the swamp, and when I go there, I feel that he is present in the rich plant life and the animals there. That experience helped me to see death as a normal, if sad, part of life. I have children too, and when it comes to their deaths, honestly, I try not to think about it at all. I don't think any kind of afterlife would make me feel any better about losing one of my children. A rabbi friend of mone once said, "Having a child is the sudden realization that one truck can destroy your life." My children are teens now, and I don't think that feeling will ever change. But death as a general concept, I think I can hold peacefully as part of the natural progression of the world.

  • Christine

    The thing that scares me about my mum dying is not that she is gone.. she ceases to exist…… it's that there was the possibility (and I will never know) that she was trapped inside her body and wanted to communicate but couldn't and died frustrated and angry and upset. It scares me that she might have felt sad that she wasn't going to be able to see me get married, or see her future grandchildren, to grow old with my dad… it kills me that she might have had regrets that she couldn't tell me about…. I keep picturing her stuck inside a glass box and screaming, but no one can hear her and they just walk by. It gives me nightmares. Death does not scare me. Living without fulfillment scares me.

  • trepto

    George Hrab has a beautiful song about losing the ones we love and about his own experience with grief, "Small Comfort"."I’m glad I get to miss you but that you can never miss me"

  • AyannaCosta

    I am glad I stumbled upon this writing, It was beautifully and well said. As a newly formed atheist I thought about this as today I heard the news that a dear former neighbor of mind recently and suddenly passed away. The news came to me shocking because I had no idea she was sick and suffering with cancer. Through my journey and process of going from believer to agnostic to now an atheist this made me wonder. What comfort can I have or give for those who have passed away. Religion has often given a very peaceful outlook that you will see the person again and they may be absent from the body but be present with the Lord. That no longer applies to me now that I am an atheist. There was this statement you said “What is the point in holding grudges or focusing on small annoyances? If this is all I’ve got, I want to enjoy it while I’m here. ” That brings me great comfort. It makes me realize that if I believe that this is my one and only life, what am I doing with it. How am I treating the people that I love and have formed bonds with? I find this to be a greater comfort than something that I was never to sure about. Thank you for this article.

  • Hillary

    I too am an atheist who has experienced a few bout of truly miserable existential despair and terror of death.
    “This makes every moment I have with my husband, daughter, family, and friends especially precious and especially fraught with meaning.”
    I admire this way of looking at things, but it honestly makes no sense to me. If all meaning comes from the inside (things only matter to us, not something third party and eternal) and we are erased as if we never lived after a short number of years, then why do we bother to get up in the morning at all? We might as well all die today. I have two small children, and when I look at them in these moods, I see nothing but ashes. I wish I had never had them. I wish we would all stop having children, who have to briefly flame into the world, care about things, only to be erased as if they never existed (as our whole universe will in a bit).
    BUT, I want to say something helpful because I know how much existential dread can hurt. These are the ideas I have found some comfort in:
    We think we live in an age of reason, but the truth is, when it comes to answering the fundamental questions (Why is there something instead of nothing? What ARE we? What is consciousness?) there are in many ways no more hard answers than there ever have been. Perhaps we are all just thoughts of another life-form. Perhaps we are a cosmic accident.

    Either way, these questions are clearly above our pay grade. We are slightly smarter than monkeys, and trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe. I recommend atheistic buddhism for atheists. Its focus on the present moment is helpful for those with existentialists issues. And, you know, see a therapist. No one can tell you for certain that there is no meaning to all this, so perhaps it is best for us to move forward with the hypothesis that there is.

    Specifically to address death anxiety: Try Irvin Yalom’s book “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the terror of death.” He is comforted by Epicurus, a philosopher who made these arguments to soothe terror of death:
    1. Where I am, death is not. Where death is, I am not. [When you are dead, you will not be there to suffer!].
    2. Symmetry. If you do not fear the time before you were born, there is no reason to fear being dead. As Mark Twain said, “I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Or as Einstein said, “The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.” Socrates said, “To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not. For it is to think one knows what one does not know.

    I hope some of that can help someone thinking about these issues. It is terrible, but I have hope there is something (not a personal god, but just something) beyond our understanding that makes this deal better than it seems.

    • Hilary

      Atheist Hillary – One thing I’ve seen other athiests say is the legacy they leave for others is part of what makes the thought of death berable. That just as you have benefited from the people who came before you, you can also work to leave a legacy, no matter how small, of goodness for the people comming after you. You can try as best you can to live each day so that when you die, the people who’s lives were touched by yours are better for having crossed paths with you. Or, at least not worse.

      Here’s something I’ve learned on the atheist blogs:

      “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, that will be sufficient. If there are gods and they are not just, they are not worth your time. If there are no gods, then you will have left a good legacy to those comming after you.” I am a religious person, but I really appreciate this quote.

      Also, I know that it is the height of folly to diagnose someone online from one post, but if you are having a hard time getting up in the morning because it is all too pointless, talk to your therapist about depression. This life is what we’ve got and we need to make the best of it. If using prozac or any of its ilk makes life better, use it properly with a glad heart.

      Take care

      Hilary (the liberal Jewish lesbian one, who spells her name with one ‘l’ not two ‘ll’ )

      PS Hillary, if you like The Lord of the Rings – JRRT’s older brother was named Hillary. How cool is that?

      • Hillary

        Hilary! Great name. I didn’t know that about Tolkien. That is cool.
        Yalom also talks about affecting others (rippling), but I don’t get that either, because those people (and all humans) will eventually be dead as if we never existed at all.
        I absolutely am depressed at the moment, seeing things clearly as an atheist is extremely depressing. I am getting help. I’d love to regain my death denial!
        Anyway, I find some hope in the idea that we aren’t as smart as we think we are. Not that there is, in fact, a sky God who answers our prayers to locate our missing iPhone, but just something we don’t know that would make it all seem a little less pointless.

      • M

        Sure, everyone will eventually be dead, but that’s like billions and billions of years from now. In the meantime, we have the opportunity to make life better for the people who are alive. Who cares if it’s temporary? It’s all we’ve got, so that imbues every act, every emotion, every second with extra meaning because it is, to us, all the time in the world.

        I’m glad you’re seeing a therapist for the depression. Good luck.

    • Anat

      To Hillary, regarding meaning: You say: If all meaning comes from the inside (things only matter to us, not something third party and eternal) and we are erased as if we never lived after a short number of years, then why do we bother to get up in the morning at all?

      Because we are here and now, and getting out of bed and doing something feels much better than not, once you get the hang of it. Especially if there is something nice you end up doing once you are up and about, whether that is taking your daughters to the park, preparing a tasty meal or caring for the needy in your community.

      Look at it this way: You are very likely to live through this day at the very least, no matter what. You can live this day miserable, uncaring, contented, happy, ecstatic or any other number of moods. Which one would you like it to be? What can you do to make it so?

    • Maryjane

      I totally understand that feeling. I describe it as a dreadful feeling of impending doom. But even more than that, to me it feels like the weight of being alive is crushing me. I feel and think that there really is no purpose to care about anything. At those bad times I too feel like nothing really makes sense anyway, so why bother. Reconciling with the knowledge that I will one day cease to exist is HARD and I haven’t fully done that. I have freak outs about it. At times I even entertain myself with the “clock winder” theory of existence just so I can fantasize about still existing! When I get in a mood like that I smoke and drink until it passes. I’m not advising anyone to do this, but that’s what I do. I also cry a lot and I don’t try to hold back either. One thing that makes me feel better is the mindset that as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I can do whatever I want! This is MY LIFE it belongs solely to me. My successes, my mistakes, my dreams belong only to ME. Without the fear of repercussion I have taught myself how to LIVE, not just exist. I literally do whatever I want and that helps me feel more alive and helps me not to care so much about the future, which includes death. Another thought that helps me through these times is that as much as I love a lot of things about life, there is a lot of injustice, suffering, inhumanity, prejudice, greed, and just shitty stuff that I won’t have to witness anymore too. Try to find some balance, incorporate more good stuff into your life. Indulge in life without guilt! Life doesn’t always have to have profound meaning, but it can still be great and FUN!

      If you think you may have more intense feelings than average you may want to read about being a “sensitive” person. It’s biological it just means your nervous system gets overwhelmed easier than most people. Too much noise, too many people, certain fabric, rushing around, and yes emotional things too make me highly agitated. I’m also bi polar and I do not take western medication, so I ride the roller coaster. Good luck I sincerely hope you come to terms with your struggle.

  • Mel

    I believe that we live on through the effects of our words, actions and loves. My one-year old brother died unexpectedly when I was four and my life-long best friend was killed in a car accident the day before my wedding 11 months ago. They both still walk with me. I don’t have the words to explain it, but they are not gone. I use the word heaven to describe it since I don’t have a better term. Their life force has joined the rest of the universe kinda describes it too.

  • Alice

    Believing in nonexistence after death would also be more comforting than believing countless billions of people since the dawn of humanity are going to suffer eternally. A heaven would have to involve some kind of amnesia, because how else can people have eternal bliss knowing what is happening in the basement while they lounge around upstairs?

  • meiof

    Growing up I lost a lot of relatives around the time I stopped believing and this really messed me up. I felt like life was a sad joke. Through personal growth, you will learn to accept death and the fact that nothing is permanent, people come and go, and one day maybe tomorrow or in 50 years that you’ll be dead. Let me say that when you transition from “coping” to “acceptance” it is the most liberating feeling ever. It’s okay to be a wad of flesh that will one day expire. Atleast for me, I atlast feel truely humbled by existence, It has also heightened my sense of self and awareness of the human experience.

    • meiof

      I still am very much frightened by the process of dying. Just the degrading aspect and being truly vulnerable with no control. I fear that I will be very scared when it happens if I lose conciousness slow enough. Hard to explain- does anyone else have this fear?

      • Trynn

        Yes. A huge part of my fear of death is because it’s the ultimate lack of control, as is dying.

        When I was having surgery, I told my surgical team about my fears of going under. The moment when I go under is the moment I dread the most. The doctor told me that he could give me a drug that would make me forget.

        I asked if it was a memory drug and he said no, and proceeded to start speaking medicalese to me.

        Uh huh. Memory drug.

        He was as good as his word; one minute I was being wheeled into the OR, wishing they’d have let me leave my contacts in so I could see what was going on. There was a big TV with my name on it, but I couldn’t read what else was on it. The nurse said something about shaving me and I panicked, because I knew which part of me they meant.

        One moment, I was being prepped for surgery, and the next, I was waking up. The process was so seamless that I don’t even remember what my last memory was, exactly. In fact, I didn’t even think I’d had the surgery, I thought, “oh no, I fell asleep, now they’re going to wake me up to knock me out.”

        Anyway, the point of all that was that if death is like that, if just one moment I’m sitting here at my computer and the next thing I know, well, I still haven’t figured out if I believe there’s a heaven/hell or nothing, but if I just am and then suddenly am not, I think that maybe, maybe death wouldn’t be so bad after all…

        Of course if I follow THAT to its logical conclusion, then I can really start to freak myself out about, “omg what if THIS is my last memory?!?!?!?!”

        Why yes I do suffer from anxiety and need to get some help with that…

  • missbizzylizzy

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been an absolute panic recently over a terminally ill friend. This will be the first death I have faced as an atheist and it’s so upsetting because I know it’s final. Your words are not what I wanted to hear but they are so true and it helps to know that he won’t be sad when he is gone. Thank you again.