If you are an atheist. agnostic, Humanist, skeptic, freethinker, or some other sort of non-believer in God, the supernatural or any kind of afterlife — and you have an experience (or experiences) with grief — we want to hear about it.
I am going to be collaborating on a book about faith-free grief with Greta Christina, atheist blogger and author of Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and, Why Are You Atheists So Angry: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are looking for personal stories from non-believers about their experiences with grief. We want to hear from you if you:
- were a non-believer at the time you experienced the loss/grief;
- became a non-believer while you were acutely grieving;
- re-experienced old griefs or losses when you became a non-believer;
- have any other experience related to faith-free grief that you want to tell us about.
We want to hear all stories — positive, negative, mixed, complex, changing over time. And we want to hear both the parts that relate to your secularism and the parts that are just about grief — who you lost, how it affected you, what comforted you, and how you have or have not learned to live with your grief.
The following questions may help you get started, but please don’t take them as either limits or requirements. You are not expected to answer every question or touch on every topic. If you have something to say about your experience of faith-free grief, whether or not it fits one of these categories, we want to hear it.
- What has your experience of grief been like? What have been some of your feelings, thoughts, actions?
- Do you think you experience grief differently than believers? If you were once a believer, do you experience grief differently as a non-believer than you did as a believer?
- Are there experiences of grief that you think are the same or similar for everyone — religious or not?
- How has it been dealing with religious believers — in your family, friends, or the world in general?
- What kind of successes or difficulties have you encountered in seeking grief support that felt appropriate for your needs?
- Have caregivers (therapists, support groups, doctors or other medical providers) assumed that you were religious, or pressed religion on you? If so, what was your experience of that?
- How do you feel about religion generally when it comes to your grief? For instance: Has grief made you wish that you believed? Has grief made you angry about religion? Has grief made you more sympathetic with believers? Are there other feelings you’ve had about religion related to grief?
- Was death or grief part of why you became an atheist? If so, what was that experience like?
- If you have mental health issues (such as depression), how has grief affected that?
- Has your experience of grief has changed over time — and if so, how?
- What have other people done or said (family, friends, or anyone) that’s helped you with your grief? What have other people done or said that’s been unhelpful?
- Have you gotten support from atheist communities — either online or in-person, either grief-specific support or more general community support? What was your experience of that?
- Are there secular ideas about death and grief that you’ve found helpful? (This can include songs, poems, quotations, philosophies, books, movies, TV shows, or anything else.)
Again — please don’t feel limited by these categories, and don’t feel that you have to respond to all of them. If you have something to say about your experience of faith-free grief, we want to hear it.
You can post your stories here as comments, or email them privately to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let us know how you would prefer to be quoted: by your full name, your first name only, your online handle, or a made-up name. (If you don’t tell us, we’ll err on the side of caution, and will use a made-up name.) Thank you so much — we know these can be difficult experiences to write about, and we intensely appreciate you doing this to help other people.
-Greta Christina and Rebecca Hensler
UPDATE/ CLARIFICATION: Some questions we’ve gotten about this project have made us realize that we need to clarify. We’re looking for grief stories from non-believers — but we’re not seeking submissions for an anthology that we’re editing. We’re seeking personal accounts that we’ll be using for our research, and that we’ll be quoting from in the book. People sending in stories don’t have to be professional or even semi-professional writers, and stories will probably not be printed in their entirety (unless they’re very short): we’ll be excerpting them/ quoting from them. Thanks.