One of the first things I do every Sunday is check Postsecret.com to read all of the secrets people have mailed in for complete strangers to read. Usually half aren't really secrets, and I mainly focus on making sure I hover my mouse over each one to see if there's a secret behind the secret. This morning a postcard caught my eye though, and I could have written it myself.
"Accepting my own atheism means accepting the fact that he can never know I've forgiven him for killing himself.
How can I do that?"
Here's the long and short of it...you just do. You can't give up your life and how you feel for someone who's dead.
My father committed suicide when I was 11. I wasn't raised with religion, so I never had "God" to turn to in my time of need. He and my mother had been divorced since I was 4, and my sister and I lived with mom. The last time I ever spoke to him was about a month and a half before he died. He called, specifically asking for me. I could tell he sounded upset, but I had "had a bad day" at school or something....I put that in quotations, because really, how bad does a normal 11 year old have it? So the whole time we talked, my father near tears with every exasperated sigh I let out, I didn't see that something was very wrong. When we got the news that he had shot himself, I blamed myself. I didn't let go of that blame for very many years, partially because I was thinking along the lines of the person who posted today's secret.
I've never had God in my life. I identified as agnostic for many years because *if* God did exist, then I might have had a chance to see my daddy again, and tell him how much I love him and how I came to terms with his death. I forgave him because I'd rather him be dead than in constant pain and suffering. I know he's dead, and not in some heaven or hell...I forgave him for my own sake. In order to move on with my life, "forgiving him" was my way of making peace with myself. I know I'll never be able to tell him that I loved him, or that I forgive him....I lost that chance on March 11, 1999.
Accepting your atheism doesn't make you love someone any less. The memories you have of them will live within you until you die. He doesn't need your forgiveness, he's dead. It's a rough realization, and it hurts...but pretending to believe in God for someone who is no longer alive is just lying to yourself for no good reason.
Suicide is a tough thing to deal with, atheist or not. The only difference between atheists and believers in how you accept it is that we know they're dead and believers "know" they're in hell. It's a shitty situation no matter how you look at it, but it doesn't mean you can give up your own life for someone who didn't want their own.