I got this comment from Mary a few days ago:
Has anyone here experienced the loss of a parent? Has your atheism helped or hindered your grieving process? I’m going through a very difficult loss right now and am having trouble reconciling my stated belief (or non-belief as the case may be) with what I’m going through. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
And, as usual, you commenters offered up better responses than I could come up with. My dad left this one:
I have lost both my parents. I was sad, I grieved, and I will miss them both. I am so happy that we got to be family together. My atheism helped me accept that is just the way of the world. When my times up, I hope my kids can celebrate that we had our time together as family, and that that helps them through the natural mourning and grieving process. I do not want my kids to barter their reason for false promises about an afterlife. Good luck to you.
Other commenters pointed toward Grief Beyond Belief, which is another good outlet for help with grieving.
The best thing I have to offer was in response to Dan Fincke’s question about grief. I’ve yet to lose a parent, but I lost a grandmother for whom I cared very deeply.
Battles are often won long before the first shot is fired, by strategists who scour the environment beforehand and manipulate the conditions to give them the greatest advantage. It doesn’t guarantee victory, but it seriously ups the winning percentage. People dying, when it’s not sudden, is that way. Don’t wait until someone dies to set yourself up to grieve – do it in the weeks beforehand. When my grandmother was dying of cancer, I drove home every weekend I could. I thanked her for helping me to attend college, and said all the things that came to my mind (even I struggle with that sometimes). I told her I loved her repeatedly. I sat at the side of her bed and hugged her during her few waking hours every day.
That way, when I went to war with my grief, it was on my terms and with as few unknowns as possible. Pre-planning doesn’t mean you’ll always win, or that grieving will be easy, but it’s a heaping dose of emotional anesthetic.
Best of luck to you. *hug*