Grief Beyond Belief June 24, 2011

Grief Beyond Belief

For atheists who need some support after experienced the death of a loved one, there’s a new Facebook group that could offer some help: Grief Beyond Belief.

Grief Beyond Belief provides a safe space for atheists and other non-religious people to share and process the death of a loved one. Because bereavement is sometimes the catalyst for questioning or letting go of religious beliefs, people who are still struggling with these issues are encouraged to join. However, the page is not intended as a venue for debate, but as a space for shared compassion and support.

Rebecca Hensler founded the group after dealing with the loss of her three-month-old son:

“I quickly found a network of parents who were also grieving the deaths of their children at The Compassionate Friends (a 42-year-old parental grief support group). But I often felt alienated by assurances from other members that my son was in heaven or by offers to pray for me, comforts that were kindly meant but that I do not believe and cannot accept. It wasn’t until an atheist member reached out to me in friendship that I understood what I had been missing.” Hensler soon discovered that she was not the only non-believer who felt a need for safe space to grieve without faith or belief in an afterlife.

Even if you are fortunate enough to not have lost someone close to you, you can “Like” the page and offer your support to those who have.

Greta Christina explains why something like this is so important:

We talk a lot about how religion is, for many people, the only game in town when it comes to community and support in a time of loss and grief — and how, if we’re going to make atheism a viable alternative to religion, we need to build community and support networks to replace it.

Well, this is one of those ways, and I hope it won’t be the only one.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Richard Wade

    I am so glad to see this! I have received several letters asking about resources for grief support for nonbelievers, and all my searches turned up were either defunct sites or things that really weren’t appropriate. Thank you Rebecca!

  • beckster

    Thanks for posting this. The “nail in the coffin” for religion for me was seeing my brother in one and I had no one to talk to when it happened. I hope I can connect with others on this page and help them through hard times also. It has been a decade, but his death still effects me. It really is something that you never get over, but rather learn to live with.

  • Marguerite

    I’m glad to see this. While I won’t say my husband’s death led directly to my “conversion” to atheism, listening to my pastor trying to explain why my husband had to die at forty because of Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden was certainly one of the big turning points for me. I think a lot of people wind up questioning their faith when grieving, and having people assure you that someone’s in heaven when you just don’t believe it can actually be hurtful.

  • It does sometimes get tough to bear when someone tells you that god has taken your loved one and your supposed to somehow feel better for this.. I’ve gotten it both ways. My son was killed because of me, because of homosexuals, because his beliefs.. I’m pretty much tired of hearing these people’s views. I also cannot abide and accept that he was sentenced to some black nothingness. I in that regard take hits from some atheists. To me Atheism is a non belief of some system that is run by some uber god who has some magical powers and controls everything through a pack of historically very nasty and evil people.. I know that my son is out there somewhere.. maybe not even as him.. but there is something behind the curtain.. we will all find out someday.

  • Elly

    This is really good timing. My grandfather died last week (he was the fourth grandparent that my husband and I lost in the last year). I’ve been struggling to find ways to explain to my son about his great-grandparents dying, what death is.

  • Scramble

    I wish something like this had been available to me ten years ago when my mom died. I wasn’t an atheist at the time, but she was. Though all the talk of “she’s in a better place now” didn’t directly bother me, I know it would have bothered her to have people talking about her like that, so I often found myself getting annoyed on her behalf. And, of course, any grief counseling I could find had a spiritual focus. How do you grieve spiritually when the person you’re grieving didn’t believe in that? I think a support group like this would have helped me work through some of those very complex feelings, and maybe would have helped me let go of my own spirituality sooner.

    Nonetheless, as Beckster says, you never get over profound loss, so it’s never too late to see a group like this. Can’t wait to check it out!

  • Kris


  • Renee

    I just feel profound gratitude for the appearance of something so needed.  Having experienced many losses in my life, and the… one would hope… well meaning words that come at you (though what I personally believe is that people often say things because they are uncomfortable with the deep silences of sorrow) I celebrate a place where people can grieve without the additional burden of feeling like they are flunking being comforted by words that have no meaning for them.  Grief is a deeply personal experience.  And universal.  It is not honored in our culture and is often treated as though it was a pathology instead of an ordinary (though to the griever it’s always extraordinary) experience.  It is the Grand Unfixable, and many simply cannot stand by or bear witness to what cannot be fixed.  Those who can, who can truly befriend us in this loneliest of paths, are MY idea of “angels.”

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