Recently a good friend's mother died. It was very sudden and heartbreaking.

My friend is an atheist like me, and I can only hope he isn't being flooded with the usual garbage of "She's in a better place," or "She's watching over you now."

I remember when I lost my grandmothers I was filled with this pain, this realization that these wonderful women were inaccessible to me. Unfortunately I was religious at the time, and my first years of grieving were filled with guilt and fear.

One grandmother was religious, and the kind of woman you would never dream of upsetting. No matter what I did I would always try and find my way "back to God" while she was alive, and after she died I felt so much shame at what she would see now that she was in heaven. I wasn't particularly wicked, but as I have mentioned before in past blog posts, I had some sexual issues I had to work out.

Then my agnostic grandmother died. She didn't go to church and never seemed to be interested in it, which bugged me terribly as a child. When she died (a year after the other grandma) I was already in a bad place, but now I was worried that she was in hell.

For another year and a half I struggled with them being just out of reach, and figured that if I could just amp up my Christianity that maybe god would allow me to talk to them one last time, at least in some way that I was certain of. (The mucked up sentence is trying to say that I wanted to be certain it was my grandmothers I was talking to and not a voice in my own head.)

Bleh.

Yeah, fast forwarding past that mud, as an atheist I had to find a way to cope all over again.

At first it felt like I had lost them a second time, but then the comfort of truth set in. There was no eternal punishment, no eternal salvation and no judgement from the dead. My grandmothers were gone knowing the parts of me I lovingly shared with them, free of the knowledge of the painful chaos their granddaughter was going through.

Life is short and amazing. I have no interest in mucking that up again with religious nonsense, it was never the comfort that people expected it to be.

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Comment by Sagacious Hawk on May 14, 2012 at 4:08pm

I know what you mean. My sister died a year ago and knowing that she is gone is ... in some ways a lifting of a burden. There's something to be said for recognizing the fullness of our own mortality. There's something both humble and courageous in it.

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