About two weeks after my 21st birthday last month, my mom died of cancer. I come from a Catholic family but I've privately been an atheist for about a year, and as a result, I don't believe in heaven anymore. My mom and I were about as close as two people could be, and I loved her so, so much. She was the most incredible, loving, funny and strong person I've ever know, and no matter how sick she got, she kept laughing and never, ever did she complain. She was also very devoted to her religion, and it gave her great strength and hope, which is the main reason that I never told her that I had become atheist - I was afraid if I did, she might start questioning her own faith, or blame herself for my lack of belief, and that it would destroy whatever it was that kept her going.
Since the funeral, we've been getting great support from family, neighbours and friends, but despite people's best intentions, it's hard when they say "She's in Heaven, looking after you" or "She's with you everywhere you go", because I know in my heart that no matter how much I want it to be true, it's not. I miss her desperately, and it hurts constantly, and I feel that if I believed in heaven, or that I could pray to her, or talk to her, that it would ease the pain, but I can't. It just doesn't work. I'd like to be able to, and I've tried, believe me I've tried, but I can't. I can't even pretend. I know no-one's there, and my brain won't let me lie to myself. Nothing gives comfort. I know time will help heal, and I have the most wonderful memories, but they're not helping me right now - it's still too painful.
So my question is - how do you cope? Does anything, anything at all, that you do help to lessen the pain?
I never know what to say in these situations. All I can do is recommend a good movie that helped me with the loss of a loved one...Hesher
Grieving is one of those tough processes that one faces as a price of loving or having been loved. The only way around it is to pass before everyone that we care about. There are no shortcuts through the pain that I am aware of. I'm sorry that you are facing it at this time of your life, and while so young. At 21 we can walk and run, but we are still coming back to say, "Look Mom!" and hoping to get that pat on the back. We are sometimes seeking that last bit of information that we were not taught in life and you don't have that now, too early. I'm sorry that you are facing this so young, or that we have to face it at all.
For me, lack of the next platitudes or consciousness doesn't mean an end. There are the after effects of lessons and love that you will feel for years once you have pushed through the fog of pain. You will smile again when you think of your mother. You will hear her laugh, feel her hug, because those gifts are not gone, they are only difficult to find in the emotional mess that comes from losing a loved one.
In a spiritual sense, Neil deGrasse Tyson says it best in a reality based context. I have stolen these words for a funeral and I'm sure that you have heard them before. (Link) I like the idea that we just become a part of the universe again. It's not emotionally the same as knowing that someone is waiting in heaven. But this is tangible. We can show how we return to the universe and how we help the next generation. I find peace in that an knowing that our having lived makes the next life possible. Our having lived taught lessons to the next generation that may go on and make the species better. I find spirituality in that view of the world, and it's supportable. This is the process that exists and when we face death a few times knowing this information, we move from fighting it to accepting it. It will likely not help today, but hopefully it will mean something in the future.
I hope that you find peace with the joy and love that your mother shared soon. Don't let the blur of the tears or the white noise of Christianity block it out. If that drone of the noise won't stop, it may be time to ask others to not bring it up anymore so that you may grieve in a manner that suits you, and not them. There is nothing unreasonable with that request. IE "I'm not coping as well as I would like, and your methods are not helping me." Keep her close and the smiles and warmth will come back. I promise.
Thanks everyone - all your advice has been solid, grounded and realistic, which is what I'm after, so thank you, sincerely. I know people giving religious-related words of comfort really believe that and are being completely genuine, but I need to deal with this honestly, so I figured here was the best place to come.
I don't want to block out or avoid the grief, I just want a means to face it and deal with it in a healthy way, and everything ye've been saying will help, I'm sure of it. Will definitely be giving the writing idea a go, I keep a diary on and off so it's just a step up from that, as well as the music, exercise, memories and all the other advice.
Thanks for going to all the trouble to reply, you're a really nice, caring and genuine bunch of people, and I appreciate it - I can only hope that I'll be able to be as helpful to someone else in need in the future. Thanks for caring :)
I'm so sorry for your loss, Ciara. My father-in-law passed away last year, and we have been dealing with the same issues, so I know how terribly difficult it can be.
I strongly encourage you to seek grief counseling. I don't know how you feel about counseling in general, but it may help. The trick is finding the right counselor who does the right kind of therapy for you. But I do know that talking out a lot of these issues with someone who can help guide the healing process can be very beneficial.