So, hello there.
My name is William, and I’ve lost people, just like you have.
Let me say a bit about Grief Beyond Belief, to start off. You’re safe with us; we don’t tolerate any breaches of our peoples’ expectations of a safe grieving space here. You won’t find religious platitudes, combative attitudes, or anything else that rhymes with attitudes. Just nice folk, looking for shoulders to cry on, and friendly listeners, eager to give the shoulder that they know people need.
I came to Grief Beyond Belief back close to when it first opened. I’d been an atheist for some time, but I hadn’t run across a secular grief support group before. It was a breath of fresh air, a delight and a joy to have someone to talk to in a way I could understand. Someone who knew that “your mother’s in heaven” doesn’t reassure me, it frustrates me. Someone who would listen as I talked about everything -but- god, angels, the afterlife, and “spiritual healing.”
I was raised Christian. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I don’t really consider that part of my history “abusive.” My parents did what they thought was right, and I learned a great deal from my time in the faith that I would not be the same person without. I am grateful to my family for who they were, and what they did for me.
That said, it didn’t stop me from becoming who I am. It happens, we all change. I was already experiencing severe doubts and disappointments by the time my mother died, following a five year battle with stage iv cancer. It was a terrible time, and I cannot to this day do justice to the horror, fear, and exhaustion we went through. Couple that kind of disillusion with my naturally inquisitive and rational mind, and you pretty much had all the ingredients for someone looking to leave the faith.
I hadn’t left it entirely when mom died, but I was on my way out. I went through the motions, tried different solutions, but by the time I moved out on my own in 2008, I was rather sure I was no longer a Christian. Another year and exposure to Hitchens’ God is Not Great and Dawkins’ The God Delusion confirmed what I had vaguely suspected; I was an atheist.
What I didn’t expect was that this realization, this finally admitting to myself that the A-word applied in full, would reopen the grief wounds. Sure, I didn’t believe, but I held a nagging hope that mom was “somewhere better.” I had to go through the extremely painful process of losing her all over again, and I did so on my own, because I wasn’t ready to come out to my family yet. That was my fear talking, and it shouldn’t have; my father would have listened, and loved me all the same, as he did when I eventually did work up the courage to tell him about the A-word. But even so, the fear of coming out, of having to wrestle with the religious discourse and the explanations, this was all enough to give me pause and make me suffer where I didn’t need to.
I wished I had GBB to turn to back then. I found it a few years later, when I was coming back out of that grief spiral, and they helped. They let me vent, they listened to my ramblings on music, comfort food, and philosophy, and they even let me comfort a few people when I felt I had the strength and courage to do so. It’s helped, immensely.
My hope is that you will find here the same help that I did, and that you will find it sooner in your grief than I did.
Welcome to Grief Beyond Belief. We’re sorry that we had to meet like this, but we’re happy you found us.