One of the more difficult aspects of being an atheist, at least from an outsider’s perspective, is dealing with death. How do we face the end of our own lives? How do we comfort others who have lost a loved one?
Last year, Lori Lipman Brown, the former executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, lost her father Mel. He was a wonderful activist whom I had the pleasure of knowing for several years.
She just published a piece in The Humanist reflecting on his death a year later. It’s beautiful on its own terms, but I wanted to highlight one part of it in particular.
She shares one of the emails she received shortly after he died and it’s such a great example of how we can be a source of comfort for others without using religious platitudes.
I was so sorry to hear that your dad died. He gave so much to us in his activism, his warmth, his humor and his friendship. Please DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO REPLY TO THIS EMAIL; I know you have a lot on your plate right now with all the details that need to be handled following a death.
If I can help you in any way, please let me know. Here are some things I think I could do well that might help:
- I can notify everyone at the local interfaith group.
- If Mel left his tax documents and you trust me with such, I can help with his tax filings.
- I can help go through Mel’s belongings and can bring anything you want donated to his favorite charity.
- I can listen if you want to call/skype/visit/meet for coffee to share memories of Mel, how you are coping, or anything else you want to talk about.
These are just a few things I can think of that I could do, but if you think of anything else you need me for, just let me know.
With deepest friendship…
It’s not just an open offer of help. It’s a list of specific things people may not think about until they’re already grieving. (Brown says she took the person up on the help with taxes.)
Great advice for an awful situation.
(Image via Shutterstock)