It’s a problem you don’t think about until you are grieving. Even if you have been an atheist all your life, unless you have faced grief and gone looking for something to read about how to handle it, it has probably never occurred to you: Much of what is published about bereavement includes religious content. If you want to read the personal stories of other parents who have lost a child, you are going to read a lot about angels and signs. If you want to read about grieving a suicide, you are likely to find quite a bit about how to deal with your anger at God without becoming an atheist. If you want to read about pet loss, be ready to hear about the Rainbow Bridge.
You may also find that even if you limit what you read to sources that seem to relate to science, not religion or metaphysics, you will find a whole lot of information that has no basis in evidence, research or reality. Take this line from an article called “The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief” at a website called psychcentral.com: “The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life.” Well, um, no. They aren’t.
There’s just so much out there about grief and when you are in the depths of grief is the last time you want to scroll through 20 pages of links to find one grief blog that doesn’t reference God or one article about grief with actual evidence to back it up.
Over and over, since I founded the faith-free grief-support network, Grief Beyond Belief, on Facebook, people have posted on the page, “Can anyone suggest something about…?” Sometime they specify a particular topic, like, “Is there anything out there I could read about talking to my kids about death?” Other times they weren’t specifically looking for something to read, just looking for information about something that I knew had been discussed in a particular blog, for example, “My father has a terminal illness and I feel like I’m grieving already.” Maybe a new member of the community needed education on a particular topic, like the people who come to Grief Beyond Belief Facebook Group saying, “I’m an atheist, but this psychic really seemed to know things he couldn’t possibly have known about my loved one,” and I just wanted to point them to a good source on cold readings. And finally there were the people who’d be looking for links to videos or podcasts, instead of blogs or articles.
Almost always, there was something on the internet to which I had already posted a link that fit the need. Off I’d go to my list of links to hunt down the reference. And each time, I’d think, “When we have a website, I’m going to have all this organized and easily accessible.”
Grief Beyond Belief’s Library is my pet project on griefbeyondbelief.org. Its list of over 250 links is literally — as far as I know — the world’s largest collection of writing, videos and podcasts about grief that have no religious, spiritual, pseudoscientific or woo content whatsoever. Not every item in it is about secular grief in particular, but you aren’t going to go looking for something you need and find Jesus or psychics instead.
Once again, if you aren’t grieving right now, you probably don’t need it. If you have a friend who is reading, you might want to check out our list of links on providing support. But if a time comes when you are looking for faith-free grief information, don’t forget griefbeyondbelief.org.